Title: The Secret of Raven Point
Author: Jennifer Vanderbes
Publication Date: 4 February 2014
Genre: Historical Fiction
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Buy it: Amazon|Book Depository
Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.
When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.
So, I should start by saying that I am generally not a fan of retellings. And I am especially not a fan of anything in relation to Alice in Wonderland.
I can honestly say that that this retelling was amazing. I loved the dark and twisted portrayal of Wonderland. I was especially intrigued by the portrayal of the White Rabbit – mostly because he was the first of the reinvented Wonderland characters that we see. It was such a mind bender and it was so cool.
This portrayal of Wonderland also helped to carry the plot. Honestly, the plot was the best part of the novel in comparison to everything else. The setting was intriguing and all but the plot really carried this novel through. You’ve probably already read the summary to this novel but I wish you hadn’t. I felt like going into this novel blind really added to the shock factor of the plot.
Now there is something that I’ve noticed people frequently complaining about in their reviews: Alyssa’s mother’s life in a mental hospital. A lot of people have said that the depiction of straight jackets and injections of meds by crazy nurses is not a real life situation. And I whole heartedly agree but we need to remember that this is a middle-grade novel. So that means that the target audience are young kids who have probably only seen mental institutions as being the same as the one Vanderbes described. More importantly, this wasn’t meant to be anything close to real life so the sensational depictions of the mental institution is perfectly acceptable. Would it have been better if Vanderbes chose to do a realistic representation of mental institutions? Yes. Did the unrealistic portrayal hurt this novel? Only a smidget.
However, I do have to agree that the main male characters are both crap. Jeb has little faith in Alyssa’s ability to do anything by herself. Anytime that Jeb spoke I wanted to rip my eyes out, he was that irritating. You’d think that the redeemable character would then be Morpheus… but you’ll be disappointed. He’s as slimy and two faced as his name suggests. Neither of this guys were impressive and neither of them were good. And I think it was less because they were underdeveloped and more that Vanderbes chose to make these characters inherently cruel and bad; if that’s the case, she made a mistake. She should have made at least one of these characters good or interesting or something of that nature, it would have the novel so much stronger.
This is one of those novels that I think you could probably take it or leave it. It’s not that great but it’s not that bad. There are probably better retellings of Alice in Wonderland out there but this was really interesting. Although, like I said, you’re not really missing anything amazing by not reading this novel. If you’re ever a little board and looking for a quick and somewhat interesting read, pick this up.