Review of Breadcrumbs, by Anne Ursu


by Anne Ursu

Walden Pond Press, 2011. 312 pages.

Okay, everything I have to say is coming from a background that I did enjoy this book. I love that someone wrote a book rich in children’s literature and fairy tale references. I love that this book is about friendship and uses fairy tale themes to show a kid’s problems with her real-life friendships.

My biggest problem with this book was no fault of its own: It is a modern retelling of the fairy tale “The Snow Queen.” I have never really liked “The Snow Queen.” But worse than that is I had just read and loved the Mercedes Lackey book for adults called The Snow Queen. In it, Mercedes Lackey exposes the characters in the traditional fairy tale for how extremely dysfunctional they are. So that made it harder for me to be wholeheartedly with Hazel, the girl in Breadcrumbs.

In Breadcrumbs, Hazel’s best friend Jack suddenly stops talking to her and then disappears in suspicious circumstances. He’s been taken by the Snow Queen, and his heart has magical icicles in it. Hazel believes that a friend doesn’t give up on a friend. She goes into the enchanted forest on a perilous quest to save him.

I was a little annoyed by Hazel’s lack of direction in her quest. She kept thinking she had to travel on, but how did she know that would do any good? It seemed like she got lucky to find Jack at all. Though I did like the story and the characters from fairy tales that she found in the woods. The part of the story set in the real world seemed very realistic and well-rendered. I liked that Jack and Hazel were firmly children, and this was about friendship, not romance. I liked the way Hazel makes a new friend even though she’s pursuing Jack. I like Hazel’s Uncle Jack and his insight into fairy tales.

But I can’t get away from that I just don’t like the Snow Queen story. In this book, Hazel’s mother has recently been divorced. The author doesn’t come out and say it, and maybe I read into the story, but for me this really pointed out “The Snow Queen” as a metaphor for divorce. When Hazel talks about how you don’t give up on a friend, even if he’s chosen to leave you, I can’t help but feel she was reproaching her mother. For what is a husband but a best friend?

Mind you, I very much doubt other people will get this out of the book. I’m awfully sensitive, with my recent divorce. I realized as I read the book that I would have loved Hazel’s story to be my story. I would have loved to give my all, to quest through ice and through dangers for my Best Friend. Even though he was cold and lonely and miserable and no longer remembered our years of love and friendship, I would have done anything to bring him back, to make him alive and loving again. (And I really like thinking of the Other Woman as an Ice Witch.)

But the fact is, I’ve been spending the last few years learning to let my best friend go. I’m the very person who can’t break the spell, and I need to go out and enjoy the springtime rather than plunge through the snow trying to bring someone back who doesn’t want to come back.

So, it was hard for me to properly enjoy Hazel’s story.

But I’m very much looking forward to whatever Anne Ursu writes next. I love what she brought to this book, and I think the chances are good that her next book won’t happen to have so much baggage built in for me.

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Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I write the posts for my website and blogs entirely on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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