cover image The Hazel Wood

The Hazel Wood

Melissa Albert. Flatiron, $16.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-250-14790-5

Alice Proserpine has grown up on the run, haunted by a book her mother, Ella, has forbidden her from reading: Tales from the Hinterland. It’s a collection of unsettling fairy tales written by a grandmother Alice has never met, a recluse with an obsessive fandom. Then Althea, the grandmother, dies, and Ella cryptically declares them free. Alice is focused on how they can turn their straw existence into a brick one after so many peripatetic years, and she’s bitterly disappointed with Ella’s solution: marry up. Shortly after, Ella goes missing, sending Alice and classmate Ellery Finch directly to the place Ella warned Alice to avoid: the Hazel Wood, Althea’s estate, where Alice painfully unravels the mystery of her childhood. Albert’s debut is rich with references to classic children’s literature; Alice’s sharp-edged narration and Althea’s terrifying fairy tales, interspersed throughout, build a tantalizing tale of secret histories and magic that carries costs and consequences. There is no happily-ever-after resolution except this: Alice’s hard-won right to be in charge of her own story. Ages 12–up. Agent: Faye Bender, Book Group. (Jan.)