The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert caught my attention with its amazing cover. Say what you like, but I judge EVERY book by its cover. It’s dark, whimsical, and a little creepy. You better believe I bought that thing so hard its second printing will feel it.
Our heroine Alice is seventeen and living with her mom, evil stepfather, and vapid stepsister in the magical land of Brooklyn. Alice’s claim to fame is an estranged reclusive grandmother who authored of a famous book of fairytales (more OG Brothers Grimm than Disney). Alice and her mom have been on the run from “bad luck” as long as Alice can remember, but they’ve finally settled down as upper-crust New Yorkers, complete with a fancy high school for Alice and her stepsister.
One day, Alice returns to her apartment to find her mother missing. Her only clue? A page out of her grandmother’s book of fairytales, one she’s never been allowed to read. Enlisting the help of one of her classmates–who happens to be a fan of her grandmother’s work–Alice goes in search of answers and finds only fairytale horrors walking the streets of NYC. Following the signs, they find their way to the Hazel Wood, the upstate New York home belonging to Alice’s grandmother. To rescue her mother, Alice must travel through the Hazel Wood to the Hinterland, where all her grandmother’s fairytale stories are alive and well and trying to escape into the world.
I loved this book, y’all. Probably my favorite of the year so far. The writing was vivid and the story was gritty and unforgiving. I ate up the creeptastic fairytales woven into Alice’s story. Doors conjured with blood and an evil girl who sucked the life from people with her shadow bird made an appearance. Albert’s brutal telling of Alice’s story evoked the fairytales of yore. If you prefer scary princesses to the kind with animal sidekicks, then this one’s for you.