Merry Unbirthday: A Liz Braswell Book Review

What if Wonderland was in peril and Alice was very, very late?

In Disney’s latest A Twisted Tale series, titled Unbirthday, a now- 18-year-old Alice hasn’t visited Wonderland in many years. She prefers to spend her time behind her camera, photographing her favorite shop owners and children playing in the square before returning to her Aunt Vivian’s business to develop the shots.

One day, as she’s developing photos, she notices that she doesn’t see the same images that she originally took. The portrait she took of her neighbor, Mrs. Pogysdunhow, isn’t her neighbor at all. It’s the Queen of Hearts.

The more photos she develops, the more the photos turn out to be Wonderland creatures. There’s something off about the photos too; they aren’t the nonsensical people she met during her first visit. The Mad Hatter looks worried. A spectacle-faced bird appears to be running away from something. Upon looking at her self-portrait, she sees a very different Alice. Wonderland Alice is not only slightly different in appearance but is blindfolded and covered in thick, black blood. Suddenly, the photo moves and Wonderland Alice is screaming. Something terribly wrong has happened, and she must figure out a way back.

Wonderland is nothing near the same as anyone, including Alice, remembers. Its impending doom unsurprisingly stems from the Queen of Hearts wanting to rule far beyond anything she’s done before, and this time she isn’t afraid to kill anyone to get what she wants. It’s no longer “off with their heads”, but complete bloodshed.

Unbirthday is not just an electrifying adult take on Alice in Wonderland but gives the reader a more developed storyline for minor characters. Several side stories get a chance to fully develop before being shown their importance to saving Wonderland. The reader also meets new characters such as Abraham Katz, a barrister who shares the same whimsical outlook on life as Alice.

The characters of Wonderland and Angleland are fighting real world problems, and this storyline might be the most important of all. Similar to today’s climate, the characters of this book encounter xenophobia, political injustice and sexism. Alice learns the importance of standing up for what she believes in and making sure that all voices are heard instead of just the majority.

Alice learns a great deal from her time back in Wonderland, and so does the reader. As this series continues to turn Disney classics into extended adventures, it provides children at heart the chance to learn more about what happened next.