YA Review – The Wonderland Trials – young adult dystopian

About the Book

Book: The Wonderland Trials

Author: Sara Ella

Genre: YA Dystopian Fantasy / Alice in Wonderland retelling

Release date: July 12, 2022

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Solve the clues. Face your fears. Survive the Trials.

All Alice Liddell wants is to escape her Normal life in Oxford and find the parents who abandoned her ten years ago. But she gets more than she bargained for when her older sister Charlotte is arrested for having the infamous Wonder Gene—the key to unlocking the curious Wonderland Reality.

Soon, Alice receives a rather cryptic invitation to play for Team Heart in this year’s annual—and often deadly—Wonderland Trials. Now she has less than twenty-four hours to find her way into Wonderland where nothing is impossible . . . or what it seems.

The stakes are raised when she discovers players go missing during the Trials each year. Will she and her team solve the clues and find the missing players? Or will betrayal and distrust win, leaving Alice alone in a world of her own? Follow the White Rabbit into this topsy-turvy fantasy where players become prey, a sip of the wrong tea might as well be poison, and a queen’s ways do not always lead one where they ought to go.

Click here to get your copy!

My Review

Ella, Sara. (Sara E. Carrington) The Wonderland Trials. Phoenix, AZ: Enclave Publishing, 2022. 

The Curious Realities, book 1

I want to start by saying I do not ever remember reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, although I do remember owning a copy as a child. I know enough of the story to see similarities between the original and Sara Ella’s retelling in The Wonderland Trials. 

Dystopian fantasy can be dark and depressing but I did not find this to be the case with The Wonderland Trials. Set in England at a time when technology as we know it today is outlawed. “Normal” people do not have technology. Another type of people, known as “Wonders’ have special gifts and are creative. They too have been outlawed. 

England has cut itself off from the rest of the world (including Scotland and Wales). Because the book is set in England, British spelling is used most of the time for words that have multiple English spellings. There is a glossary at the back to help readers with the unfamiliar British words. 

Alice finds that the life she knows is a lie, at least in part. She lives in the Normal world but secretly visits places where Wonders hang out – she dreams of participating in their annual games. Alice finds out some interesting things about herself over the course of the story. Mistrust and doubt rule her path as she struggles to reach the end of the tale. 

The book does end a little abruptly for me so I am hoping there is a sequel so that readers can get closure on some of the loose threads. 

The Wonderland Trials could find a place in a K-12 Christian school fantasy section. I think advanced older elementary children through adults will enjoy this story. 

I received a complimentary copy of The Wonderland Trials. This is my honest review.

About the Author – Sara Ella

Once upon a time, Sara Ella dreamed she would marry a prince and live in a castle. Now she spends her days homeschooling her three Jedi in training, braving the Arizona summers, and reminding her superhero husband that it’s almost Christmas (even if it’s only January). When she’s not writing, Sara might be found behind her camera lens or planning her next adventure in the great wide somewhere. She is a Hufflepuff who finds joy in the simplicity of sipping a lavender white mocha and singing Disney tunes in the car. Sara is the author of the Unblemished trilogy and Coral, a reimagining of The Little Mermaid that focuses on mental health. Her latest journey into the world of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland feels like coming full circle after her time spent chasing the White Rabbit around Walt Disney World. Sara loves fairy tales and Jesus, and she still believes “Happily Ever After is Never Far Away.” Connect with her online at SaraElla.com or find her on Instagram at @saraellawrites.

More from Sara Ella

Welcome to Wonderland!

When I started this journey down the rabbit hole, I had no idea where it would lead me. From switching publishers to signing a book contract during a pandemic, this writing journey has certainly been an adventure for the books!

As with every story I write, life handed me a few trials along the way with this one. I didn’t know how it would end until a few weeks before deadline. With that time crunch came an epiphany that altered a good portion of the plot—an idea that had me scrambling to rewrite entire scenes right up until the final hours before I turned the story in to my editor. It was difficult, but the book is better for it—I am better for it.

It could be said that an author shapes the story, but I personally believe it’s equally true that the story shapes the author. Every book I have written has changed me in some way. With The Wonderland Trials, I can pinpoint three takeaways that helped me grow in ways I never expected.

I learned to not take life so seriously.

We all have to do the adulting thing. We have bills to pay and homes to clean and deadlines to meet. But in the midst of all that chaos and craziness is a time to laugh. To play. To make a mess on the living room floor building Legos with my toddler or take a walk to the park.

I found myself often rushing through time with friends because I had to write or work or check more boxes off my task list. But feeling stressed and cutting friend and family time short didn’t accomplish anything. It didn’t get my book written faster. I’m not saying to put things off that need to be done—it’s important to be responsible. I am saying I learned that I have to balance work and play, and most importantly, I need to be present for those in my life.

It’s not only okay to sit back and relax now and again, it’s necessary. I need to let go of the constant to-do list and invest my time in things that bring me joy. That way, when it’s time to sit down and pound the keys, I’m filled and inspired, rather than tired and anxious.

I learned to see the beauty in found family.

They say you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family. I disagree. As a girl who was raised by a stepdad who has loved me unconditionally as his own from the time I was two, I think there is something truly special about family that you find and make your own.

There have been times I’ve felt jealous of my friends who still have their biological parents around. I lost my mom in 2012 and my birth dad in 2020. I have maybe a handful of blood relatives left. I love them to bits, and I’m so grateful for them! But my family extends beyond the boundaries of blood. When I really think about it, I have family coming out of my ears and then some.

I have besties who became my soul sisters and women who stepped in as moms and grandmas. I have big brothers who would protect me with their lives and nieces and nephews I get to spoil on holidays and birthdays. As Alice says in The Wonderland Trials, “​​Sometimes family isn’t the one you’re born with. It’s the one you find. Or the ones who find you.”

I learned to believe in the impossible.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m the pessimist in my family. I try to see every worst-case scenario when making a decision. I ask all the what-ifs in the book. I’m like MJ in the Spider-Man movies— “If you expect disappointment, then you can never really get disappointed.”

My husband, on the other hand, has the faith of a child. When I’m lacking in faith, he’s there to remind me of all God can do. And God almost always surprises me with how He goes about doing those things. In a world with drive-thrus, mobile bank deposits, food deliveries, and every other form of instant service we can think of, the call to be patient and wait on the Lord is often forgotten.

I want answers now. I want my family member to be healed now. I want the baby we’ve been waiting over a year to adopt now. God can do the impossible, right? So why doesn’t He hurry up and do it already?

Because God is not a vending machine. And just because He chooses not to perform the miracle I want when and how I want it, that doesn’t mean he isn’t working. In fact, it’s the waiting period when God tends to do His best work on me.

More often than not, I am the impossible one, the impossible heart that needs changing. The stubborn clay that needs molding. The cracked tea cup that needs to be fixed and filled with rivers of gold. What I see as impossible to fix or change, God sees as an opportunity to help me grow. So I’ll keep believing in the impossible. After all, God took me, an impossibly helpless sinner, and made me into something new.

Thank you for taking time to read my thoughts and for giving this little book a chance. Happy reading, Wonders! The impossible awaits!

Sincerely,

Sara Ella

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, July 30

Rachael’s Inkwell, July 30

A Reader’s Brain, July 31

For Him and My Family, July 31

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, August 1

Texas Book-aholic, August 2

Where Faith and Books Meet, August 3

Inklings and notions, August 3

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, August 4

deb’s Book Review, August 5

Live. Love. Read., August 5

Locks, Hooks and Books, August 6

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, August 7

Mary Hake, August 7

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, August 8

Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, August 8

Library Lady’s Kid Lit, August 9

Tell Tale Book Reviews, August 10

Melissa’s Bookshelf, August 10

Wishful Endings, August 11

Blogging With Carol, August 12

Rebecca Tews, August 12

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Sara is giving away the grand prize package of a signed Limited Edition Hardcover of The Wonderland Trials, $25 Barnes & Noble Gift Card, and $15 Starbucks Gift Card!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/2038e/the-wonderland-trials-celebration-tour-giveaway

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7 comments

  1. Thanks for sharing The Wonderland Trials with me Sara, your book sounds like an amazing YA read for my granddaughter!

    Thanks, Jane, for sharing your review!

    Have a splendid day!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing your review of The Wonderland Trials, this sounds like a wonderful story that my teen-aged granddaughters and I will enjoy reading

    Liked by 1 person

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