Mad About the Hatter by Dakota Chase, a follow-up to the original Alice In Wonderland children’s book, provided an adventurous and comical story weaved together with teen romance. As someone who knew little about Alice in Wonderland, the novel felt welcoming. In Chase’s queer fantasy novel, the Mad Hatter is tasked with the duty to escort Henry, Alice’s younger brother, across Wonderland on a journey to the Red Queen’s castle to return Henry home. At least that’s what Henry was told.
The story takes place years after Alice leaves Wonderland. Once she had returned home, Wonderland was almost always on her mind and while her family thought very little of it Henry hated it. As the years passed he grew to hate Alice and blamed her for their mother’s death and alcoholic father. With his eighteenth birthday and high school graduation in the near future, all Henry wanted was to leave Alice and forget she ever existed.
On one bright morning, Henry awoke lost and confused, having little to no memory of how he came to in a world he had always labeled as imaginary. When Henry is rescued from a giant ant hill he realizes his best chance at returning home alive is with the Mad Hatter. The Hatter is more than obliged to deliver “Boy Alice” to the Red Queen in order to avoid an axe to his neck. Hatter’s and Henry’s first impression of each other lead to mutual dislike but the dangers of Wonderland forced a friendship. During the journey their friendship cemented and after a few near death experiences love blossomed between the two.
The lovey-dovey romance was only a small aspect within the plot. It was fairly obvious, however, when the narrator used a subtle grenade to describe the Hatter’s face as “handsome in a craggy sort of way” so early in the story. It was sweet to read Henry and the Hatter internally drooling over the other throughout the story, but what hit home was how both Henry and the Hatter continued to ask themselves if the other had a mutual attraction as opposed to questioning if their love was acceptable. This was especially apparent when Henry compared his past relationships with both guys and girls who, no matter what the gender, could not compare to the Hatter’s bizarre yet alluring personality.
When the two lovebirds weren’t eying each other they were surviving the dangers of Wonderland while the Hatter acted as the guide to the Red Castle. Much of what made Wonderland a wondrous place, dangerous or not, was the word play the author implemented to bestow peculiar perspectives of many everyday items. In one instance, during the preparation of a possible fight, Hatter once again had to educate Henry on the many dangers in Wonderland,
“Soda Pop attacks are nothing to laugh about, Henry. First of all, they rarely attack alone. Soda Pops always bring their Soda Moms, along with their Soda Sons, Daughters, Nephews, Nieces, Aunts, Uncles, and Next-Door Neighbors. A Mass Soda Attack is a serious thing.”
These creatures swim through tree tops and swoop down for their prey. Tree sharks reside in the Neverglades, home to Wonderland’s most deadly creatures. This place is a marshland with tree canopies so dense little light ever seeps through.
While Wonderland seemed to house many dangers there were a few places that were still enjoyable to read. One place that stood out (pun intended) was the Neutral Wood a place where “everything is perfectly average, a perfect medium.” It was so average that any action is neutral no matter how hard one tried to deviate. With such variety in setting Wonderland would be an amazing place to visit, if it wasn’t so dangerous.
Overall Mad About the Hatter had a playful feel. The humor kept the plot from anything too serious or depressing. The mutual love between Henry and Hatter did not overshadow the plot. The novel offered a new perspective to the already popular Wonderland.
By: E. Velasquez