“You might think you have a really good reason, but nothing could more worth this. Nothing could be more worth feeling this way. I feel like a changeling wearing someone else’s skin. I can’t remember what I liked, or what I wanted, why I worked or left the house or did anything. It’s all gone…I think whatever I used to be, it dropped through the binding. I wish the rest of me had gone with it.”
When I received an advanced copy of The Hazel Wood at BookExpo last year, the cover was plain. It was black with very faded foliage in the background, and plain white font with the title and author. I didn’t think much of it, I just grabbed a copy from a floor stack and went about my day.
Flash forward a month or two, and the official cover for The Hazel Wood was released. It’s Beautiful with a capital B. Even the finished copy has a nice glimmer to it. Now, I don’t want to say that I judged a book by its cover, but I judged a book by its cover. I became enthralled with it. The synopsis sounded so intriguing and dark, so I just knew I’d love it. I began my search to collect every edition I could get my hands on – so I now have the Bookexpo ARC, the official cover ARC, and a UK ARC featuring its slightly different cover art. And bear in mind, this was all before I’d even cracked the spine.
Another flash forward to this past Saturday. I finally picked it up, and it was definitely interesting. I had many flip-flops and double takes throughout my reading, but I was honestly fueled by them. It kept me reading, it kept me entertained.
The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert, a debut also, is pitched as a retelling unlike any other you’ve ever experienced. It centers around a girl named Alice who has always been on the move. Her and her mother, Ella, never stay in one place for long, and they never bring up Ella’s famous author mother named Althea. They live a life of drifting, until one day, Ella gets married and seemingly roots their family for the first time in Alice’s life. In a strange turn of events, Ella winds up missing and Alice and her “friend” Ellery team up to find her, going to the one place she’s always been told to avoid: her grandmother’s estate called Hazel Wood.
Going in, I had pretty high expectations. I’d seen reviews from people I trusted giving it raving ratings, and I expected to feel the same. Ultimately, I did enjoy it. I mean, I gave it 4 out of 5 stars, didn’t I? The entertainment factor is there for sure, and I’d love to see this made into a film. The whole vibe and writing style is very atmospheric and eerie, and the stories scattered throughout are dark and twisty. They need to be made into their own book, Language of Thorns and Tales of the Peculiar style. I had a couple issues with Alice as the lead, however. She seemed mean for no reason, and I know this plays a role with a plot point discussed in the later chapters, but it always felt very forced and unnecessary. Also, certain events felt more like plot devices than emotional scenes, and I felt slightly manipulated as a reader. Things would happen that felt too convenient, and I hate when characters just happen upon solutions for their problems. For those reasons, I docked a star. Overall, the story is definitely darker than I anticipated, but in a very good way. It’s one I’ll recommend, and I don’t regret collecting the different editions, which feels like a win to me.