Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu
Publication date: 27 September, 2011 by Walden Pond Press
ISBN 10/13: 0062015052 | 9780062015051
Category: Middle Grade Fantasy
Format: Hardcover, also to be released in eBook/Kindle format (received ARC for review)
Keywords: Fantasy, Bookworm, Literary Allusions, Friendship, Diversity, Bullying
Synopsis 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.
And then, one day, it was over.
I had really high hopes for this book, and that may be why I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would. There were many very entertaining passages in this novel, and of course my heart did a little tap-dance whenever I got a literary reference to something else. Ursu refers to kid lit favorites like the Harry Potter series and The Chronicles of Narnia, as well as sports and Star Wars. The main character, Hazel, is the odd girl out at school and looks to books and her best friend, Jack, for a sense of belonging.
When Jack is summarily excised from her life, she loses her way--the behavioral and social problems she is already having at school escalate and she gets in even deeper trouble. This is where the story started to fall apart for me. I couldn't quite feel the bits of "real world" issues that were falling into Hazel's magical Minnesota. The pervasive sadness and frustration Hazel experiences trying to get Jack back became a bit overwhelming towards the end, and I began to wonder if I was supposed to be enjoying this book at all!
I really liked Adelaide, the girl Hazel somewhat reluctantly befriends, but she didn't figure enough into the story for me to be able to stifle my dislike of the wandering narrative. I did like that Ursu touches on the topics of adoption, separation/divorce, and bullying. Jack's guy friends take his abandonment of Hazel to mean she's free game for their childish torture, and the author's treatment of this situation was surprisingly satisfying and not clichéd. (Phew!) However, I felt like touching on the issues barely brushed the surface and I would have appreciated a little more depth in this area.
Well-read kids will recognize bits of their favorite books sprinkled through out this imaginative tale, but more demanding readers will be left a little empty--the intertwining themes of friendship, coping behaviors, and fairytale don't quite stick together. Might do very well for a family read-aloud over several bedtimes; but I couldn't stay up past curfew for this one.
If nothing else, I'd buy it just for the cover--the artwork is stunningly beautiful.
Visit the author online at www.anneursu.com and follow @AnneUrsu on Twitter. She is also the author of The Cronus Chronicles.
For more from Walden Pond Press, visit http://www.walden.com/books, Like them on Facebook, follow @WaldenPondPress on Twitter, and don't forget to check out my review of The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander.