Monday, May 14, 2018

The Hazel Wood - Melissa Albert

Summary: Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother's stories are set. Alice's only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother's tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong. (Summary and pic from

My Review: You know those books that start out one way, and you’re expecting something very specific from them, and then they just totally change it all up? This is one of those books! I’m kind of excited to say that! I read a lot, and although I haven’t read All the Books in the Land you can definitely see a pattern. Now it’s not like I started reading this book and all of a sudden my mind is blown and I’m challenging my very existence. No. But I did like that things turned out much differently than I expected.

You see, I go through these waves where I don’t actually read the summary of a book before I start reading it. Obviously I’d have read the summary at some time since I added it to my Goodreads “To Read” list, but I add so much on there that unless it was fairly recently or it has a very obvious cover or it is part of a series, I usually forget. Besides, I like to go into a book cold. This means that I’m often surprised by stuff that I maybe wouldn’t have been surprised by had I read the summary again, and it means that sometimes I’m a little confused, especially at the beginning. Reading a book without the summary feels more honest in some ways, though. A well-written summary can often smooth over the confusing bits of a book, and so I like to just be surprised. If the book isn’t that great at the beginning, it’s the author’s fault. If I don’t know what’s going on, it’s the author’s fault. On the other hand, it really does bring a fun sense of surprise and a feeling of jumping into a world with both feet that doesn’t happen if I’ve read the summary. I guess what I’m saying is to go ahead and just live on the edge. Skip the summary!

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I didn’t read the summary when I started this book, and I didn’t remember exactly what was going on (although the cover definitely gave me some sort of idea of what would be happening). As I said at the beginning, I was happily surprised! First off, I love the concept of living fairy tales. How fun is that? I’ve enjoyed this wave of fairytale books (for both children and adults!) and I’ve liked the magical realism that has been infused in a lot of stories. This one, in particular, took a detour from magical realism to straight up magic and fantasy, but I liked it. I thought the names of the characters were really fun, too, let alone the names of the stories. Some of those fairytales had downright creepy names, which was awesome, and when Albert would go as far as to tell the story, well, that was even better.

I really enjoyed the inventiveness of this book. I liked the juxtaposition of the real world and the imaginary world, and I really appreciated the twists and turns. There was the normal teenage angst and love drama that always goes on, but I thought it was pretty realistic and not super annoying like those He’s-My-Destiny types that I really hate. It was just fun and creepy and had a satisfying yet unsatisfying ending (which is always a fun place to be in! No, for reals! How awesome to be able to do both). Plus, when I looked at Goodreads, it looked like this might be a series or a trilogy. Yay! I think this is going to be a really fun world to play in.

This was a pretty cool book. I think it was a lot of fun, and even though it’s YA fic it had some scary parts and tricky bits that made it really interesting for me well beyond just the escapism I usually find in other YA Fic I’ve enjoyed.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader: There is some language but it is pretty clean and on par with others in the genre, possibly on the lighter end.

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