By Anne Ursu
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 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 find, 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.
I was excited to find this modern retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen because it is my favorite of his fairytales. This was a very interesting perspective on the story because it focuses more on how people grow apart and how they grow up and out of things. Hazel seems to get left behind while Jack moves on and inexplicably becomes mean to her and starts playing with other people. They used to be best friends. Everyone tries to tell her that this happens, but she can’t believe it. She’s convinced that Jack has been cursed. This story is dream-like in the telling and a great example of a coming-of-age tale. This book is one that I’ve noticed that people either think is amazing or they simply don’t like it. I was on the fence about it to be honest. I was wanting more fairytale and magic than it offered so I was disappointed. The tone felt more like Alice in Wonderland and I’m still not sure if parts of it were a dream or reality. Overall it’s a good read and well written and thought out. You can tell while reading that Anne Ursu put a lot of heart into the story.
I give it a 3.25 out of 5 simply because it wasn’t my cup of tea, but it was a really neat idea.