Friday, September 4, 2020

ARC Review: Unbirthday by Liz Braswell

50358479Title: Unbirthday
Series: A Twisted Tale
Author: Liz Braswell
Source/Format: Netgalley; eARC
More Details: Fantasy; Retelling; Young Adult
Publisher/Publication Date: Disney-Hyperion; September 1, 2020

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Synopsis from Goodreads...
What if Wonderland was in peril and Alice was very, very late?
Alice is different than other eighteen-year-old ladies in Kexford, which is perfectly fine with her. She'd rather spend golden afternoons with her trusty camera or in her aunt Vivian's lively salon, ignoring her sister's wishes that she stop all that "nonsense" and become a "respectable" member of society. Alice is happy to meander to Miss. Yao's teashop or to visit the children playing in the Square. She's also interested in learning more about the young lawyer she met there, but just because she's curious, of course, not because he was sweet and charming. But when Alice develops photographs she has recently taken about town, familiar faces of old suddenly appear in the place of her actual subjects-the Queen of Hearts, the Mad Hatter, the Caterpillar. There's something eerily off about them, even for Wonderland creatures. And as Alice develops a self-portrait, she finds the most disturbing image of all-a badly-injured dark-haired girl asking for Alice's help. Mary Ann.
Returning to the place of nonsense from her childhood, Alice finds herself on a mission to stop the Queen of Hearts' tyrannical rule and to find her place in both worlds. But will she able to do so . . . before the End of Time?
I’m always on the lookout for a good retelling, especially for Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, which is one of my favorite classic stories. I’ve enjoyed a few retellings for it in the past—like L.L. McKinney’s Nightmare-verse series. So I had high expectations for Unbirthday. Unbirthday feels very much like a continuation of Disney’s 1951 film, Alice in Wonderland. The characters—Mad Hatter, Dormouse, and Dodo—have many similar characteristic (namely in appearance and behavior) to the characters of the movie or they could also more closely resemble those from the original story. With the story being set 11 years after Alice’s initial adventures in Wonderland, so there were differences, namely in the contents of the story. And overall I enjoyed Braswell’s take on an older Alice.

Alice is eighteen in this story, remembers Wonderland fondly as a dream, and looks for magic in her every-day surroundings. Overall, I enjoyed Alice’s perspective here. There was a blend between her regular life as well as her fantastical adventures once she returns to Wonderland. The transition between the two settings was done quite well, and I enjoyed many of the new characters introduced early in the story. Wonderland was full of nonsense and whimsy, and it was all-around pretty fun to read about. Due to the story, however, there was a much darker tone to Wonderland as a whole—in fact, it was downright sinister.

There was a part of the story that dealt a lot with politics—elections, rallies, the candidate, and social injustice—and many of those aspects mirrored real issues that are currently happening. In Unbirthday, Alice was involved with it, and it did take over much of the story outside of Wonderland. However, I did enjoy the complicated connections Alice formed with those around her, and some of my favorite characters included her aunt, Vivian, as well as Katz.

Unbirthday was a great Alice retelling. It had the whimsy and the wonder—and the randomness that’s a hallmark of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland—but it also didn’t shy away from the more serious aspects of its story.

About the author...

After the sort of introverted childhood you would expect from a writer, Liz earned a degree in Egyptology at Brown University and then promptly spent the next ten years producing video games. Finally she caved into fate and wrote Snow and Rx under the name Tracy Lynn, followed by The Nine Lives of Chloe King series under her real name, because by then the assassins hunting her were all dead. She also has short stories in Geektastic and Who Done It and a new series of reimagined fairy tales coming out, starting with A Whole New World—a retelling of Aladdin. She lives in Brooklyn with a husband, two children, a cat, a part-time dog, three fish and five coffee trees she insists will start producing beans any day. You can email her at

Disclaimer: this copy of the book was provided by the publisher (Disney-Hyperion) via Netgalley for this review, thank you!

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