This dual story is both this book’s greatest asset and its greatest liability. It’s an asset because it sets this book apart from every other book following two best friends who grow apart. It’s a twist you would never expect, since the first half is regular realistic fiction. But even though I like fairy tales and I like the idea of the twist, I liked the first half of the book better. Ursu’s writing is phenomenal. Her descriptions of the characters and their feelings are so spot on. When Hazel entered the enchanted forest, though, some of that seemed to get lost. The fairy tale elements became the focus. It was almost as if Ursu was cramming all of the oblique fairy tale references she could into the narrative. Hazel’s progress as a character took a backseat. And the ending, to me at least, was rather anticlimactic. If the second half had lived up to the promise of the first half, this book would be on my to-buy-immediately list. As it is, I’ll definitely keep an eye out for a copy to add to my classroom library. This is a book many children would enjoy.
I have to reiterate that I loved Ursu’s writing and her grasp on the characters. Hazel was such a realistic character, almost as if Ursu was living inside the head of a fifth grade girl. I’ll gladly pick up other books by Anne Ursu just to re-experience seeing the world through her eyes.