I can’t remember when or where I first heard of Breadcrumbs (2011) by Anne Ursu, and I really didn’t know what I was getting when I started reading. It turns out that Breadcrumbs is a book probably aimed for kids in middle school. The main character, Hazel is 11 years old. She is an adopted child from India, whose parents just recently divorced. Her best friend Jack is her support in life and gives her life meaning. But he suddenly changes and then disappears one day, forcing her to set off after him to bring him back.
I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I was very impressed with Ursu’s depiction of growing up and friendship. Hazel’s struggles as an outsider were compelling and felt realistic. Some of the lines felt poetic in their ability to describe Hazel’s feelings and her situation.
But after I became fully involved in Hazel’s life, struggles, and friendship, I felt blindsided when unexplained witches and evil things without names were thrown into the story. I’m okay with fantasy elements, but I still want them grounded and following some kind of ground rules. I appreciate that Hazel’s fantastical journey led her to realize some things about herself, but reading random adventures where anything can happen took all the tension out of the story. Sure, Hazel always had the admirable goal of saving Jack, something that brings her through her journey. However, most of Hazel’s actions in the story aren’t purposeful. She has no understanding of the consequences of her actions. She’s just guessing and groping around in the forest. I’m sure that can be a great metaphor for life, but it also made for a frustrating reading experience.
I’m not sure if I would recommend this book, perhaps only to those who like stories like Alice in Wonderland, so they won’t mind the random fantasy elements. I kind of wish that Ursu would have left out the fantasy and wrote more about Hazel in the real world because she was a fascinating character.
See more review on my blog.