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‘Alice’s Bloody Adventures in Wonderland:’ Book Review

“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” ~Alice

When I first heard the title Alice’s Bloody Adventures in Wonderland, I was ecstatic, eagerly anticipating a stronger, less innocent/naive Alice, a role model of strength and intelligence for young girls like I associate with Katniss from The Hunger Games. But, this is not that adaptation, and, in retrospect, it would dishonor Lewis Carroll’s original piece to make Alice a heroine in that sense. Raul Alberto Contreras has created a world that resembles a hybrid of Quentin Tarantino’s sometimes seemingly unnecessary violence and Judd Apatow’s crass humor . . . and I must admit, I kind of like it.

We have all had those nightmares where we are lost or trapped in our dreams and in real life. In Alice’s Bloody Adventures in Wonderland, Alice is not a girl but a potty mouthed, sexually active goth/Steampunk teenager, and she makes sure to use her sexuality to her advantage. Her adventure is the adventure we all sometimes wish we had – the things we want to say and do to our “demons” but hold back out of fear or etiquette. You don’t start off respecting and identifying with Alice, you read in wonder, amusement, befuddlement, and horror as she stumbles mistake by mistake in a journey of self discovery, saying exactly what she thinks and doing exactly what she wants. She is not role model, but she reminds me of so many teenagers I know . . . and bits of myself. I mean, haven’t you ever wanted to physically squash a bully or yell at a boss, co-worker, or ex to “go stick the peppermill up your cooch and grind!”? And, in all seriousness, the debate over Lewis Carroll’s use of opiates, pedophilic tendencies, epilepsy, and sleep arousal disorders makes Raul Alberto Contreras’ adaptation a more honest, modern twist. This story is twisted, perverse, and magical . . . always was and will continue to be for generations to come. One could argue all day about why and how the originals were created. To entertain childhood friends? As a commentary or reflection of drug use at the time? But, in this case, it doesn’t matter. Lewis Carroll’s version was written like a fairytale where every reader and generation will interpret based on his or her own life and culture. Alice’s Bloody Adventures in Wonderland, stands on its own with a distinct/direct concept influenced from a collection of classic tales. There is no room for interpretation – this is an action/fantasy novel, not a fairytale.

Raul Alberto Contreras writes with fluidity that you would not expect from a first time novelist. His use of descriptive language to build Wonderland for the reader is vivid while still leaving room for the reader’s imagination. Alice’s dialogue is often choppy and awkward, but the more you read the more you realize that this author has captured her teenage voice – an albeit sometimes annoying teenage voice; it is consistent and honest. All of the characters have clearly defined voices with glimpses of Alice in them, as if she is creating their dialogue and the world around her moment by moment. Halfway through I started to wonder if I had been secretly drugged, and then rightly realized the novel just grew more and more intensely perverse and violent as Alice’s journey evolved, like watching a huge car pile-up in slow motion, slowly gaining speed and reality sneaking up on you. I couldn’t stop reading, honestly, because I wanted to see what bad-a– thing she would say or do next. Raul Alberto Contreras‘ Alice is no role model, just the little devil on our shoulder that helps us stand a little taller and fight for ourselves a little stronger.

Music is a largely interwoven into the novel. The caterpillar, a prime example, in Alice’s words is a “Mother-frak- king hippie.” He references ’60s and ’70s music throughout their conversation.

The Caterpillar exhaled a cloud into Alice’s face and answered quite boldly within his shadowy, purple-green and sparking smoke: “I am the walrus!”

Later in the novel, Public Enemy is played and Alice sings, “He loves me, he loves me not,” while slowly torturing a daisy and enjoying every moment. While you don’t admire Alice, you start to understand and become intertwined in her spiraling, diabolical mental state. The author gives the audience the images and dialogue to understand this is Alice’s coming-of-age moment, not just a nightmare, but also her internal fight for independence and womanhood.

The King laid his hand upon her arm and timidly said, “It’s all right. Consider, my dear, she is a teenager with all those new female hormones and all. She doesn’t know what she is doing.” He leaned over to Alice with a small smile and said, “Besides that, I like her moxie.”

I like her moxie, too. Alice’s Bloody Adventures in Wonderland is not a piece of literary genius, but it is as I believe the author intended, an entertaining adult read. I hope he continues to write and does not wait for another injury to keep him homebound and bored to do so.

“Change is good and necessary,” said the Butterfly.




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