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The Hazel Wood: A Novel Kindle Edition
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|Length: 368 pages||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled||Page Flip: Enabled|
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|Age Level: 12 - 18||Grade Level: 7 and up|
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Alice is a teenager who lives with her mother Ella. Ella is the daughter of a reclusive writer with a cult following, Althea Prosperpine. Many years before, Althea published a book of fairytales about a place called the Hinterland. The book is long out of print and nearly impossible to find, but Althea has some extremely devoted fans. Ella is estranged from her mother, and Alice has never met her grandmother.
Alice and Ella live an odd life. They are constantly on the move, never staying in one place for too long, always trying to stay one step ahead of the bad luck that seems to follow them wherever they go. Bad things happen to and around them: their house is flooded, a wildcat enters their house through an open window, creepy people seem to follow them, and Alice was briefly kidnapped by a fan of her grandmother when she was 6 (she was returned unharmed). But now Althea is dead, they're living in New York, and Ella has gotten married. Ella is hopeful that they've moved on from the bad luck, but one day, Alice sees the man who kidnapped her, and he doesn't seem to have aged a day. She goes home to find her mother missing, and she turns to a classmate named Ellery Finch for help. Finch is one of Althea's superfans, and the two set off on a quest for the Hazel Wood, Althea's estate, which they hope will lead them to Ella.
This book is dark and creepy. Think the Brothers Grimm stories as they were originally written, before they were Disneyfied. Alice isn't a particularly likable heroine. She has anger management issues and she's very prickly. But I felt like she was realistic. Her behavior makes sense when you consider that she's a kid who's had no stability in her life. She's had to move every few months, she's never finished a whole school year in one place, and she has to take care of her mother. Of course, she has some anger issues.
Alice and Finch's journey is weird and twisty. They start out in New York, looking for clues to the Hazel Wood's location. Finch once owned a copy of the book, but it was stolen, and tracking down another copy proves problematic. They encounter all kinds of creepy people and it seems as though the Hinterland is coming after them. Finch tells Alice some of the stories he remembers from the book, and I loved this part. The bits and pieces of the stories in the book are deliciously creepy, and I would have liked more.
I really liked that this book had no romance, something that's rather rare in YA. There's nothing wrong with romance, and I read tons of YA fantasy with heavy romantic elements, so obviously, I have no issue with it, but this book is really about a mother/daughter relationship, and a romance was unnecessary.
This book has a really perfect ending. I often feel that book endings don't live up the promise of the rest of the book, but I have no issues here. The resolution was exactly what the story needed.
I cannot tell you enough how much I adored this book. I love fairy tales, from Disney to the original Brothers Grimm, and this book is stuffed full of new and original ones, and they’re as dark as the sea is deep.
In my opinion, the book is told in two parts. The first sets up the characters: Alice, Ella, Ellery, and Althea. You get the picture of who they are and what you can expect from them as well as the setting and tone of this story. This is my favorite part. Alice sprinkles in bits of her past as ways to tell a story, to explain why she is how she is, and because she realizes that some of her memories are connected to what’s happening now. I also loved the language, both Melissa Albert’s and Alice’s. It’s fresh, and new, and eye-catching. I found myself making mental notes of my favorite lines, or rereading pages because I liked them so much.
The second half of the book is the epic quest part, or at least that’s how I think of it after so many lectures in school about Joseph Campbell and The Hero with a Thousand Faces. This part is great in terms of content, plot, and visuals. I’ll be honest, I did find some things lacking in this section. There were many pieces of plot that were brushed over, not explained, and/or just left me feeling unsatisfied. I get what she was going for, though. When you read The Hazel Wood, (and you totally, totally, need to read this book) you’ll get what I mean. The story is Alice’s, and therefore we will only get Alice’s knowledge. But it doesn’t mean I don’t wish she asked more questions about the things I wanted to know.
This book is a standalone story, so there aren’t any cliffhangers you need to be prepared for. However, Melissa Albert announced at the signing that she has two books in the works, one being another story set in this same world, the other being the actual stories from the book inside of her book, Tales from the Hinterland. While I’m excited for both, it’s the latter that has me fangirl squealing on the inside.
As a whole, this book is fantastic and so worth your time. It is easily my favorite book I’ve read this year, and is definitely something I’ll be recommending to friends. So read it. Read. This. Book. I promise it’ll be worth your time.
I was enthusiastic about it for the first half and then I just fell out of love with it. I stopped caring whether Alice would escape or even really figure out what was going on with her grandmother's work, and what her mother had done, and what's the what. I found myself just wanting to finish, reading through passages that made little sense to me because I couldn't remember how they related to anything else, or even if they did.
The characters? Alice was sort of interesting, Finch more so. Ella was something of a non-entity as was her mother. Harold and his daughter seemed more real to me than Althea and Ella ever did. And there was so much potential here, so much that could have been said about portal fantasy, so much more that could have been made of the whole Persephone story, which clearly informs the novel.
I guess the bottom line for me is that while I enjoyed much of it, I was disappointed in the end, and that makes me sad.