If your first thought, as mine was, is that this book is somehow related to Alice or her trip to Wonderland, you are mistaken. The Search for WondLa by Tony DiTerlizzi is described as “a new fairy tale for the twenty-first century.” I must disagree with the fairy tale part. It is definitely a great fantasy/sci-fi novel for young adults, but I don’t see many elements of traditional fairy tales in it. Not to be nit-picky or anything.
http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=Bibliograph07-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=1416983104&fc1=F3EDED&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=040404&f=ifrEva Nine is a girl who has spent her entire life in an underground facility known as The Sanctuary. She has been raised by a robot called Muthr, which stands for Multi-Utility Task Help Robot, and has been training for life in the world above ground by using holographic simulations of survival scenarios. Unfortunately, none of her training prepares her well enough, because when her Sanctuary is attacked and destroyed, she emerges into a world that is completely unlike Earth. Her Omnipod, a multipurpose device that can perform such tasks as identifying life forms, recommending medical procedures in emergencies, and provide holographic maps, is completely unable to identify any of the organisms that she finds in the world outside her Sanctuary. She is hunted relentlessly by the beast who destroyed her Sanctuary–a creature who works for the queen of this unknown world and who seeks to preserve her in a museum. Along the way, she meets an array of creatures who are unrecognizable as friend or foe.
The book is wickedly creative. Besides Eva herself, nothing is familiar to the reader. All the creatures are completely alien. The friends that she makes, Rovee and Otto, do not even speak her language. She must speak with them using the aid of a translation device. Her robot mother is quite unlike anything that we have in our present time. The trees can move about on cilia-like legs, and catch birds in much the same way that Venus fly traps catch flies. Birds have two sets of wings and heads that are upside down. Creatures have unusual ways of travel: gliding contraptions, giants on six or eight legs, or levitation. At times, one might argue that the book is too creative. I found myself rolling my eyes at the cheesiness of some of the inventions (such as that convenient translation device, or the splint in the tow of Eva’s shoe), while others had me pretty impressed. Eva’s clothing for instance. She has a tunic that monitors her vitals and tells her when her heart rate is accelerated, she is dehydrated, or she is injured. Her boots have a build-in odometer. Her Omnipod, which I’ve addressed before, is useful for just about everything.
At times I thought the plot dragged or was repetitive. There was a lot that happened in this book, but for some reason it felt like it rambled on a bit too much. At times I was completely enthralled, while at others I was quite bored and had no trouble putting the book down. However, the book is fantastic. Besides his imaginative world, the characters themselves absorb the reader. Trust and love take time to develop between Eva and her party of traveling companions, but their transformation is astounding. Rovee practically adopts Eva at the end of the novel. Otto and Eva have a psychic connection that is viable at huge distances. This allows Otto to help Eva out of several different dangerous situations. The relationship between Eva and Muthr is the only one I did not believe. Perhaps it is my bias against robots and their ability to experience human emotions. DiTerlizzi was attempting to create the deep emotional bond between mother and daughter, but it fell a little flat.
Throughout the novel there is a pervading sense of mystery that is the main motivation to keep reading. It begins with the question Why is Eva raised underground for twelve years? Once she emerges and finds that nothing is as she expected, the question becomes Why isn’t she on Earth, and where are all the humans? In fact, that is Eva’s main quest. She has never met another of her kind, and longs desperately to do so. Yet no matter where or how far she goes, she cannot find someone who looks anything like her. She has a picture that she carries with her, with the letters “Wond,” L” and “A.” She calls this WondLa, and even though she has no idea what it means, she goes in search of WondLa, hoping it will hold answers to her questions.
Of course, I won’t give anything about the end away, in case you would like to read the novel. But I will say that there is a huge stunner in the last few chapters of the book, and from there on out is a series of unthinkable and unexpected discoveries that explain a great deal of the mysteries in the novel. It’s the last 100 pages that clinched it for me. I loved the novel, especially the end, and anyone who has an appreciation for strong female protagonists, good juvie sci-fi, or both will also love it. A lovely read.