This semester, I am taking a class called Research in Literary Studies. Before you get too bored, this class is strictly on everything Alice in Wonderland. We started by reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Hunting of the Snark (not exactly Alice in Wonderland, but close enough!), and watching several Alice films. We then read some Alice spinoff stories, short stories inspired by Alice in Wonderland that include elements of the original book. I had to choose a book that was based on the original Alice in Wonderland and write a report on it. I’m grateful I got to pick a book to read this semester, because I’m often forced into reading literature that I don’t care for, but I wish I chose better, because this book was a bad choice.
I decided to read Insanity by Cameron Jace. In this story, Alice Wonder has been in a mental institution for the past two years. Two years ago, she accidentally killed everyone in her class. She doesn’t remember that incident or anything she did before being admitted into the asylum. The only ray of light in her life is the tiger lily she is allowed to keep in her room, which is basically a prison cell. Meanwhile, the Cheshire Cat, along with other Wonderland creatures, has escaped Wonderland and has been killing young girls in order to regain his power. It is up to Alice to put a stop to this. But how can she? And is she even the real Alice from Wonderland? Enter Carter Pillar (clever, right?), the Blue Caterpillar from Wonderland, who has been placed into the same asylum as Alice, and he thinks she may be THE Alice from Wonderland. The only way to find out is to enlist her as his sidekick to catch the Cheshire Cat.
I thought I was going to love this book. The idea of Lewis Carroll’s fictional creatures from Wonderland escaping and wreaking havoc in the real world had a lot of promise. I also liked the idea of madness and uncertain reality. We can’t be sure if this is what’s really happening or if it’s all taking place inside an insane girl’s head. Throughout this book, Alice questions her own sanity. Even at the end, she realizes that she might have just been imagining everything.
However, the way all of this was portrayed was confusing. Some of the scenes could have been appropriate for children, but, as a young adult, I found them to be disturbing. For example, at one point in the book, Alice and Pillar need to get into Parliament to meet up with the human incarnation of Wonderland’s Duchess. To do this, they pretend Alice has “Jub Jub disease,” and they wheel her in to “meet her hero.” To look sick, Alice chews marshmallows and lets them fall out of her mouth. During this scene, she also acts like she has the mentality of an infant. Not only did this feel like it was directed at children, but it sounded like it was written by a child.
This book could have been good, but the author pushes this idea of madness much further than I would have taken it. I love the idea of characters crossing over into the real world from Wonderland, but sometimes it was too much. It seemed like the author was trying to recreate Carroll’s world and witty puns but fell short every time. This book also has hard-to-overlook spelling and grammatical errors and lacks page numbers and transitions.
Maybe this series has a slow start. Maybe I need to read the next seven books in the series to fully appreciate this beginning. Maybe the ending trumps every flaw this series has. But being the English major that I am, I cannot finish this series.