Release Date: September 27, 2011
Publisher: Walden Pond Press
Received: ARC from Heather at Buried in Books
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Once upon a time, Hazel and Jack were best friends. They had been best friends since they were six, spending hot Minneapolis summers and cold Minneapolis winters together, dreaming of Hogwarts and Oz, superheroes and baseball. Now that they were eleven, it was weird for a boy and a girl to be best friends. But they couldn't help it - Hazel and Jack fit, in that way you only read about in books. And they didn't fit anywhere else.
And then, one day, it was over. Jack just stopped talking to Hazel. And while her mom tried to tell her that this sometimes happens to boys and girls at this age, Hazel had read enough stories to know that it's never that simple. And it turns out, she was right. Jack's heart had been frozen, and he was taken into the woods by a woman dressed in white to live in a palace made of ice. Now, it's up to Hazel to venture into the woods after him. Hazel finds, however, that these woods are nothing like what she's read about, and the Jack that Hazel went in to save isn't the same Jack that will emerge. Or even the same Hazel.
Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen," Breadcrumbs is a story of the struggle to hold on, and the things we leave behind.
I'm back in my secret bunker
Why? Because I didn't really like Breadcrumbs. To say my expectations were high is an understatement. I love fairy tale retellings, the cover is beautiful, and a friend even mailed me her copy to read (after she loved it). People are even talking Newbery!
I have a lot to hide from.
I am the wrong reader for this book
Yes, Breadcrumbs is a fairy tale retelling, but it is also a contemporary and deals with issues of depression, friends growing apart, divorce, adoption, and not fitting in. Hazel is so incredibly lost and her sadness is a tangible thing. I didn't expect any of this going in, so I was very shocked when half of the book focused solely on these topics.
Breadcrumbs is broken into two mostly equal-length parts. Part one is almost completely contemporary and only contains one tiny bit of fantasy (which is more metaphorical than fantastical). This section follows Hazel as she struggles with all of those issues I mentioned.
I was totally bored with this part. I'm not really a contemporary reader, and I'm really not a contemporary issues reader. Between Jack's mother's depression, Hazel's absent (through recent divorce and remarriage) father, Jack's falling out with Hazel, and Hazel's difficulties in school, I felt completely bogged down with sadness. And boredom. I just don't like reading about these sorts of things.
I couldn't relate
Breadcrumbs uses the third-person omniscient narration style, with a sometimes focus on Hazel's perspective. I had a really hard time getting into the book because of this narration style and the randomness of its application.
Sometimes it felt like an adult voice, sort of like a "Once upon a time" type of narrator. Other times it felt like the voice of Hazel, which seemed to me like a very young MG or even elementary school voice. I never felt like I could settle into the story due to these changes in narration voice.
Usually I'm ok with MG book, even when they're written on the younger end, but Hazel felt a little too young for my tastes. I also had difficulty connecting with her personality so I never felt invested in her or her story. That isn't to say there is something wrong with the way Hazel is written. We're just very different people.
Hazel is an extremely imaginative girl and I'm...not. At least, not like Hazel. She's so focused on her imaginings that her dreamy tendencies are causing her trouble in school. This is another point I could not relate to at all because I was the most anal rule-following elementary school kid imaginable.
Part 2, or when the fairy tale finally started
I was a lot more engaged with part 2 due to the fantasy aspects. Hazel's wandering through the woods in search of Jack felt almost like Alice's experiences in Wonderland (which I never liked, and didn't love it in this version either).
Hazel encounters many different fairy tale characters, but they're not the ones you might expect. Anne Ursu incorporated a bunch of the more obscure Grimms' tales, but these tended to be the darker stories (think chopped off limbs, torture, and death).
I liked this for its freshness, but I was kind of bummed that part 2 carried over the sad, oppressive feelings that part 1 focused on.
What kind of reader IS a good match?
I couldn't help but wonder who I would give this book to in my library. Hazel's voice is so young, but the fairy tales would probably disturb my younger library kids who might otherwise relate to her (I can't speak for your kids or library kids). There isn't much resolution of Hazel's real life troubles, and there are no happy endings with the fairy tale aspects.
If it weren't for the lack of resolution (and for some kids, the darker elements) I would have recommended Breadcrumbs in a heartbeat. Any kid going through similar problems to the ones Hazel experiences in part 1 would probably find Breadcrumbs extremely easy to relate to. They would also probably find it comforting to see their situations so sensitively mirrored.
The lack of resolution gives me pause though. The Snow Queen story arc is resolved, but in real life kids who experience a break with a childhood friend aren't going to find their solution so easily. While they may related to Hazel's difficulties in school or her situation with her parents' divorce, Breadcrumbs offers very little in terms of a happy ending or way of coping (in fact, pretty much all of those plot points are left as loose ends).
So who WILL like Breadcrumbs? Adults, I think. Anne Ursu does a beautiful job using imagery and fantasy elements as a metaphor for Hazel's issues. There is much to discuss from a literary standpoint and the characters as emotional vignettes are palpably drawn.
I don't feel like the book came together in a cohesive manner (too many different directions, loose ends, inconsistencies in voice) but each individual part was well-written. The very thing I didn't like--the oppressive sadness--is in itself a testament to Anne Ursu's ability to powerfully convey the emotional state of her characters.
Not for me. I wasn't feeling Hazel or the story (or really much of anything beyond this is so depressing) and I didn't like how so much time was spent in the contemporary world (only to abandon pretty much all of those threads in part 2).
There were a few bright spots that caught my attention (Hazel's friend's uncle, the presentation of some of the fairy tales--though NOT The Snow Queen), but I disliked Breadcrumbs more than I liked it.
I'd take my review with a grain of salt though because what this all boils down to is Breadcrumbs and I were just a case of "Wrong book, wrong reader." For a review from a reader who loved Breadcrumbs, head on over to Buried in Books (she's also holding a giveaway with a chance to win a copy of Breadcrumbs!).
Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key
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