*Thank you to Parliament House for providing me with an ARC of this book. Some parts may have been changed as I did not read the final book. Please know that all of the expressed thoughts are my honest opinions.
As I know I have said before, I am such a big fan of retellings. I am always so excited to see how the author spins it into their own story. One of this biggest lures for me was that this was the “real story of Wonderland” as “Lewis Carroll didn’t get it right” and that is was a darker retelling. Unfortunately, this book fell flat for me. It did have a dark twist to it and lots of LGBTQ representation, but I ended up having a lot of issues with the book.
The biggest problem I had with this book is the writing. It was way too descriptive, told instead of showed, and it had some strange, awkward sentences. I noticed my problem with the writing within the first couple of pages, and unfortunately, I never got over it. In the first chapter, there is a whole paragraph dedicated to the description of Jessica, the MC. There are no moments where the reader can “see” the character, they are instead told, in lots of detail, what her lips looked like and what her face looked like. It was a painful paragraph for me to get through, and I definitely didn’t need that much description. The habit of unnecessary description continued throughout the book. There were chunks of description that dragged me out of the story.
The writing style made it hard for me to read the book for long periods of time. It was very easy for me to get frustrated and bored with the writing. One of the most significant points of frustration for me was the lack of diverse adjectives and words. In one sentence, ‘large’ was used twice, one after the other. This irked me because large is one of the most used adjectives in English. There are so many other synonyms that could have been used to procure a more meaningful sentence, especially in the given scenario. Sadly this wasn’t the only time where the word choice could have been improved and varied. Throughout the novel, the same basic adjectives would be used to describe different situations. Again, it was frustrating as there are so many words in the lexicon, and in a fantasy book, I think it is crucial to use a variety of them. I also had an issue with a scene in the book. It was very peculiar, and quite frankly made me uncomfortable. It was one of those short fade-to-black sex scenes with such strange dialogue that I still remember the exact lines.
The other point of exasperation in this book came from the diary entries. The entries were another aspect of the book I could do without, at least having significantly less of it. While some of the entries contributed essential information about Wonderland, the majority provided unnecessary background information. I remember there being at least one entry all about the hidden places and wonders in Wonderland, places that Jessica never visited. I also found that it ruined some of the magic of the world. I like to be able to discover the world as the character does and to see it from their perspective. The descriptions from the diary ruined that sense of discovery as it was explained by someone who had inhabited the world. From one perspective, I can understand that the journal provided an opportunity to world build and add a lot of detail at one time. However, I have rarely seen this method successfully executed. It is always too much information, which dramatically changes the pacing of the book.
To further elaborate on the pacing of the book, it had a weird tempo for the length. Wandering in Wonderland is a shorter book, but a lot happened between the pages. In general, it had a slow pace. As I mentioned before, everything was super descriptive, which significantly impacted the tempo. In certain parts though, it picked up speed quite rapidly and a sunny, peaceful day on one page turned into people knocked out and dead on the next. It was impossible to predict when the tempo would change; I would often have to reread pages to understand all that occurred. The relationships followed this tempo as well. Jessica had a lot of love interests that it was hard to follow her relationships. There was a time when Jessica started to make a move on somebody, and I had thought that she was with, or interested in someone else.
In conclusion, I loved the idea of Wandering in Wonderland. It was dark and twisting and a fascinating take on Alice in Wonderland. However, the writing had a weird pace and was too descriptive in general. The book would be slow and detailed for the majority of the time, but would unexpectedly pick up and have about a hundred different things happen in the span of 3 pages. I wouldn’t recommend this book as I feel that the book isn’t able to pull the reader in enough for the type of story that it is.