Author: H.J Ramsey
Expected Published: August 1st 2019 by Red Rogue Press
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retelling
Goodreads Rating: 3.49 out of 5 Stars
“Alice’s stories of Wonderland did more than raise a few eyebrows—it landed her in an asylum. Now at 15 years of age, she’s willing to do anything to leave, which includes agreeing to an experimental procedure. When Alice decides at the last minute not to go through with it, she escapes with the White Rabbit to Wonderland and trades one mad house for another: the court of the Queen of Hearts. Only this time, she is under orders to take out the Queen. When love, scandal, and intrigue begin to muddle her mission, Alice finds herself on the wrong side of the chopping block.”
I’ll be the first to say that I’m pretty biased when it comes to anything revolving around Lewis Carroll’s imaginative world of Wonderland. So when the opportunity to read Ever Alice before it’s publication date came to me, I jumped at it.
My first exposure to Alice and the rest of Carroll’s cast of characters was through the Disney animated film, which was released in 1951. Of course I wasn’t alive when it was released but I can remember watching the film when I was as young as 5 or 6 years old. I remember distinctly because I had this notion the film was actually called ‘Allison’s Wonderland’, and would prance around claiming that this was my movie. Being a child who loved the color blue, having fair blonde hair, and who was named Allison after her paternal grandmother Alice, you can see where I got that notion from. Once I was old enough to read, I quickly realized that it was not ‘My Movie’ as I had always thought, but my fondness for the characters and the story had already been established. Moving away from the Disney interpretation of the story though, I jumped into both Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There, and have held a respectable obsession with the stories for the better part of my life. I mean come on, my sweet 16 birthday party theme was Alice in Wonderland, complete with ‘Eat Me’ cookies and I blue dress for me. Hell, I’ve even tired to convince my sister that my Bridal Shower should be Alice in Wonderland themed, don’t tell me that wouldn’t be fun.
*Note we’re getting to some potential spoilers*
Anyways, now that you know my life story and why I love a good Alice retelling, you can appreciate my bias a bit more, which is the whole reason I bring it up. Back to the Ramsay’s story though, it’s definitely not for people who want a ‘whimsical’ read. I know, I know, Wonderland is all about whimsical and nonsenical story telling, but keep in mind the whole premise of Ramsay’s story is to answer the question, “What if Alice was really mad, what would 1800’s England society have done with her?” And the answer to that, is put her in an freaking insane asylum, because someone who demonstrates paranoia, delusions, and signs of hallucinating would most certainly be put away.
The story picks up 15 years after Alice’s first encounter with Wonderland. She’s been locked up in an asylum after her parents have grown tired of Alice’s stories. When her doctor decides to give an experimental treatment a try, the white rabbit shows up just in time to save Alice and bring her back to Wonderland. Once back in Wonderland, Alice discovers things are worse than when she left and it’s up to Alice and the Aboveground secret organization to stop the Red Queen before it’s too late. The story line itself was okay, in the sense that it was engaging, fun, and held true to most of the original stories. I enjoyed the main characters having different names, ie. The White Rabbit’s name is Ralph and the Mad Hatter is William, while they still kept their same defining characteristics.
The narrative alternates between Alice’s and the Queen of Hearts, which I generally favor multiple POV’s. I throughly enjoyed the dynamics between the two and also getting a glimpse into The Queen of Hearts’ headspace. Ramsay did an excellecnt in character building between the two and I found myself getting increasing annoyed with The Queen, simply because she is without a doubt, mad.
The thing I didn’t really enjoy about the story line though, is how much I kept thinking back to Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland movie. The conflict between the Queen of Hearts and the Queen of Spades (white queen) felt predictable and as if I’d seen it before. The fact that I simply love the characters (& Ramsay did portray the characters well) and the ending is what saved this book for me. Though the ending did feel a bit rushed for me (there were a handful of things I need more answers on), the last couple of pages sucked me right in.
If you’re an Alice in Wonderland Ramsay said in her Author Note, that she “figured it would stay under the heading of ‘never-to-see-the-light-of-day’.” I for one am glad that it did see the light of day. It kept the whimsical, off it’s rocker vibe from the originals while playing with where the lines between fantasy and reality blur. I promise you will be left wondering which reality is real. Pre-order the book HERE!