December 29, 2011

Follow the path to growing up in Breadcrumbs

This book has created a lot of Internet buzz, so I had to add it to my must-reads during the break. At the conclusion of reading it, I was on the fence with how I felt about it. There were elements I enjoyed and elements I did not. I decided to sleep on it before writing a review to give myself time to process it as a whole piece. In the end, I enjoyed the novel, and I believe young readers will devour the pages.

Summary (from Goodreads):

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.

My Thoughts:

This modern fairy tale was a delight to read. It is a story about friendship and staying true to one’s self. It is a story with everything a good fairy tale should have: a journey, magic, and a witch. Readers are thrust into a world where losing one’s self is too easy – but only if one is willing to give in to the magic of the woods.

The star of this novel is not the main character, Hazel Anderson, but the journey into the woods. This is an interesting device, one that many young readers will enjoy. The minor characters within the novel enhance Hazel’s journey, providing mystery, intriguing, danger, and delight. Not knowing who to trust, choosing to trust no one, delivers a powerful reminder that sometimes life delivers obstacles where one must find the road to overcoming them on his/her own.

The execution of the plot is clever. Each chapter is a puzzle piece, and it is up to readers to figure out how the pieces fit together to create a whole picture. While this is a gamble, for me as a reader it paid off. There were tidbits that I would read and think, “How does that fit?” By novel’s end, the pieces fit together.

While the Goodreads summary says that this is a story of the “struggle to hold on, and the things we leave behind,” I have to disagree. To me the novel is a story about not letting go, fighting for things worth fighting for (in this case, friendship), and looking forward while all you really want to do is move backward. This is the strength with the novel – this is what will keep young readers engaged. Growing up is difficult, especially in today’s world, and wanting to hold on to the past is a natural element of it. But it is also important to understand that moving forward is more important because it is what allows us to survive what we have already lost – in this novel’s instance, innocence. This element is developed in the characters of Hazel and Jack. It is what ties them together.

As I read the novel I kept thinking of Joseph Campbell’s monomyth, which this story contains elements of throughout. I was surprised that Hazel did not have a “guide” to help her through the woods, but after allowing the book to settle with me I feel that this was a clever move by the author. She allows Hazel to truly grow up while on this journey to self-discovery. It is a hidden truth of growing up. While there are people in our lives that act as “guides”, ultimately the journey itself must be completed by us.

There were elements of the novel that I did not enjoy. I did have a hard time attaching myself to Hazel’s character. It felt like forever before she finally went into the woods to rescue her best friend, and I truly did not feel invested in the book until page 183. That is a long time for readers to wait – but I could be the exception.

Another element I did not enjoy was the ending. There were so many questions I had by novel’s end that I felt were unanswered – questions that I as a reader needed answers to. This is being a bit nit picky, but had the novel had one final chapter I would have felt satisfied. That one chapter needed to answer three questions for me, questions I will not list on here so I do not spoil the novel for those who have yet to dive into it. I will be curious to see if any of you feel the same.


  1. So glad to see this book reviewed as I have been waiting to discuss it with someone since we put it on our site.

    Hard to talk about without spoiling the novel, but I loved the way the author painted such a vivid picture. The imagery was spectacular. For some reason, this book really tugged at my heart strings. Like you, I enjoyed the element of mystery and the author handing us one piece of the puzzle each chapter. That kept my interest. But, even as an adult, I have questions. Like you said, one more chapter would have been perfect. I do like how the novel made you work for it, though, made you think and try to figure it out.

    My eleven year old daughter read this and choose it for her book club, and so far, the girls are liking it. I think this is a great choice for a classroom or a book club because it is so rich with discussion material. I just wish the author could come to my book club to lead the discussion because I have questions, too! About the wolves, about the White Witch......

    Thanks for this post!


  2. Shannon,

    I could not agree with you more - and your questions are revolving around mine.

    I was thinking that the wolves were meant to act as supernatural helpers. In Harry Potter you have Hedgwig, and I was curious if the wolves were serving the same function here - just not on such an intimate scale as usually seen in journey stories.

    And do not get me started on the witch - man the questions I have about her. My only guess is that the story wasn't about her, she was a means to an end, but still...I want to know.



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