Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
I wanted to like this more than I did for a few reasons. I loved the
author's Chronus Chronicles series, and I am absolutely crazy about the
fairy tale, "The Snow Queen." Another wonderful aspect of this novel is
that the main character, Hazel, is a young girl who is Indian in
ethnicity (from the country), although adopted by a white, American
couple. I think that Ursu has something powerful to say about being
'other' in a society that is primarily of a certain race/culture. How
that can impact a young person, and the wounds it causes that person as
they walk through a world where they feel alien.
I also enjoyed
the deep friendship that Hazel has with Jack. However, I felt that this
aspect of the novel, which is probably the crucial element, fell short.
Hazel is almost obsessed with Jack. He's like an anchor to her in a
stormy sea that her world has become since her parents' divorce. While I
don't mind that she is bonded to Jack, I never felt that Jack was as
bonded to Hazel as she was to him, which bothered me. Understanding the
fairy tale source helps to appreciate the rift that forms between them,
but as it was written, it's not enough. We are given breadcrumbs (if
you'll forgive the unintentional pun) to suggest that Jack's issues are
also about his mother's bout with depression, but while I can see that
Hazel and Jack spend so much time together, I could have used more of
his viewpoint on how important his relationship to Hazel was to him.
Clearly she was the right person to save him, but more depth on his
point of view would have been great.
Ursu made the choice of
ending this novel with some questions left in the air. I can't fault her
on that, but it did leave me dissatisfied about some situations that
weren't addressed, both in the winter woodland and in the lives of both
Hazel and Jack. Despite that, I do have the conviction that things will
work out for Hazel and Jack. Even though the problems in their families
might not be resolved, we know they have each other to get through those
times. Also, knowing that Hazel has found more connections in her life
other than her mother (and absentee father) and Jack. She needs those.
She also needs to know she is fine as she is. She needed that
validation, especially with the way her father failed her. One scene I
was so glad that Ursu included, her mother telling her that she was
perfect and didn't need to change, was very important. Kids need to hear
from their parents that they are approved of and loved despite any
As far as "The Snow Queen" retelling, it
was well-done, and I liked the manner in which Ursu personalized it to
Hazel and Jack's story. I felt that the White Queen's menace and
authority was slightly undermined by the resolution. I would have loved
more descriptive imagery of her Ice Palace. I liked how Ursu creates a
world of magic that intersects with the 'real world' in that children
travel to this other place to escape from their disappointing lives on
the real side of the woods. I hurt for the children who suffer from the
cruel effects of selfish magic that the woods bring out in adults and
the creatures who live in the woods.
Ursu's writing is good. She
drew me into Hazel's story and I felt for this wonderful little girl. It
broke my heart to see her feeling so disconnected and flawed. No child
should feel that way. I am all for color-blind adoptions, but I feel
that her parents should have worked harder to make sure Hazel wasn't
alienated by the fact that her ethnicity was distinctive from her
parents and many of her peers. I loved the fact that Ursu does address
this so poignantly, but she doesn't offer a lot of solutions for the
issues Hazel felt.
Overall, I think my biggest issues with this
novel were the lack of resolution on those crucial issues and the fact
that I think some really important aspects of the story (outside of
Hazel and Jack's bond) weren't dealt with in the depth I wanted. I know
this is a book for younger readers, but the maturity of the writing
makes me want more from the author as far as an emotional resonance and
completion about the familial issues faced by Hazel and Jack.
would be curious to see what a younger reader thinks of this book. If
they grasp the deeper, melancholy aspects of this novel. I feel that its
melancholy and darker elements hit the right note for a mature reader,
but might be lost on a younger reader. Although the ending is hopeful, I
can't help feeling a lingering sadness now that I have finished it.
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