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Book Review: 'After Alice'

A retelling of 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' from a new lens.

As always, spoilers ahead.

Haven't read it? Get this thing on Amazon here.

For those of you who have been following my Vocal journey, you can tell I enjoy Alice spinoffs... can't you? I took a 300-level English class during my undergraduate years in college that was based on Alice's Adventures and Looking-Glass, which I enjoyed quite a bit. I ended up writing an unnecessarily lengthy document on the character of Alice becoming a warrior-style character throughout time. It was kind of badass, let's be real.

This story, After Alice, written by Wicked author Gregory Maguire, is based on what happened during the events of Alice falling down the rabbit hole. Centered around the lives of Ada, Lydia, and Miss Armstrong, the former is following Alice through Wonderland, and the latter two are trying to find Alice and Ada in Oxfordshire. In other words, this is a retelling of Alice's Adventures from other characters, while Alice is in Wonderland.

Analyzing Gregory Maguire, I would have to say his writing style is like that A- on a report card that otherwise has all As: it is pretty close, but not quite there. Maguire attempts to mimic the art and style of Lewis Carroll, but his multiple and often stretched plot lines are dull, and tend to carry on until something of interest finally comes along. 

That being said, the magic of Alice's Adventures is gone. I am not sure if it is because the characters are not Alice (and she only appears for a handful of pages), if it is because almost half of the story takes place in Oxfordshire, as compared to Wonderland, or if it is because Maguire is writing 150 years after the publication of the original, where many retellings and spinoffs have been done both in literature and cinema. No matter what it is, you can tell that there is a bold attempt to keep the writing style Lewis Carroll had, but sadly Greg comes a little short. Good try, but A-.

Ada is quite the character, I must say. She is the weight of the book, and is quite different than the curious Alice we know/knew. Ada is able to fill that space of a young girl in a Wonderland book, but she is dynamic in ways Alice wasn't. While Alice was set on poems, Ada was questioning herself on science, math, and some literature. I vaguely remember she compared going down the rabbit hole  to Dante's The Inferno, and she would often come back to it while travelling in Wonderland. To me, this is a great embodiment of encouraging women in STEAM and having good characters to look up to. 

Lydia was just meant to piss you off. If you weren't annoyed with her at any point, you may have been reading the wrong book, or reading it upside down. She was targeting Mrs. Armstrong in the way an angsty teen would... which makes sense when considering the power dynamic between the two. It came to the point where sometimes I was like "Lydia, why are you being such a grouch. Eat a Snickers—you're not you when you're hungry." At least she mellows out. Whenever there was a chapter about her, I would find myself wanting to pin the chapter to a wall and play some darts. I'm not sure if it was good ol' Greg just finding ways to fill a book, but I had little patience for her. She wasn't even the trope of "you love to hate" type of person. No. She super sucked.

Overall, the story was a fun little tale on a great classic. If you are a fan of Alice's Adventures, you'll likely find this novel to be entertaining at some points, but also want to kick the book out of your bedroom window in others. Too hot and cold of a review? Sorry.

Cody's rating: three out of five white rabbits.

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