First of all, let me thank NetGalley and Flatiron Books for the chance to read and review The Hazel Wood pre-release. As always, these thoughts are my own. This review is spoiler free!
I give this story 3.5 stars.
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.
“Thoroughly, creepily, captivating”~ Kristin Cashore
So I was really excited about this story. The cover is beautiful. The synopsis sounds interesting. It’s like one of the Brothers Grimm fairytales where were everything is raw and bleak and honest. And all of those things are 100% true. But this story fell flat for me, and in all honesty wasn’t really my type. It is labelled as Young Adult Fantasy, and it’s really not.
It’s . . . fairy tale horror? Or dark fairy tale? It might be contemporary young adult mystery-horror? I’m really not sure, but it’s nothing I was expecting.
Now. Before you get disappointed and stop reading, this book is similar to The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly, The Kneebone Boy by Ellen Potter, and We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirly Jackson.
None of these books are my style or taste and I rated them all poorly because I don’t like horror or scary stories. If you do, this might be a PERFECT fit for you. It just wasn’t for me.
Let’s start with the pros, because I like to talk about good things, and this book did have some fantastic points.
It was really richly imagined. Everything was razor sharp and each word carried its weight. I liked the punch and the clear images that the words shaped in my mind. I like writing that feels real, and this did.
It was a little too much at times. Like that image on Instagram that someone jacked the structure and the sharpening all the way to max? You can see every single spot of dust, every hair, every glint of something lurking under the couch… it’s not pretty. It’s too much, and you scroll past with a grimace. It’s like the afternoon sun on a stainless steel table… it’s too bright, it’s too detailed, and it’s blinding. The latter half of this story was like that. Everything was described in SO MUCH detail that my brain went into overload.
Ellery Finch is a darling fanboy. He’s cute, caring, thoughtful, sweet, and pretty much ideal. He has a study/ library, and has mastered the art of masking his emotions but he’s still just so sweet.
Alice is not likeable. Okay, maybe that’s harsh, but she grated on me. She’s selfish, stubborn, argumentative, and totally unfeeling toward Ellery. (who we like, so that’s a double-whammy against Alice) She’s a strong female lead only because she’s brash and annoying, as well as inconsiderate.
I liked that the plot didn’t revolve around love or a love story, and the conflict wasn’t about a breakup. I like that. It seems like YA has fallen into a pit of love and breakups being the only way to ramp up a plot and this didn’t do that. Points to Ms. Albert. The turn of phrase and dialogue did make me laugh out loud a couple times, and that’s also a big plus.
The plot up until about halfway through was crystal clear. First Problem: Alice’s mom is gone. Second Problem: creepy things keep happening. Third Problem: Alice is being followed. More Problems: We don’t like Alice.
But the latter half of the book (and it’s supposed to be like this, I just didn’t like it at ALL) is super disjointed. It’s too flashy and kalaidescopic and techno-colored. One scene does not flow into the next, bizarre is the new normal, and I had only a very vague idea of what was going on. It’s like a collection of abstract art moving a million miles an hour and it doesn’t make sense and kind of makes your head hurt. It’s too surreal.
“Everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt.”
Don’t come into this story believing this quote, because it is not true.
Maybe this is the exact book you’ve been looking for, but it really wasn’t my favorite. Have you read it or do you plan to? Chat with me!