Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

It is fitting that I completed Breadcrumbs on a frozen, fog shrouded January morning. Outside my window roads are paved in ice and crows flit through the dense air like foreboding omens.

It is exquisitely written.

Hunkered down under my eiderdown midst the luxury of central heating, I suffer the icy sharpness of winter's knife along with Hazel, the heroine of this tale.

What is this book about? 
It is about living inside stories; the ones that surround us, the ones of our own making, and the inseparableness of them.

It's the story of the Snow Queen retold. It reference Narnia, Harry Potter, A Wrinkle in Time and Philip Pullman's Dark Materials series.

It's about a girl making her way through a land of stories in search of a boy who has lost himself.

It's how that boy lost himself and why the girl goes after him.

Like all good literature, deep and abiding truths lurk beneath the surface of the words.

Hazel has already lost much before this quest begins. Her parents separated and her father appears to have abandoned her. She has had to transfer into a new school that just doesn't 'get' her.

It's about the pain of trying to find normal. Fitting in at this school is about emptying herself of everything that makes her her. It is the cruelest kind of institution, a place where meaningless paperwork masks as learning and well-meaning individuals excel at making things worse.

Those dark woods where Hazel dares go to rescue Jack are familiar to me not just because of my knowledge of the story book characters she meets there. That dark territory reminds me of our own landscape of story. Our reality is embedded with institutions that teach us we don't fit, and a marketplace that then sells us magic potions promising to assuage our fears, fill up our hollow spaces and and satisfy our deepest desires.

What makes Hazel unique is that she is tempted by these promises but manages to forge on in spite of their lure. What is it that enables her to continue on her quest? I leave that for you to figure out.

For all kinds of reasons, this book won’t leave me alone, even when I think I am done with it. 

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