Wonderland – David-Matthew Barnes (Bold Strokes Books)

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Buy it direct from Bold Strokes Books

Some books just beg to be screenplays. That’s not to say
that they’re slightly or shallowly written, but they’re so visual and create
such vivid pictures in their readers’ minds that you naturally want to see them
on the big screen. That’s what you get with David-Matthew Barnes’ new YA book, Wonderland.

Fifteen-year-old Destiny Moore has just lost her mother to
cancer and been transplanted from Chicago to the small island town of Avalon
Cove to live with her uncle Fred and his husband Clark. She meets her two new
besties, Tasha and Topher, who invite her to a creepy boarding house called
Wonderland, owned by the mysterious Adrianna Marveaux, where all three of them
meet their soul mates. But Wonderland has a dark aspect as well; one which
causes them to make choices that will change their lives forever.

Barnes has such facility channeling his inner
fifteen-year-old girl that Destiny never once feels forced or calculated and is
always age-appropriate in her thought patterns as well as her speech. His
adults are less complicated but, to be fair, they’re also less important to the
plot.

Wonderland has a wide-eyed charm and a belief in a
place where anything is possible and happy endings are de rigueur, but
Barnes leavens this with a solid sense of deadly realism, preventing the charm
from escalating into cloying territory. It’s a tricky balance, but Barnes seems
to have a knack for blending fantasy and reality into something that’s neither
one.

Wonderland is a quick read—less than two hundred
pages—so it’s perfect for his demographic. However, if you pass this by because
it’s for young adults, you’ll be missing one of the most intensely filmable
pieces I’ve read in a long time. Almost every scene here would look wonderful
in IMAX. The boarding house, in particular, has so much potential that you’ll
be seeing scenes from it in your head long after you’ve closed the book.

Peter Jackson? Guillermo del Toro? Tim Burton? I’ve got your
next property right here. But no Helena Bonham Carter, Tim—she couldn’t do
Adrianna Marveaux justice. 

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©, 2013, Jerry Wheeler

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