Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Teen Tuesday and Audiobook Review: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert. Unabridged digital recording. 10 hours. Read by Rebecca Soler. Macmillan Young Listeners, 2018. 9781427293541. (Review from audiobook borrowed from ebccls.)

This went on the announcements this morning: Teen Tuesday features The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert. This 2018 urban fairy tale is the author's debut and also on the summer reading list for rising freshmen (!)*, so heads up eighth graders. 

Seventeen-year-old Alice Proserpine has spent all of her life on the run from bad luck with her mother, Ella. Ella has recently married and the two live in luxury in Manhattan. Alice isn't terribly happy about this and is obsessed with a book of fairy tales that her estranged grandmother wrote - a book her mother has forbidden her to read. This is a creepy read with hints of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and a variety of fairy tale motifs.

Review: The Hazel Wood got a couple of starred reviews and a number of impressive blurbs. I read it because it was on the GR Newbery discussion group. I think it mostly lives up to the hype. Although Newbery criteria goes up to age fourteen, I think this is a bit YA for Newbery and hope that the Printz committee is taking a look. The Odyssey committee should take a look at the audiobook, which was how I read it. Rebecca Soler is one of my favorite narrators and she did a superb job. She has a nice range of distinct voices. 

I will admit to feeling at times there were parts that were overwritten. That said, there were also times when I wished I were reading with my eyes to go back to reread and savor the writing. I enjoyed the grittiness of the Hinterlands and the depiction of life in New York City. Some commenters have complained that Alice is a difficult character to like but I found her compelling. This is definitely not Disney sanitized fairy tales, so caution your readers. Readers who like their fantasy/ fairy tale world dark and twisty will love The Hazel Wood. It's a worthy addition to any YA collection.

(!)*I am rather thrilled that such a contemporary novel appears on the summer reading list. When my sons attended this high school, the summer reading lists were mostly dusty and dull. 

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