Breadcrumbs

Hazel’s life has completely changed. Her father is gone. Her mother is working all the time. And now Hazel has to attend a different school. School is awful – except that her best friend Jack attends this school. He lives next door and they spend every day after school together.

Suddenly, Jack stops talking to Hazel. She doesn’t understand why, but she HAS to help him. Hazel knows it’s more than just a happenstance. Something has changed Jack, and she has to figure out what.

When Jack disappears, Hazel knows she has to go find him and bring him home. Even if her efforts don’t bring the Jack she used to know back.

I’ve struggled with this book. It’s well-written, but rather depressing. Hazel wanders into an imaginary world to find Jack. In this world, nothing is as it should be.

All the adults Hazel meets are there to use her for some evil gain. She manages to elude capture for a number of reasons – several times its because wolves stand in her way. The only person who helps Hazel is a young man of about 15 or 16. She realizes that a white witch has Jack, and asks everyone for help in learning how to defeat the witch.

Hazel learns the witch doesn’t want anything. She cannot be defeated. Hazel can lead Jack away from his chilly prison if she can convince him to follow her. She does, and they journey through the enchanted woods until they reach their own woods, and go home. But Jack is changed by his experiences. He and Hazel are no longer best friends.

I do not agree with the worldview of this book – the ‘evil’ figure is a witch who does not want anything. The most ‘evil’ people are adults, who act like they want to help. Hazel has to journey alone, in the cold, without company.

I listened to Lord of the Rings after listening to Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu – and was struck by the contrast between the two books. In Lord of the Rings, evil has a motive, it wants something. None of the protagonists must journey alone – and even the evil has a purpose. Could Frodo have given up the ring of power if Gollum hadn’t taken it from him? No. Could Frodo have made it to Mount Doom without Sam? No. Would Sauron have stood by and watched Frodo/Gollum destroy the ring because he didn’t want it? No.

I think good fiction should mirror reality. It should give us hope, an idea of what life is like for other people. Perhaps even give us a framework for looking at the real world.

Breadcrumbs does none of that. No hope. No understanding of the necessity of community, of the utter depravity of evil. It only shows us one lonely girl’s struggle to save a friend who did not want to be saved from a witch who didn’t really want him.

I do not recommend this book.

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