“The Hazel Wood” by Melissa Albert
Description: “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.”
Review: I’ll start off my saying that I really really wanted to like this book. This book has gotten a lot of hype and sounded right up my alley. I love fairy tale books (especially dark ones) and Alice in Wonderland remakes, I thought I was sure to enjoy “The Hazel Wood.” With all that being said… I couldn’t finish the book. I read 60% of it (it took over a month) and I had to stop.
The Characters: I had no connection with the characters. I found Alice to be mean, her mother you barely see and Ellery Finch is often described negatively. It was hard to like Alice when she’s so self-centered, demanding and angry. Finch is the only character of color in the story (maybe there are more later but I never got that far). Alice treats him poorly and states that he “inspired her to loudly complain about extreme wealth being wasted on non-hot guys.” Also, at one point when they get pulled over by a cop Alice starts to yell at the office and doesn’t understand why Finch is so upset about it (he’s afraid of being racially profiled). It’s hard to become invested in a book if I don’t care about the characters.
The Writing: I couldn’t get past the style of this book. There are so many crazy metaphors that I actually laughed out loud at one point (and no it was not humerous). In one sentence there’s an egg metaphor and the next a baseball one. That’s two nonsensical metaphors in one paragraph. I couldn’t focus on the plot because I was too busy rolling my eyes at all the crazy metaphors.
The Plot: I enjoyed the very beginning of the book, learning about Alice, her mother Ella and the reclusive fairy tale author. It was interesting to hear about the cult following of “Tales from the Hinterland” and the mysterious Althea Prosperine. I found the beginning to be intriguing because it teased a lot of strange occurrences (Alice and Ella having to move around a lot and Alice being kidnapped). I read over half of the book and learned little more about those instances. The pace of the plot was very slow and things happened just because that’s what happens in fairy tales. Some events occurred just because it’s a fairy tale. One of the characters even makes the comment: “Maybe it’s a fairy-tale thing.” I couldn’t get past the fact that the author couldn’t come up with a better explanation for events besides that’s how it works in fairy tales. I think if the events had greater explanations it would have made the story more cohesive and flow better.
This book was not for me. I feel bad that this review is so negative, I try to find something good in each book I read whether or not I liked it. I will say that I have a co-worker who absolutely loved it and raves about it. I’m sure some people will enjoy it but I really struggled through it.
*please note that I received an advanced copy of the book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review