Author: Dani Hoots
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Release date: February 1, 2017
Years after Alice saved Wonderland, things are going wrong again. Except this time, the original Alice isn’t there to make things better. When Morpheus, the king of nightmares and leader of the evil Cirque de Rêves, takes control of Wonderland and steals the hopes and dreams of its citizens, it falls on Meredith “Alice” Hughes to come to the rescue. Although she has no fighting ability and no knowledge of Wonderland, the original heroes of Wonderland (the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter, etc) are convinced that she’s the only one who can help. It’s not just Wonderland relying on Alice’s success, but her home world, too, because the citizens of Wonderland represent the dreams of people in the real world.
I loved the premise of the story: something is wrong in Wonderland, but the original Alice isn’t there to save it this time. A new Alice is pulled into Wonderland to defeat the latest evil, finding that pieces of Lewis Carroll’s original story were based in truth and now she must step into the shoes of a legendary hero.
Details from the original Alice in Wonderland are brilliantly woven into the novel, and usually with a twist that makes it fresh. Trapped in Wonderland had a slow start, but I did get more hooked in the story as the chapters went by. Hoots obviously spend a lot of time creating a world and building up backstories for the characters.
Unfortunately, most of this worldbuilding was explained in dialogue as Alice asked questions, rather than gleaned from interaction with the environment or watching characters interact. Most of the story was made up of description and explanation, with not as much action as I would have liked.
As far as characters, Chase and Kenny were the most interesting. Many of the others felt flat and underdeveloped. I thought for sure Chase would be the love interest, since he actually had one-on-one moments with Alice where they opened up to each other. Malcolm, in comparison, felt flat and generic until Kenny was introduced later on. The “frenemy” interactions between Kenny and Malcolm and their intriguing relationship finally brought out some of Malcolm’s unique personality, which was a welcome change!
I was truly fascinated by the theme of being a normal high school girl who isn’t prepared and doesn’t really have any skills. But of course, a theme like this is a tricky line to walk, because it’s difficult to have a main character with no knowledge of the world she’s been thrown into and no skills that she needs to succeed. Alice never acted, and it made for a slow read. I wanted her to DO something and make decisions, but she was always just dragged around, kidnapped, and then saved.
Morpheus pointed this out to her at one point, making me hope it would be part of her character arc, but I didn’t really feel happy with the result by the end. We’re told she feels more confident, but I didn’t quite believe it.
Overall, I think Trapped in Wonderland had fantastic potential, but it read as more of a first or second draft rather than a polished novel. If this does end up being a series, I’m sure the later novels will avoid this problem since we got most of the story exposition out of the way during book 1.
Creative Writing Analysis:
Using Relationships to build Character (Relationship Foils)
When it comes to developing characters, you can show readers what a person is like based on what they do and say. You can also develop that character based on how they interact with others!
A clashing of values or differing opinions can also draw out personality traits and make them shine. When you put two characters together who are complete opposites (AKA foils of each other), then those differences really stand out.
In the case of Malcolm and Kenny in Trapped in Wonderland, that’s exactly what Hoots did to help develop their characters. Kenny is a carefree, silly sort of person, while Malcolm is much more serious. Having Kenny tease and poke fun of Malcolm will of course get on Malcolm’s nerves and cause him to snap back.
Thus the back and forth between them begins, and we see these two characters defend their way of life, almost. They’re both standing up for their personality, and the readers, as observers, get to see this conflict firsthand and get a better idea for their personalities as a result.
These relationship foils are nothing new—all the time, we see a “warring lovers” trope in romances, where the romantic interests start out as enemies but grow to love each other during the movie/novel/story/etc.
It’s an easy and effective way to show their personalities. It also can help define what those characters have in common. What don’t they fight about? What traits do they agree on (are they both very stubborn in their arguments)?
Hoots, Dani. Trapped in Wonderland. 2017. 291 p.