Monday, June 26, 2017

Book Review: Alice: The Wanderland Chronicles

Title: Alice: The Wanderland Chronicles
Author: J. M. Sullivan
Genre: YA, Teen, Dystopian, Zombie, Fairy Tale Retelling
Stars: 3.5 out of 5 stars (round up to 4) 

I probably enjoyed this book way more than I should have. It was fun, fast paced and the writing was pretty darn good for a debut YA author. But I think many will have mixed reviews... 

Wonderland and I: a quick background
I love Wizard of Oz, my husband loves Alice in Wonderland (so much so he is working on half sleeve tattoos that are both Alice themed, awesome right?!). When I read [book:Dorothy Must Die|18053060], a couple years ago, I hated it. Steampunk + Oz = me stoked; but I was sorely let down. BUT Oz is a childhood escape place and maybe it's a bit sacred to me. In contrast Wonderland is a place I know of that is fun but not really nostalgic for me personally. So to read a re-telling or inspired by Alice book with a bunch of things all weird and different was fun for me.
I'll confess my husband helped with many of the references to Wonderland places and characters (my personal favourite is Dr. Waite R. Abbott, both the name and the character were my favourite) and of course our lead gal is named Alice. There is a super cute easter egg throughout the text that I was amused by (be sure to highlight in your e-reader, have stickies for marking pages or keep track in notes on your smartphone; in order to easily 'get it'). There's lots of Lewis Carroll nods and I'm sure a scholared Alice fan would pick up more than I did. You'll have to read it if you want to discover them all. ;) 

The weak points
I have given this four stars, but it's more a 3.5 for me. I appreciate that it was a fun, quick and action packed read. But I can't completely overlook some major faults that will possible cause others to give up on this book. This list is typical of a debut author, nothing here can't be fixed and I do think J.M. Sullivan likely has a career ahead of her as a decent YA novelist. 
But here's the things that bugged me:

  • The overall plot was fine, but a bit cliche. Alice goes out to find a cure for a plague/virus for her sister, runs into trouble on the way, is somehow important, blah, blah, blah
  • Alice is able to randomly fight really well with a knife (though can't shoot a gun) and seems to miraculously get out of sticky situations with minimal harm (when you consider what she is fighting against)
  • Convenience is certainly well used. While some of it is explained by a reveal or two near the end, overall it's just a lot to accept. If you're looking for realism this is not the place, it's Wanderland after all (haha)
  • Our characters are somewhat one dimensional but have lots of room to grow which could be good if this becomes a longer series. 

The positive points
These are big positives to me as they hit on a lot of my pet peeves. Convenience is a weakness that is on my pet peeve list however so you can start to maybe understand why this is such a mixed review. The good: 

  • The possible love interests, yes plural, are both intelligent, interesting, and there is ZERO INSTA LOVE. I can't tell you how big of a pro this is for me in YA books these days. Clearly there is opportunity for relationships to develop with Alice but it's set-up so that we don't go there in this book. 
  • Wanderland is clearly a world building set-up book and introduction to this alternate Wonderland, and the world building is pretty darn good. It's clever with it's Alice references, and overall well thought-out considering it's a 'zombie' YA book. Kudos to Sullivan for thinking about the science of a virus and giving us a clear idea of origin and even some basic genetics. It's very high level but enough to convince me that there was some thought that went into it and that's enough for me at this level of story
  • It just reads fast. I dunno what it is but it's a page turner. I am crediting this to good writing. I didn't want to stop reading it and even put my other book completely aside to finish this. Not something that happens all the time. It was a nice to read, fun and exciting book. Maybe it fit my mood right now, which desperately needed escapism reading but I'm going to give the credit to Sullivan and her writing.
  • It's a dystopian novel and I am a bit of a suck for them (lol)

If you want a fun action book that is written well, has lots of Alice/Wonderland references and don't mind some plot holes/conveniences or a couple one dimensional characters then I think you'll enjoy this book. 
BUT if you love Wonderland and are a purist DO NOT read this book. I suspect you will hate it just like I hated the dystopian take on Oz. Some worlds for some people just cannot be revisited or used in a way that will pay homage or do justice to the world as we have built it up in our head. And that's okay. 
If you know nothing about Alice then Wanderland probably won't hold up for you as a stand-alone world. A lot of the charm is how clever Sullivan is in her use of Wonderland and drawing parallels. Without this I'm not sure it holds up as a basic zombie dystopian novel. 

I however enjoyed it and look forward to another book in this interesting Wanderland world. It hasn't been confirmed as a series but the Epilogue sets it up to be nicely and so I will watch for book 2. 

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.


Sandra B. said...

I wonder if some of the weak points are because of the original Alice books, for example: all of the characters are one dimensional in them; Alice recites a lot of poetry but can't do division I think, she simply says we haven't been taught that yet; she wants to be taller again and after an brief interaction with the caterpillar he tells her about the mushroom, etc.

Either way the book does sound interesting.


Leonore Winterer said...

Another one that sounds very interesting - I only read the original Alice books last year (before that, I only knew the Disney version), so maybe I should get to it while it's still fresh in my head!