Splintered - A.G. Howard I felt like I was reading two books the whole time I went through this. The first book was a somewhat creative, fun romp through a twisted Wonderland, and it had a decent plot and plenty of twists and machinations and such going on.The second was a rehash of all of the worst of YA love triangles over the past few years.These two books collided at random. The first was more prominent, but the second would shove its way in, sit there awkwardly and uninvited, and stay for a page or two before fleeing again. I really, really wanted to like that first book, the book this one should have been. If the romance had been taken completely out, if Alyssa didn't have a boyfriend follow her down there and wasn't in lov- no, magical lust with that other guy, then the story would have played out just exactly as it did, but without about 90% of the bad sort of creepiness. The romance element contributed nothing to the plot. (By the way, the book agrees with me, as you'll see at the end.)Both of the guys in Alyssa's triangle were mean and abusive. I was honestly horrified at how much they grabbed her and dragged her and shoved her and otherwise put hands on her to physically move her around. Alyssa never made one comment of protest against any of this, and she simply went on and on about how much she loved the boys while this happened, sending the rather creepy message that it's okay to have your boyfriend physically shove you to where he wants you to go. Jeb is a jerk who's needlessly cruel to those he comes across and jumps to physical violence at the drop of a hat. Now, given his background (abusive father) I can actually imagine this as justified for him. But in that case, make it part of his character arc! Make it something he needs to work on and overcome! Instead of any of that, Alyssa doesn't bat an eye at the fact that he thinks punching his problems is acceptable, which just makes me think that she's got some domestic abuse in her future. Morpheus is even worse, as he lies to, manipulates, and even drugs Alyssa, climbs into bed with her, and magically seduces her. At least, I'm assuming it was magic, because otherwise that was an awful lot of overwrought metaphors. Alyssa has absolutely no reason to fall for him, so the author pulls up their childhood together and tries to use that to justify her feelings, but it falls flat as an excuse for romance. She can be conflicted over her child-like affection for an old friend without also wanting to bone him. (And without trying to paint him as a viable romantic lead.)The saving grace in all of this is that first, better book. Even then it has some problems. My biggest one (Alyssa just sort of stumbles into the answers for all her tasks) is mostly explained at the end, so that's okay. But three characters who turn out to be vital to the conclusion of the story aren't even introduced to us until the final 40 pages. Alyssa is an idiot for trusting Morpheus, even though she's shown time and time again that pretty much everything he says is a lie, then she acts ~*~*OMG SO SHOCKED*~*~ when he lies again at the end. This is why you shouldn't take a villain role and shove it into one spot on your romance triangle. It just makes everyone look stupid. And I figured out the big reveal about Alyssa at the first clue, since it was a rather large and obvious one. When that clue kept being harped on, but Alyssa didn't follow through her thoughts to a logical conclusion, I rolled my eyes. In the end, even with all the parts in front of her, she had to have someone else spell it out for her. Oh, and let's not even touch that horrid display of mental health facilities. They've got a nurse that apparently likes to give injectable sedatives at the drop of a hat. I'm sure that actually happens, but when someone really does overdose their patients with needless drugs (including giving them two doses really close together) then the answer is to turn them in to the authorities. I can't tell in this book if the nurse is out of regs, or if the author thinks that's how things are supposed to go. Also, they treat ECT therapy as if it's something that 100% of the time fries your brain into something unrecognizable. Alyssa's motivation throughout this novel is to 'fix' stuff before her mother goes in for ETC, under the assumption that if that happens Allison will be a catatonic lump of brain damage. No. This isn't the 1940s. If that happened, we wouldn't use it anymore. ECT side-effects are mild, and the treatments have helped thousands and thousands of people, with a higher rate of success than psychotropic drugs.Then there's the various 'vengeance' that's meted out to certain characters. The nurse that sedates her mom is frightened into using the sedatives on herself, which is pretty fucking horrifying all on its own. I mean, if this is a world where doing that to patients is allowed, then she's being punished for doing her job. If this is supposed to be the real world, then turn her ass in to the cops, don't muck around with her health! And Taelor, the bully that torments Alyssa and dates Jeb, she's a pretty weak bully character. Also very sympathetic. When Jeb dumps her on the night of prom and goes to Alyssa instead, Taelor says he can't be trusted, so Alyssa delivers a cruel verbal beatdown about how she'd trust Jeb with her life. But think about it. Taelor, who has a terrible homelife and the only think stable in her life is her boyfriend, just found out that this whole time he's been pining after another woman. Then her boyfriend dumps her and moves to that other woman the next morning. Less than 12 hours later. Yes, Jeb absolutely is an SOB who can't be trusted.And there's some slut-shaming in this novel. There's a big deal made out of how Alyssa is a virgin (you know, unlike those other 'dirty' whores who give it away), and they even say that she's 'too good' and 'deserves better' than a one-night-stand with a stranger. So...what, if people aren't as 'good' as Alyssa, then they deserve it? And people who like casual encounters...don't exist? I don't know, it's another needless thing that got shoved in there and ended up being creepy.