Title: The Hazel Wood
Author: Melissa Albert
Release Date: January 30, 2018
Publisher: Flatiron Books (Macmillan imprint)
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.
The Hazel Wood is a haunting take of fairy tales and family, of fate and expectation, and of what happens when characters want to break free of their stories and live new lives.
Alice is sharp and watchful. She's all quick to anger and quick comebacks. The one person she cares about is her mother, flaws and all. Because why not? Because Alice knows that after all of their moving around, her mother cares about her. That she was trying to keep them safe, keep them ahead of the bizarre bad luck that would follow them. But now her mother's missing, now she's seeing some strange people around as she's gone about her life. Now she's wondering if her reclusive fairy tale author grandmother is the person to talk to when it's almost like characters from her stories are creeping their way into New York.
As I read this, I found a bizarre, eerie realism to the book, to Alice's tale, only to have it shift towards a complete turn-around on fairy tales and what readers expect from them. The stories from Alice's grandmother's book are not gentle, not so hopeful. They're far more honest and cruel in the way that the world actually is. This book highlights a very important choice. The choice between following the path set out in front of you, the one taken time and time again, or setting out on a new path. Breaking free of the expected and creating a whole new story. I would definitely recommend this to fans of Holly Black's books and Seanan McGuire's Every Heart a Doorway, to those looking for modern twists to fairy tales.
And now here's the question I asked Melissa!
Question: As I read The Hazel Wood, I was rather intrigued by Alice. She's not necessarily the kind of main character you'd usually find in a fairy tale, in that she's quick to anger and can be rather abrasive. Was that always your intention, to show that sharp-tongued girls full of rage can lead a story, or did her character change as you wrote the book?Thanks so much to Raincoast Books for the blog tour and also to Melissa Albert for answering my question. The Hazel Wood is out on January 30, so make sure to check it out next week! :)
Melissa Albert: I started writing The Hazel Wood with very little planned—I just had a feeling I wanted to write toward, and a general idea of this haunting, impossible-to-find book of fairy tales and its mysterious author. As I wrote, Alice came into focus for me. She and Ella were both very different when I began writing from what they would later become, but it wasn’t so much a change as a clarification. First Alice was a stranger to me, then she sharpened as the book went on. While I know some readers won’t relate to Alice—at least not at first, or maybe not at all—I do hope they’ll root for her, or come to understand by the book’s end why this angry girl, uneasy in her own skin, is a worthwhile heroine.