Chasing Rabbits was a book that seemed to have a lot of promise in its premise: what if Wonderland was actually Faerie? It was enough to get me to pick it up, but the more I read, the more this book and I didn't get along.
Let me start with the good: like I said, it's an interesting premise. Wonderland is traditionally just weird enough that it can be twisted into a lot of different things, so why not Faerie? The adaptations that some of the characters took here were neat, too: the Cheshire Cat is a sexy guy with a thing for scanty clothing, and the white rabbit that our heroine follows turns out to be more of a character, a sometimes clumsy but well-intentioned guide named Trip who comes with his friend Mop. Mirrors play a big part in this, too, as barriers between the different realms within Faerie. I think mirrors have been an element that have generally been a bit underplayed in Alice adaptations, with the exception being the Looking Glass Wars series, so seeing them playing a bigger role here was pretty neat. There's also an overall story arch that I rather like, because it follows one of my favorite tropes, but I feel like I can't really say too much about that without revealing spoilers--let's just say that it deals with Kat, the heroine, and a dead Faerie princess. So yeah, I think this has some stuff going for it.
However... I felt like it fell a little flat on the execution, particularly the melding of Wonderland and Faerie, which was, like, the whole point. Here's my beef with it, and I completely understand if others disagree: using Alice in Wonderland means you have one set of mental markers for readers to follow and examine as you use them to create your own twists. Using Faerie as another setting provides another. Melding these two things is possible, but I think it's difficult, and I don't think Bedford quite pulled it off here. Here's an example: Wonderland has two courts, the Red and the White, and Faerie has the Seelie and the Unseelie. In Faerie, neither court is traditionally "good," while in Wonderland the White court is typically better than the Red. In this, the White court isn't really as good as you would think, putting it more into the lines of Faerie...but this doesn't actually come off as a twist or a surprise at all, because we already know it's Faerie, so clearly no one and nothing is actually "good." Eliminating the Faerie part of this equation would have meant that, when the White court is revealed to be a little twisted, it would have come as much more of a "punch" because we wouldn't expect it from the traditional White court like we would from a Faerie court of either persuasion.
There are a couple of other things here that bothered me, too. First off, there's a near-rape that kind of came out of nowhere and I don't think really served any purpose. The dream sequence it involves could have easily fit in a couple of other places, and while I think Bedford did a relatively good job of making the horror of the situation stay with Kat throughout the rest of the story, I really don't see what the point of it was. It doesn't equate to any point of the Wonderland story, so it didn't serve as a mental cue or check-in there. It doesn't tie in to any dramatic rescue; Kat rescues herself, and kudos to her for that. Maybe Bedford was trying to use it to show Kat's tough streak coming out? Again, that was accomplished in other places, and having a near-rape for the pure shock value of having it is just...meh. As was giving Kat a job in the library. Here's why: it's a trick. Kat isn't actually a very likeable person, in my opinion. Bedford tried to counter this by employing this One Easy Trick. How do you make a character appeal to readers? Make her love books! And guess what? It worked. It wasn't until I began thinking about this more in depth that I realized how unlikable Kat really is...which brings me my next point.
Kat is a total bitch. This really came out to me through how she views other women. Kat is a woman who hates other women, but who does it under the pretext of other women hating her. In her view, all other women are sluts and airheads. She glares down judgingly from her high throne at other women who are pretty and are comfortable with their sexuality, while she goes around making out with or at least considering making out with every guy she runs into. "Oh, this is because Faerie men give off pheromones!" Bedford says. "Kat is a one-guy sort of girl, this isn't like her at all!" Except there is nothing in the book to actually show us she isn't. I don't care if she feels like flirting and kissing and even more--good for her! But her acting like she's so above such behavior, and that other women are less for engaging in it, while she proves herself a complete hypocrite by acting exactly the same... That bothered me. Even women who can't be viewed as sexual competition for Kat, such as her mother and aunt, are hated because they judge Kat and try to change her--until she thinks about going back home, and suddenly she's all for them. And despite knowing the Wonderland story, she also doesn't actually connect with even the most obvious parallels to her own situations.
So, that's about the sum of it. I think this had some good ideas and some good potential, but I didn't like or connect with the main character and the execution didn't deliver on the strong premise. The side characters here were the main strength, I think, but they tended to come and go, as side characters do. I think a lot of the parts of this story on their own could have made a very strong tale, but combined they tried to do too much and didn't really accomplish it. It looks like this one is going to be continued, so maybe the sequel will be a little more streamlined; I guess we'll have to wait and see.
2 stars out of 5.