Alice, Yaz and Elaine have always been best friends. Until the end of year 6, when Alice is chosen to be the lead in the school production of Alice in Wonderland, and consequently also gets offered a place in a drama group. She is also got much closer to Luke, who also does drama. This seems to be too much for her friends who ditch her at the beginning of the holidays and completely shun her when they all start at their new secondary school. So when Savannah, the most popular girl in school and Yaz and Elaine’ s new best friend invites her to a Alice-themed sleepover, Alice does not know whether to be thrilled or worried. Is she finally being accepted, or are the girls planning to play a trick on her?
A terrible accident at the sleepover changes everything, and as friends and family rally around Alice’s bedside, the mystery around the fateful night begins to unravel. Meanwhile, Alice remains unconscious, stuck in a dream where she has ended up in Wonderland, trying to find her way back.
Looking Glass Girl came to life after Cathy Cassidy was approached by her publishers to write a retelling of Alice in Wonderland for the 150th anniversary of its publication. But rather than simply retelling, Cathy Cassidy offers her readers a really honest, believable and contemporary tale of friendship, betrayal, first love and forgiving and weaves Carroll’s original tale into this. Alice, in a state of unconsciousness in hospital, is drawn into a dream where she becomes her namesake, stuck in Wonderland, trying to find her way back home, and to consciousness. The cruelty and bullying Alice suffers is depicted frankly, and though issues get resolved in the end, there is definitely a darker side to this book, and it will ring true with many readers. I won’t lie, I felt frustrated that Alice would want to be part of the group and be willing to forgive how awful they had been to her; but as a mother of a girl who seems to often find herself in the midst of friendship dramas, I can see that the yearning to fit in often outweighs everything else. This is a real strength of Cathy Cassidy’s books: she talks her readers’ language, she writes as they speak, she creates her narratives around them. My daughter loved this book, and I am sure she found solace among its pages. So it is a big thumbs up for me on a personal level, but genrally Looking Glass Girl is a great read, which hopefully will relight interest in the original Alice as well.
Two little extras that I really enjoyed at the end of the book:
* Luke’s playlist of songs for Alice – I am sure this will inspire many readers to create their own
* Alice’s recipe for jam tarts (which are delicious)
Puffin have already released an edition of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with a similar design to Looking Glass Girl (but with Sir John Tenniel’s original artwork). Both together will make a lovely gift!
Source: own copy