“The Hazel Wood” by Melissa Albert

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This book reminds me a bit of Christina Henry’s Alice. (That book was a 2015 Goodreads Choice Nominee for Horror just so that sort of sets the vibe for you). Although this is not set in an alternate reality. It takes place in our world, but has a fantasy element, which makes this a mashup of urban fantasy and magical realism.

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother Ella have been drifters, wanderers, her whole life. She is used to changing schools all the time, staying in motels, and being the visitors who outstay their welcome with her mother’s acquaintances. They seem to have bad luck that always finds them and makes them forever changing cities to try and escape.

Ella finally marries a wealthy man who pays for Alice to go to an expensive high school in New York. There, she meets Finch, who becomes her friend (and she might like him, but won’t allow herself to admit it). Alice is very angry and salty, which can make her an unlikable character, but by the end you will understand why, and it makes total sense.

Alice’s grandmother was a recluse and mysterious author who wrote an obscure book of fairytales that Ella has never let her read. The book is so rare, there are hardly any copies left even for collectors. Her grandmother, Althea, lived in a place called the Hazel Wood, which has fascinated Alice all her life. Her mother has never wanted anything to do with Althea or Hazel Wood and never given Alice any answers to her questions about either.

“A turn of events” (spoilers) forces Alice and Finch to seek out the woods, which turn out to be a place full of dark fairytales come to life.

The cover of the book might lead you to think this is a light Young Adult fantasy, but as I mentioned, it’s more contemporary in the beginning with fantasy elements. The fantasy aspects come into play as Alice discovers more about herself, her grandmother’s book, and the Hazel Wood.

I thought this was a great story! It’s definitely more of a dark Grimm’s fairytale than your typical YA fantasy about people with magical powers meeting boys to fall in love with. Alice is a heroine, but a curmudgeonly one. So get ready for an unconventional fairytale set in modern times and dive in!

The Hazel Wood is released on January 30, 2018. Pre-order at Amazon.

Thank you Netgalley and publisher for providing a digital copy to read and review!

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