Jude the Obscure, Jude the outcast, Jude the washout. Sixteen-year-old Jude, who loves theatre but can’t bring herself to post the application to the Lab in London. Jude, who would give anything to get out of her life in tiny Churchtown, England. Jude, who wants more than anything to escape her father, who still hasn’t gotten over her mother’s death. Jude, who wants more than anything to be her mother, a fabulous actress and model.
If all the world’s a stage, Jude is an extra, the girl half-obscured by props who wishes to be center-stage playing Ophelia.
And then Stella comes back.
Stella is Ophelia. Brash, brave, and bold, she was Jude’s best friend before she left, and now she’s back, all full of glitter and danger. Stella smokes, Stella drinks, Stella is everything that Jude wishes she could be and then some. Stella posts Jude’s letter for her, Stella defends Jude against the school’s native it-girls, Stella introduces Jude to alcohol and sex and as much as Jude loves her, she’s scared of Stella as well, and scared of how Stella changes her. Stella makes Jude into someone else, someone confident and sexy and unafraid. With Stella, Jude can do anything.
And Jude does do anything. Anything and everything she never believed she could do before, she does now, be it parties, or drinking, or finally posting that application. Stella is beside her through it all, as even when Stella disappears, she always, always returns, right when Jude needs her most.
Let me just say, Wonderland is fabulous.
That said, it took me a while to get into it. I’m not really a fan of the writing style, which is a little more detached than I generally prefer, and I spent a decent amount of time wondering where the book was going with one plotline or another. Emily, the head mean girl at Jude’s stuck-up private school, seemed to me more than a little overdone. Much of the book was spent wondering why characters weren’t recognizing Stella’s presence, erm, at all, or at least as much as they should have been.
The ending, however, made it all worth it, tying together all the loose ends in a neat package that has left me reeling. I could not put the book down for the last seventy pages or so, reading through the attempts at conversation by anyone and everyone around me. The shivers down my spine, the sudden BANG as a million puzzle pieces fit together all at once–the ending makes any waiting or confusion worth it. It will all make sense. I promise.
The rest is not bad, but I’m not really into the writing style (personal choice, I guess); it’s not that it’s slow, dry or confusing (at least, not more than a little), but let me just say, it does pick up for an incredible finale.
Kat Alexander is a Figment Reviewer who (clearly) loves to read and comment. She’s active on a number of sites including NaNo, Fiction Press, and FanFiction under aneko24.