Death of the Mad Hatter by Sarah J. Pepper
I received a free copy of the e-book from the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.
Well, I've decided that I will no longer be accepting free copies of books from authors. I don't like the guilt when I don't like the book and I feel bad to post a rotten review, hurting the author's feelings when they were hoping that I'd really enjoy the end result of all of their hard work.
I've been on a kick for a while now, where I'm always looking for interesting retellings of favorite stories. The modernization of fairy tales and other classic stories isn't always easy to pull off. Consider the youtube channels with re-imagined stories. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries was so well done. As you went through the series you had to wonder how they would handle Lydia and Wickham's indiscretion. In 2012 running off with a guy certainly wouldn't ruin a family and all of the daughters future prospects. How could they find something that would make sense and have the same feel as the original? They managed to handle it perfectly, and I, who am so very hard to surprise, was not only surprised, but impressed.
Here we have something that's not so much a retelling or even a reimagining of the Carroll classic. Alice Mae is someone completely different from the Alice we know. Wonderland is another dimension, one reached by rabbit holes from our world.
Ryley is a high school boy who spends a great deal of time on the move. His father was a physics professor, but now resides in a mental institution where he is heavily medicated and mostly incoherent. He's made Ryley's mom promise to keep on the move to keep their son safe. But, even though they mention this quite a few times, Ryley is not a new kid, he's got established friends and his father's never very far away.
When Alice Mae enrolls in his school, she is definitely the new kid, and treated as such. I went to 4 elementary schools, I know how much of a difference there is between being new and someone who moves around a lot and being someone who is established and fully assimilated into the community and school. Ryley felt, even though one of his friends makes a whole speech about how he and his mom are always on the move, but he knows him inside and out and can read his emotions.
Alice Mae, lives with her two aunts and is visited by all sorts of strange creatures from Wonderland. Her aunts are candy makers. When people move between the two worlds, it gets harder to hold it together in the Otherworld, as they refer to our world. The Queen of Hearts has a pretty good handle on Wonderland and even though most of the inhabitants can't stand her, none of them is willing to stand up to her. They are all waiting for a prophecy to come true. There is no way to not know the prophecy inside and out, because, much like Pepper's Forgotten, the prophecy is repeated ad infinitum, ad nauseum.
I didn't hate this book, but I can't say that I'm a fan of Pepper's style. There's the repetition, for starters. Then, there are the strange word choices. They are real words, but often used improperly, rendering the sentences meaningless and awkward. There are plenty of instances where she must have edited out a passage, but then refers to something that must have been in the edited out section.
I definitely preferred this to Forgotten, and I am sure that Ms. Pepper has worked really hard to write her books. There are plenty of people on goodreads who have written really favorable reviews and I'm glad that she's got fans. I'm sorry to report that I'm just not one of them.