Review: Wonderland by Joanna Nadin

6 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: 5 stars, Contemporary

Book: Wonderland
Author: Joanna Nadin
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release date: February 22, 2011
Source: ARC Tour run by I Read Banned Books

Summary: (from Goodreads) Sixteen-year-old Jude has to get out of tiny Churchtown. She has to escape her outcast status and her pathetic dad, who hasnâ??t gotten past her motherâ??s death. The one bright light is drama, her way out, if only she can get into the Lab, a prestigious program in London. Then Stella, Judeâ??s childhood best friend, swaggers in after years away. With bold and magnetic Stella by her side, Jude knows sheâ??s capable of anything. But Stellaâ??s influence extends well beyond the theater. Soon Stellaâ??s wild and dangerous streak begins to cause trouble for Jude — yet Jude canâ??t bring herself to abandon Stella and the attention sheâ??s always craved. And besides, now that Stellaâ??s back, thereâ??s no stopping her. In Judeâ??s dark and tangled story, British author Joanna Nadin plumbs the aftermath of loss and the consequences of becoming the person you always wished you were.

First impressions: Jude and Stella open the book in a Thelma and Louise situation: cigarettes, lipstick, and a car at the edge of a cliff. Can you say “Grab on and don’t let go?” I read this book in one sitting, because I just had to know how these girls got there.

Lasting impressions: This book is so well-crafted that although I had my suspicions as to where the story was going, I still couldn’t quite believe it when I got my answer. This is one of those books where you have to flip back and read scenes again to see if you really missed it the first time.

Negative impressions: The ending is a bit trite and overplayed, but the story was so captivating and well done that I got over it. I mean, there are only so many plots in the world, and if I discarded every new book for having an element done before, I wouldn’t be reading very long.

Overall impressions: This book had real heart. I loved Jude and her complicated relationships with her dead mother and distraught father. She feels trapped in her small town, but scared to pursue her acting dream for fear she will end up just like her mother. Her mom was a bright star that faded to nothing when they moved to their small town, and watching the depression wash over her was too much for Jude and her father to bear.

Jude feels ignored and invisible, with few friends and not much going for her…until Stella comes back. Stella was a childhood friend who had pulled Jude out of her shell until she disappeared and moved away. Now she’s back, and Jude gets caught up in Stella’s whirlwind energy and bad influence. With Stella, Jude starts partying, dressing sexier, and getting interested in boys. When she lands an audition at the prestigious Lab, her dream theater school in London, she and Stella take the train together and Jude nearly blows her chance.

Watching Jude’s life get bolder and more outrageous is exciting until you see the scale tip in the wrong direction. When Jude goes to her audition, Stella is no longer the fun friend out to ensure they have a good time, she’s an enabler who is controlling Jude’s actions and dragging her down. It’s heartbreaking to see Jude realize that Stella may not be the best thing in her life. This definitely struck a chord with me – the idea that sometimes your friends can harm you more than help you. Welcome to adulthood, Jude!

This story is quickly paced and full of all the pains of adolescence: first love, wild friends, dreams of grandeur, and absent parenting. Jude rises to the challenges presented by all of these, finding her own voice and strength of spirit to reclaim the hold on her life that Stella threatens to steal from her. Dramatic, harrowing, and real, Jude’s tale will definitely make an impression.

Rating: 5/5 stars

Interested in reading this book? Click below to sign up for the ARC tour for this and other titles at I Read Banned Books.

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6 Responses to “Review: Wonderland by Joanna Nadin”

  1. Missie says:

    Ah Logan, you book thoughts are always so insightful. I love reading them.

    I have to admit, I judged this book by the craptastic cover and passed on the tour because it didn't seem to interest me, but now I'm regretting that decision.

    I remember those same pains of adolescence in which I had to ask myself if certain friends where worth keeping around, or if I was the one being destructive to the friendship because of deeply rooted jealousy. It was a very confusing and complex time in my life, as I'm sure it is for many.

    Thanks for changing my perceptive of this book. I think I can be more open to it now.

  2. Aylee says:

    Wow, this sounds great! I do believe this is the first review I've read for this book. Reading your review, I feel I could probably relate some of the experiences in this book to my own which is always a good thing.

  3. bibliophile brouhaha says:

    Ohhh, I haven't really heard much about this one, but it sounds intriguing. I think one of the hardest lessons to learn is that just because someone is nice or exciting to be with, that doesn't mean they are a true friend – you learn that one over and over, don't you? Great review – sounds like this one really got you!

    -Linds, bibliophile brouhaha

  4. I Read Banned Books says:

    Great and insightful review. I love how you break it down for us. I appreciate you reading and am happy to work together over and over again. 😉

    PS, thx for the awesome plug…!!


  5. Logan E. Turner says:

    @Missie – You should check it out, especially if you think you can relate to the subject matter. I'm sure that was a big factor as to why I liked it so much, so I think you would like it too.

    @Aylee – I hadn't heard of this before I saw it on the tour, so yay! I'm glad I got to be one of the first spreading the word. I feel so behind most of the time.

    @Linds – That is one of life's toughest lessons, I think. This one really did strike a nerve and I just loved it.

    @Jen – Thank YOU for letting me read this amazing book!

  6. Gina @ My Precious says:

    Hmm the first review I read on this one gave it 2 stars. This blogger figured everything out before she hit 30 pages. She didn't connect at all with Jude and her plight.

    Then, there's your review. Had I read this one first I'd be saying wow, I've not heard of this book before but it sounds super!

    So now I'm torn…. sigh

    Great review, I enjoy reading it and really like your review format.


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A fan of historical, dystopian, urban fantasy, paranormal romance, mystery, steampunk, and young adult fiction, as well as any book that thinks smartly and imaginatively.

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