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.
Okay. This book was a lot of different things for me. Mostly good. But also. Other things too. Let’s dive in.
So, to start, I adore the premise. I actually spent the past year working on a manuscript with a very similar premise(SHAMELESS PLUGGGGGG), so it isn’t surprising I would dig the urban fantasy, creepy retelling vibes. I loved the ideas in here concerning the character’s freewill/the control of the story/etc. etc. Plus, the way that the Hinterland merged with the real world. It was incredibly intricate and fascinating.
However, this intricacy also was one of the downfalls for me. The novel made perfect sense to me until the last third hit. After speaking to some other’s, and reading some reviews of the novel, I was relieved to discovered that I was not the only one who felt this way. The novel became very convoluted with the ideas and themes it was trying to discuss and portray. It was so much so that I had to reread the last chapter a couple times until I thought I really understood what it was trying to say. And, that doesn’t happen often with YA anymore. Now, as I said, the complexity of the plot was incredible and fascinating, but it also was a bit overwhelming in the end. Regardless, this book provided me with one of the most mind blowing plot twists I have encountered in years.
On a final note, the characters fell a bit short. Alice is, admittedly, incredibly unlikable. That being said, she does have a character arc and story that reveals this…negativity, haha, is there for a reason. However, we also had a character, Finch, who really fell short of his potential. I kept waiting for an explanation or even just a real plot/purpose for him, and there was nothing. He had such a great character and some wonderful moments, but I honestly never felt like he really was involved.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Other than language, this book is pretty clean, and should be okay for most teens! It is on the darker side of YA, so just be prepared if you are sensitive to such things.
3.5 out of 5 stars.