Between the Covers's Reviews > Wonderland

Wonderland by Joanna Nadin
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Apr 06, 11

bookshelves: 2011-debut, blog-tour, young-adult, contemporary-fiction
Read in March, 2011

Reviewed by Christin for Between the Covers

It's fairly rare that I actually end up reading contemporary YA books, but this one, set just outside of London and involving a theatre student, seemed too good to pass up. While the book wasn't exactly what I was expecting, it was still a good read, though at times seemingly more of a psychological portrait than a story.

Jude has never been one to stand out - Jude the Obscure, she calls herself. Always the brunt of her classmates' jokes, stuck in a dreary small-town existence, motherless, Jude's one escape is drama. She dreams of going to the Lab in London. There's only one problem - she can't bring herself to mail the application. Enter Stella, stage right. Stella is everything Jude wishes to be: confident, respected, able to stand out and shine. But Stella is also wild and reckless, dragging Jude into schemes that she'd never dream of. Jude feeds on Stella's strength, pushing her limits, unconsciously changing herself. Then Stella disappears for a few days, and Jude has to answer some tough questions. Is Stella really who Jude wants to be? What's so wrong with being herself? And most importantly - who is Jude?

Wonderland was, in a way, more edgy than a lot of books I've read recently. Perhaps that's because it is contemporary, or because so much of it is inner monologue. Either way, the book draws you in from the very beginning, and it goes fairly quickly from there. Jude is a very relatable character - who hasn't felt overshadowed at some point, longed to be someone else, had their nerves get the better of them? Jude and Ed were always so sweet together, which was a refreshing change from the usual intensity of teenage relationships in YA books. Jude's relationship with her father was so sad; it was easy to see how much her mother had been part of her life, and how her mother's death affected her so much. And then there was Stella. Stella with her crazy yet entertaining antics. Stella, whom at times I wanted to slap and at times I wanted to applaud. She kept me turning the pages to see what happened next.

At its heart, this is a coming-of-age story, a teenage girl trying to find her way. Sometimes, Wonderland seemed a bit disjointed, but I think that's the nature of the narrating voice, because this book does come full circle, from prologue to conclusion. I had my suspicious throughout the book, and it was nice to see that I had been right. The story until the ending is perfectly fine, but the ending truly does give it that much more impact.

Wonderland was Nadin's US YA debut, and I think it's safe to say it won't be her last novel. I'll look forward to reading more from her in the future!
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