White Rabbit Chronicles, Book 1
Author: Gena Showalter
Publication Date: September 25, 2012
Source: Harlequin at BEA
Description from Goodreads:
She won’t rest until she’s sent every walking corpse back to its grave. Forever.
Had anyone told Alice Bell that her entire life would change course between one heartbeat and the next, she would have laughed. From blissful to tragic, innocent to ruined? Please. But that’s all it took. One heartbeat. A blink, a breath, a second, and everything she knew and loved was gone.
Her father was right. The monsters are real….
To avenge her family, Ali must learn to fight the undead. To survive, she must learn to trust the baddest of the bad boys, Cole Holland. But Cole has secrets of his own, and if Ali isn’t careful, those secrets might just prove to be more dangerous than the zombies….
I wish I could go back and do a thousand things differently.
I'd tell my sister no.
I'd never beg my mother to talk to my dad.
I'd zip my lips and swallow those hateful words.
Or, barring all of that, I'd hug my sister, my mom and my dad one last time.
I'd tell them I love them.
I wish... Yeah, I wish.
First Sentence: "Had anyone told me that my entire life would change course between one heartbeat and the next, I would have laughed."
As soon as I heard about this book, I super wanted to get my hands on it. Zombie retelling of Alice in Wonderland? Umm, yes, please! How could that possibly go wrong? Well, it turns out, it could go wrong in a number of ways. Alice in Zombieland has a certain appeal, but not the one that I suspect most readers will be expecting when they crack its spine.
The very first thing you need to know about Alice in Zombieland: it has nothing whatsoever to do with Alice in Wonderland. Just sit back and soak that in. The only Alice in Wonderland references are in the title, the chapter titles and the white rabbit cloud that serves as an omen of doom throughout the book. These three things do not a retelling make. In fact, the links are so limited and on such a surface level that it appears this facade was set up only to bring in more readers; this may work, but those hear for Alice in Wonderland are going to be disappointed.
The next thing you need to know: the zombies aren't really zombies. Showalter decided to try to do something new and original with zombies. She sort of succeeded, but mostly just managed in making them confusing and less cool. See, I wouldn't really call these guys zombies at all; I would call them ghosts. If you're thinking, Wait, What?, believe me, I am with you, friend. These 'zombies' inhabit a spirit plane, and are visible only to people with zombie-fighting powers. From what I was able to gather, they're basically evil ghosts, their evil manifesting in rot.
In theory, I guess this was sort of a cool idea, but, come on, the whole point of zombies is being corporeal right? My biggest issue with this, though, was that it seemed a bit uneven. For zombie fighting, the slayers leave their bodies behind and fight in spirit, because they cannot punch the zombies as a living person. What happens to them in spirit will manifest on their bodies, though. The zombies have no interest in the body. If this is the case, why do they go nom on humans who can't see them? The precise degree to which the zombies were spirits was not entirely clear to me, and I'm just having major suspension of disbelief issues with the whole things. Can't we just call them evil spirits?
The third thing you need to know: Gena Showalter is a romance author. A lot of romance authors are branching into young adult these days, since there is a huge market in YA for romance. Some of these transitions are better than others. Most of the time, though, it's entirely obvious what the author's background is, although Inara Scott did surprise me. Alice in Zombieland is more about the romance than about anything else.
The story itself does entertain, assuming you can put those issues aside, but it's a mindless sort of fun, like when a real zombie eats your brain. How much you like this novel will depend to a large degree on whether you find Showalter's writing amusing. She tries pretty hard to be funny, and, if you don't think she is, it's not going to be pretty. Some of her jokes worked for me, but others fell flat.
Speaking of flat, let's talk about Alice, or Ali as she prefers to be called. No, I'm not talking about her chest (although she does complain about her boobs not being huge a couple of times maybe), but about her personality. Well, Ali does try really hard to have a personality. The problem is that she doesn't back up her inner sass and thoughts with actions, at least not at the important moments. Ali is one of those characters that thinks she is the biggest badass of them all, but really isn't.
One of the few characters that I really liked was Kat, Ali's best friend. Thought Kat is someone I would loathe to pieces in real life, she was really realistic and reliable for a YA best friend. She has substance, flaws and owns who she is, good and bad. When Ali needs help, Kat's there. If people are mean to Ali, you can bet that Kat will threaten either a verbal or physical smack down. Kat truly has her back. This would be great is Ali in any way returned the favor. Ali constantly forgets about Kat, and doesn't pay much attention to what's going on with Kat or to inquire if she's okay. Ali is an awful friend, but, when they're together, all of Ali's thoughts are about just how much she loves Kat. Actions speak louder, Ali dearest.
Then there's the romance portion of the evening. We have yet another half-hearted love triangle. Actually, it's probably not even half-hearted; it's more like quarter-hearted or sixteenth-hearted or something. As the hot new girl in school, Ali immediately attracts the attention of the two hottest guys (who obviously loathed one another even before the competition over Ali), straight-laced Justin and bad boy Cole. Not for one single second of the book is there a question of Justin every standing a chance, making him an incredibly pathetic, whiny character.
Showalter did avoid instalove sort of, but she didn't want to have to cut back on the number of kissing scenes. Solution: every day when Cole and Ali first make eye contact they share visions. These visions are not of anything practical or plot-enhancing (well, they are once or twice, but COME ON), but of Ali and Cole having incredibly hot make out sessions. Meanwhile, they're staring at each other like major dopes. Of course, when they do kiss irl, they nearly get off right on the dance floor at a club, because they're so into one another and omg it's so amazing. RIGHT.
As a couple, they really irritate me. I should be happy because, despite her immense attraction to Cole, Ali does try to keep a level head. She refuses to date him officially until such a time as she feels she knows him well enough to make that kind of commitment. Unfortunately, she spends pretty much all of her time wanting to bitch slap his ex out of jealousy and having smexy visions with him. In classic YA style, too, he constantly tells her what to do and she snarks in her head while doing precisely what he pleases. In one scene, Kat tells her about a text from her on/off bf Frosty (THAT NAME) asking her to do something, and Ali thinks about a text from Cole TELLING her to do something and smiles like that's CHARMING. No, it's goddamn not. Stop it.
My favorite characters by far, though, and my favorite part of the whole book, were Ali's grandparents, who take her in after her family dies. Sassy grandparents are such wonderful characters, and these are such sassboxes. I seriously loved their interrogations of the boyfriends and their attempts to use modern slang. They were sweet, caring, and funny.
Depending on your expectations and what you like out of a book, you might love this. I was entertained for the most part, although the book could have been shorter. However, the issues were so major and my interest in the characters so moderate that I do not personally plan on continuing with this series. This gets a rating of frustrated meh.
"With a shriek, she launched herself off her treadmill and onto mine. We tumbled backward, her on top. When we landed, I took the brunt of the impact, oxygen bursting from my mouth in a dizzying explosion. My head cracked against the concrete floor, and stars winked in front of my eyes.
Is it sad that my first thought happened to be: Thank God I'm off the treadmill!"