The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
“Once upon a time there was a girl who changed her fate.”
When bad luck seems to chase you everywhere, you live on the move. When Alice and her mother finally decide to settle down and her mother suddenly goes missing, it’s to her grandmother that Alice looks to. But her grandmother isn’t the caring, sweet type. In fact, she only knows what the rest of her cult-following fan base of her fairy tales book The Hazel Wood know about her. Miraculously, a schoolmate just happens to be one of those fans, and the only person who may be able to help her find her mother. As they make their way to The Hazel Wood, her grandmother’s estate, they start to learn more about the fairy tales and her own story.
Guys, before I get to the content, can I just say that this book is so beautiful to hold in my hands.
Everything about this book emits creepiness. I LOVE IT. I don’t go for scary books, but this book has a serious undertone that embodies that of which Grim fairy tales had before Disney glossed them over. The best thing is that we aren’t just directly told that something is wrong. We are given beautiful metaphors or descriptions that increase the eerie vibe that surrounds the story.
“The first thing that hit me was the smell. A wet almost rotten scent, with something wild curling beneath it – something green. It crawled under my skin and set my heart to hammering.”
There were many moments where I had to stop reading if it was before bed because it just gave me the heebie jeebies….but in a good way. I did, however, have to stop the book for a few days, and it is only for one section of the book that I really drop my star. This book went down a rabbit hole in a very Alice in Wonderland feel that read like an LSD trip.
The pacing of the story was pretty spot on (until that one part, but by that time I was close enough to the end that it didn’t matter). I liked how the closer Alice got to The Hazel Wood the weirder the events became. It felt like I was slowly getting to the edge of my seat, increasing my anxiety for her. Also, the ending tied everything up nicely, but not in your typical happily ever after sort of way. Which was to be expected with how the whole book went.
One thing I didn’t like, that was fairly sporadic was how occasionally the prose included a line that sounded like a sailor threw in a line because a curse word just popped into the sentence. I am not sure while Albert did this? Maybe to attract a younger reader? Maybe she just speaks this way?
“I sat up, let a wave of dizziness pass, sung my feet to the floor. I could feel my muscles running over each other in funny, fucked-up ways, but the cool of the linoleum took the words of the hot throb out of my soles”
The World Building
I loved that the fairy tales that are mentioned in this book leak out into the more familiar world. That magical realism just added to the eerie vibe that the book provided. The biggest part of the world building was spent on the characters and what it means for Alice to get to The Hazel Wood and what she finds there. I won’t mention it here, because that would be spoiler-y. Let’s just say it’s like fairy tales on some bad drugs.
I’m only going to talk about Alice here. Let me be frank, she’s sort of an ass-hole. When she receives help from her classmate, Finch, she treats him so poorly. Like here is a guy being so nice, granted he has his own motives, but still, he is helping you. Fortunately, her disposition is explained towards the end, but still, no excuse for being a dick. Sometimes she was so over dramatic about the situation. I mean, yes, her mom was missing, but really, sometimes I was thought, “oh, really?”
“And if she were dead – I believed this to the bottom of my being – I would know it. She couldn’t die without it rending me in some way I would feel. If she were dead I’d be limping. If she were dead I’d be blind.”
That’s some sort of bond she’s got going with her mom if her death would cause her physical ailments. Just saying, over dramatic.
However, she has this great relationship with her mom. Again the way Albert writes out the relationship is phenomenal. Instead of just telling us that she has a great relationship, she shares past stories that describe and provide an understanding of how they work so well together and are best friends.
Bright Eyes – Sunrise, Sunset