Great Illustrated Books

The Hazel Wood

Melissa Albert

Flatiron Books
Pages : 368
Suggested Ages: 12+
ISBN: 978-1250147905

All 17-year-old Alice Proserpine has ever known is life on the road, moving from one temporary residence to another, staying with people her mother Ella knows “till our welcome wore through at the elbows,” always hoping to outrun an eerie string of bad luck.

Then Ella receives a letter that might allow them to finally put down roots. Ella’s mother, the reclusive author of Tales from the Hinterland, a collection of sinister fairy tales with a cultish following, has died on her estate in upstate New York. Alice wonders if they will inherit the property—the Hazel Wood of the title—and is mystified by her mother’s reaction. “God, no. Never. It means we’re free.”

Alice is still unsure what they are free from when her mother announces that staying put will allow her to marry Harold, who is “rich as Croesus” but dumb. “He thought Lorrie Moore was a line of house paint,” Alice complains. Worse, shortly after their address upgrade, Ella goes missing, sending Alice and a new classmate Ellery Finch, who happens to be a fan of Althea’s grim fairy tale, directly to the Hazel Wood in search of her, where Alice will painfully encounter the reason for her peripatetic childhood.

Debut novelist Albert’s story is limned with references to classic children’s literature like Peter Pan, The Chronicles of Narnia, and, of course, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Like those stories, the Hazel Wood is a “portal fantasy,” an adventure about young people who find a door that allows them to depart their mundane existence for a magical reality, even though the magic Alice encounters is frequently dark and violent.  Not everybody lives happily ever after – a few don’t live at all - but Alice survives, earning the right to be in charge of her own story. 

Reviewed by : SC

Themes :

If you love this book, then try:

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Caravel by Stephanie Garber
Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh
Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

Critics have said

“An eerie, assured first novel. Albert occasionally entwines the haunting tales of the grandmother’s book through this mesmerizing narrative, creatinga fantasy as lush and twisty as ivy.”
―The Washington Post

“One of those rare young adult fantasy novels that holds a self-contained world in only a few hundred pages. If the novel’s heroine is a teenage girl, then her story will appeal to readers of all ages, with its intrigue and strange fairy tale magic and very grown up writing.”

“A can’t-miss, dark, and creepy new take on fairy tales that will have you glued to the page until the very end.”

“[The Hazel Wood returned that singular feeling of reading as a kid―back when all of the adult responsibilities weren’t crowding in and you could wrap a story around yourself like a blanket.”
―The Wall Street Journal