Sixteen-year-old Jude has to get out of tiny Churchtown. She has to escape her outcast status and her pathetic dad, who hasn’t gotten past her mother’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, Jude’s childhood best friend, swaggers in after years away. With bold and magnetic Stella by her side, Jude knows she’s capable of anything. But Stella’s influence extends well beyond the theater. Soon Stella’s wild and dangerous streak begins to cause trouble for Jude -- yet Jude can’t bring herself to abandon Stella and the attention she’s always craved. And besides, now that Stella’s back, there’s no stopping her. In Jude’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.
She’s back. Jude’s childhood friend -- sexy, daring Stella-- returns to their stifling hometown, and life will never be the same again.
I'm struggling to write this review because Wonderland has such a complex plot, I wouldn't want to taint, ruin, or spoil anyone's reading experience with my review. I'm going to veer away from analysing plot logistics and just stick to my favourite parts.
As someone who's pursuing theatre studies post-secondary I deeply empathized with Jude and her confusion about the future. Joanna Nadin perfectly captured the struggle arts students encounter when asked "Are you sure you want to do this forever?" While I wished that more drama rehearsal scenes had been included I still felt satisfied with how accurately the world of theatre schools and auditions was portrayed.
One aspect of Wonderland I didn't like was the bullying. Many authors these days choose to write their protagonists as bullied yet uber cool teenagers who need to overcome their insecurities in order to finally stand up to their bullies. Seeing as this novel was so different from many that I'd read I had expected the bullying scenes and scenarios to be unique or original but instead followed the same beautiful-popular-girl vs boring-protagonist-girl. Hopefully other authors in the future will branch out and look at other ways of writing bullying.
I love novels that cover so many different topics without being "about" any single one of them. Some people would classify Wonderland as a contemporary novel but I disagree because it could have been set at any time and still been as effective. Other would say it's a novel about suicide or teen sexuality or romance or death, but those are all just things that Jude experiences rather than things that her life revolves around. In truth Wonderland is just a book about a girl and what happens to her one summer in England.