Wonder. Christina C. Jones. 2019. Warm Hues Creative. 283 pages. [Source: Kindle Unlimited.]
I’ve grown to look forward to the new book that comes on the heels of any Christina C. Jones announcement that she’s trying something out of her comfort zone. From experience, I know that book will test boundaries, explore new ideas, and make me check my assumptions about my own worldview. Wonder is no different. It is a post-apocalyptic reimagining of a classic fairy tale that felt so right that it stands on its own.
Wonder focuses on Aly, a 25 year old living more than a century after modern-day climate change has reared its ugly head, leaving Earth a collapsed shell of itself. A talented hair stylist who works in the privileged Apex, Aly lives in the less affluent Mids. Her ability to straddle both worlds is based on a keen ability to navigate relationships, social class, and the dangerous streets of her home. With only her grandmother and sister, Nadiah, in her life, Aly lives her life nose to the grindstone, until her sister goes missing.
The rest of the book follows Aly as she ventures outside her city limits to find out who took her sister and determine how to get her back. In the process, she meets Maddox, a mysterious yet magnetic man from the Burrows, a land shut off from hers and a place many don’t venture if they value their safety. Aly’s assumptions and beliefs about her world are shattered as she seeks the truth about her family and pushes her beyond her meek self as she figures out what her new future should look like. As always, there is a romantic element in this book. To this end, the book did not feel like a romance; I was less interested in whether Aly would give her heart to someone and more concerned with how she was going to navigate her troubles without getting kidnapped, attacked, or murdered along the way.
Admittedly, I’ve never seen the Alice in Wonderland films. I’ve never read Lewis Carroll’s books about the land beyond the rabbit hole (I know, a crime against humanity). What I know is in passing and mostly from that dope Disney show from the early ’90s, so I enjoyed reading this story without being encumbered by a critical eye looking for similarities or departures from cannon. Truthfully, I didn’t even catch on that this book was loosely based on this fairy tale before reading (not sure how I missed that one …). I found the reveal of new characters helped me along the way, making it feel more organic. What Jones did with this book is magical, no pun intended. She not only retold a familiar story, but completely shifted the narrative about an “other world.” Through Wonder, and specifically Aly’s place in her world, Jones offers a necessary critique of the current political landscape, power structures, and environmental threats.
Wonder has a constant tension that left me not wanting to put it down. The suspense factor is strong in this book, and felt true to the setting. Aly doesn’t know who she can trust, and even as she navigates her new and former relationships with people, I noticed that I didn’t trust anyone. I was skeptical of everyone she met, and questioned their intentions if they chose to help her along the way. The characters were well-developed for their roles; I thought every one played their part, whether I anticipated it or not.
Without a doubt, I recommend this book. I’ve been seeing more modern adaptations of fairy tales, but seeing one in an unlikely setting gives it a distinction I have yet to read. The plot itself is engaging, but the author’s ability to interweave current events, politics, and social concerns brings it to life in a way that makes it hard to put down. Whether you’re looking for a romance or just a solid read, this won’t disappoint.