The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
Reviewed by: Jennifer Chretien, Reference Librarian
Rating: 5 stars
It's always been Alice and her Mother, Ella, against the world. Most of Alice's life is spent moving from town to town, rarely staying anywhere to establish roots or make friends, and wherever they go, bad luck seems to follow them. Alice always had a sense that they are fleeing something related to her grandmother, a famously elusive author of fairy tales. When Alice's grandmother dies, Ella declares that it is safe for them to stop running. Then Alice comes home one day to find her mother missing and a cryptic message left for her. She realizes nowhere is safe and she needs to immerse herself into her grandmother's stories in order to save her mother.
Do you ever get the sense that a book is going to stay with you for a long time, even though you have only just started it? That was my impression by page 25 of The Hazel Wood and it was confirmed after I finished it. It's a twisty, creepy, intense, but also at times inspirational book about a girl who will do anything to save her mother. I found the plot to be clever and the world building spot on. It's obviously inspired by Alice in Wonderland but it feels fresh and original. I read this in one sitting and wanted to start reading it all over again.
This is a YA book that doesn't feel like a YA book. Alice is a complex and well drawn out character. The author doesn't fall into the expected formula of romantic entanglements. It's a fairly clean book that mothers and daughters can read together and discuss after. If you are a fan of fairy tale re-telling, creepy mystery books like The Westing Game, or mother/daughter books like Celeste Ng's Little Fires Everywhere, you would probably enjoy this book.