Title: The Hazel Wood
By: Melissa Albert
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Release Date: January 30, 2018
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy
About The Hazel Wood:
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.
You guys, The Hazel Wood is one of the most unexpected, creepy, and haunting reads I have read in a long time. Honestly, I have been pondering this review for several days, and I still do not how to put into words how this book shook me in the best possible ways. My brain feels like I am watching The Matrix; my thoughts are constantly turning, piecing together, and figuring out what I just read. I am mind-boggled: how did this book take me from Point A to Point B, and why is my mouth hanging open with bewilderment and awe? This review may be all over the place, but overall, I want you to know that The Hazel Wood will rattle your thoughts and shatter any expectations you may have for young adult literature.
In regards to pacing, The Hazel Wood pieces together events in chronological order but some scenes often reflect back to missing puzzle pieces and past events that have been overshadowed. The book takes place in modern-day society and interweaves in twisted fairy tale stories. And these fairy tale morsels are dark, staggering, and oftentimes disturbing. You thought the Grimm Brother’s Fairy Tales were wicked and alarming? HA, just wait until you are introduced to the Tales from the Hinterland.
Yes, The Hazel Wood mainly focuses on a book, specifically a collection of dark fairy tales that are very important to the main character’s (Alice’s) past. Throughout the book, we are weaved through Alice’s teenage life as she begins to understand her family’s history and the Tales from the Hinterland, which was written by her grandmother. Once some of the tales are told and unraveled to us, the reader is cornered into a left behind world filled with a clockwork of eeriness and dispirited characters.
I do not want to give too much away about Alice (no spoilers here!), but she is a very well-developed character. The author, Melissa Albert, put a lot of history and fearlessness into this character. Alice is an introvert—she’s a listener, she’s a thinker, and her best trait is her determination. Her mother is the most important person in her life, and throughout the novel their relationship often parallels the friendship, love, and protectiveness found between Lorelai and Rory in the Gilmore Girls. But from the very beginning the reader will pick up on the oddness that filters into their lives and the bad luck that is constantly plaguing them.
Also, on another note, this novel breaks the mold of tropes often highlighted in young adult literature. I love romantic tropes. I love when friends turn into lovers. I am a sucker for hate-to-love relationships. But you guys, this book steers away from any tropes, and I did not know what to do with this book’s unpredictability. Right when I thought some type of “romantic” relationship was forming…NOPE, insert shocking scene here…Oh, wait! Yay something is going to happen…and then NOPE, CASSIE, YOU’RE WRONG! As I pointed out from the very beginning, The Hazel Wood is going to shake you. This book will have your head spinning, your nails biting into your palms, and your mouth slack-jawed.
The Hazel Wood is a story of dark monsters, family secrets, and unsettling twists. My nightmares would have nightmares about the fairy tales and characters that haunt this book. If you are sucker for mysteries and love teetering on the edge of shocking theories, you NEED to pick this book up. I think every reader will take away something different from this novel. Me, I wanted to focus on potential romances and a happily ever after ending. Instead I had the rug pulled out from under me and left blinking uncontrollably from scene to scene. In the end, The Hazel Wood is a thrill ride of shock, horror, and endless courage.
TREAT YO SHELF on JANUARY 30, 2018
NOTE: Thank you to my friend, Angie, for allowing me to borrow her advanced reader’s copy. I was not provided a copy of this book by the author or the publisher in an exchange for a review. I reviewed this book at my own discretion. All statements and opinions are my own.