October 18, 2017

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The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert | SLJ Review

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redstarALBERT, Melissa. The Hazel Wood. 368p. Flatiron. Jan. 2018. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250147905.

Gr 9 Up –Alice Proserpine’s mother Ella was raised on fairy tales amid the cultlike fandom surrounding the release of Tales from the Hinterland, a collection of grim fairy tales that, in the 1980s, briefly made Alice’s grandmother Althea Proserpine a celebrity. Instead of fairy tales, Alice has highways as she and her mother constantly move around hoping to outrun their eerie bad luck—something that seems much more likely when they learn that Althea has died alone on her estate known as The Hazel Wood. Everything isn’t as it seems, and soon after, Alice’s mother is kidnapped, leaving nothing except a warning for Alice to stay away from The Hazel Wood. The teen reluctantly enlists her classmate and not-so-secret Hinterland fan Ellery Finch, who may or may not have ulterior motives for helping, to share his expertise on the fairy tales. The path to the Hazel Wood leads Alice straight into the story of her family’s mysterious past. Albert’s standalone fantasy debut has a narration in the vein of a world-weary noir detective who happens to be a teenage girl. Resourceful, whip-smart, and incredibly impulsive, Alice also struggles with her barely contained rage as circumstances spiral out of her control. Her singular personality largely excuses the lack of context for much of her knowledge and cultural references that hearken more to a jaded adult than a modern teen. The lilting structure and deliberate tone bring to mind fairy tales both new and retold while also hinting at the teeth this story will bear in the form of murder, mayhem, and violence both in the Hinterland tales and in Alice’s reality. VERDICT An aggressive lack of romance and characters transcending their plots make this story an empowering read that will be especially popular with fans of fairy-tale retellings.–Emma Carbone, Brooklyn Public Library

This review was published in the School Library Journal October 2017 issue.

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