Title: The Hazel Wood
Author: Melissa Albert
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Date of Publication: January 30, 2018
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Alice has never met her grandmother, infamous fairy-tale writer Althea Prosperine. Althea earned her fame decades ago by penning a single collection of fairy tales about a strange place called the Hinterland. Afterwards, she isolated herself in her enormous estate, the Hazel Wood, cutting herself off from the rest of the world. Alice has spent her seventeen years of life on the road; her mother moves them from place to place as mysterious bad luck seems to follow them wherever they go. But when Althea dies, Alice’s mother is happy. Ecstatic, even. She says they can finally settle down and place roots in New York. But this decision might have been a tad too hasty. Alice’s mother is kidnapped by someone who claims to be from the Hinterland. Now Alice must team up with a fellow classmate–Ellery Finch–who just so happens to be an expert on the stories that her grandmother wrote. Together they will go to the Hazel Wood and uncover the truth about the Hinterland…
The Hazel Wood reads like a fairy tale, but set in a gritty, modern world with iPhones, baristas, and high school classes. Melissa Albert writes with a beautiful, lyrical style that is quite unique. Because of this, I was able to get into the head of the protagonist, Alice, quite quickly. I found myself understanding her and her predicament almost immediately.
The plot and pacing of this book is phenomenal. Albert lays out clues like bread bread crumbs, but I still didn’t know where they were leading until the twist smacked me in the face. That twist. Omg. Now I know why people were raving about this book last year. I’m doubly embarrassed for not reading this sooner. But how are you supposed to know what books are ‘must-reads’ until after they’ve already been out for a bit?
Alice isn’t like your typical protagonist. She’s sarcastic with anger issues and she isn’t against dropping the occasional F-bomb. She isn’t what you’d expect the main character of this type of book to be like. She’s been raised on the run–from the “curse” that seems to follow her and her mother–and her relationship with her mother is an interesting one. She loves her, while at the same time she resents her for keeping her away from her infamous grandmother and her legacy.
Ellery Finch is a perfect love interest. Their romance isn’t in-your-face, like you usually get in fairy tales. Ellery and Alice spend a lot of time getting to know each other, particularly while on the road trip to rescue her mother, and Albert provides so much intricate detail that it felt like I was in the car with them. As I mentioned in the Plot section, Albert has a way with words, and this is especially evidence in how she gets us invested in these characters within mere pages of their introduction.
I recommend this book to anyone looking for a modern-day fairy tale that’s like the original Grimm, not at all like the sweet and disarming Disney adaptations. While there’s some romance, the focus is on the mysterious Hazel Wood, the Hinterland, and the ethereal fairy tales that may or may not be fiction…
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