By Taylor Brestel
We’ve all heard the story of Alice in Wonderland, but never like this. Christina Henry’s “Alice” is a dark and twisted version of the classic tale by Lewis Carroll, which wasn’t entirely light and innocent to begin with. This book is fast-paced and hard to put down, with new characters and adventures popping up as soon as the other ones leave.
As you might assume, the main character is Alice, post-Wonderland. When she escaped, covered in blood and babbling about a rabbit, her family put her in a hospital. She communicates with her only friend, Hatcher, through a hole in the wall between their rooms. One night, the hospital goes up in flames, and both of them manage to escape into the Old City. But something else escapes as well: the Jabberwock, a terrible monster searching for something that was taken from it a long time ago. Now Alice and Hatcher must journey through the dangerous streets of the Old City in their quest to defeat the dread Jabberwock.
Along the way, they encounter familiar characters such as Cheshire, the Caterpillar, and finally, the Rabbit. Little by little, Alice begins to remember her past, and to reassemble what really happened in Wonderland. Meanwhile, Hatcher (when he isn’t being possessed), discovers who he was before his stay in the hospital. Oops, he soon finds out that he was the Hatcher of Heathtown, an axe murderer. This explains why he’s so good at killing almost everyone they meet. But, of course, he can’t kill the Jabberwock. Only Alice can do that… or can she?
I’ve started a lot of books that I never finished. However, that was not the case with “Alice.” I started this one on a Saturday morning, and I finished it Sunday afternoon. I couldn’t stop reading. I had to know what happened next.
The descriptions made me feel like I was in the Old City with Alice and Hatcher; I could see the people and the places in my mind. I could also picture, thanks to such vivid descriptions, the murders of several characters. So I definitely would not recommend this “Alice” to anyone who has a problem with almost excessive amounts of violence and death. Readers should also be prepared for some truly disgusting things. One of the characters, the Walrus, is known for kidnapping girls and eating them. Most of the dangers in the Old City center around people that kidnap girls and sell them, which is why Alice has to cut her hair and act like a boy.
Also, Alice’s favorite recurring memory is stabbing the Rabbit in the eye. This is definitely not the Alice I remembered from Wonderland as a kid.
Another problem I had, aside from feeling nauseous after reading some of the chapters, was the lack of consistency in one particular area: the Jabberwock/Jabberwocky. For the first part of the book, this monster is referred to as the Jabberwock. Who would not be scared of some ancient menace called a Jabberwock. But sometime after the first few chapters, all of a sudden, it’s now called the Jabberwocky. It’s talking about the same thing, but the added ‘y’ makes it sound so much less terrifying. Jabberwock sounds like a respectable monster, Jabberwocky sounds like a new dance move, or maybe a brand of clothing for teens. It’s hard to be afraid of something that sounds like a name my sister would give to a stuffed animal. The book goes back and forth between the two names almost interchangeably. I don’t understand why the author doesn’t just choose one and stick with it.
Even with the Jabberwock/Jabberwocky confusion, this was still one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. It kept me interested all the way through; I can’t remember being bored at all. “Alice” was 291 pages of action and adventure that I’m not likely to forget any time soon.