Anne Ursu's Breadcrumbs wasn't quite what I was expecting. For some unknown reason, I had assumed that the novel would immediately launch into something at least vaguely recognizable as "The Snow Queen," but that wasn't the case. In retrospect, this makes sense and gives Breadcrumbs a modern, semi-believable feel. It is, in some ways, comparable to the Neil Gaiman's Stardust.It wasn't until Hazel begins her trek through the magical woods to rescue her best friend that I truly fell for this story. I generally don't pick up middle grade level novels, but I'm making a distinct effort to venture outside of the YA realm. Picking up Breadcrumbs is the result of this effort - and marks my first foray into MG in quite some time. Because of this, I am still not completely comfortable with the MG pace and voice, which was especially present in the beginning of the novel. Once Hazel entered the forest, these troubling aspects faded into the background. I think that if I read more MG this probably would not have been the case, but I'm not used to the thinking of younger characters just yet.The description of people and things Hazel encounters within the forest - and the stories she hears and lessons she learns - are what truly set Breadcrumbs apart. I loved the magical explanations for the disappointments of everyday life. Hazel and her best friend, Jack, didn't just grow apart, there was something much more complicated, and fantastical, going on.I feel that if I read more MG, I might be more aware of certain nuances and other characteristics that set this book apart, but as of right now, I am only aware of the fact that Breadcrumbs is a very special novel. It's difficult for me to explain why, but I know that I would have adored this novel when I was younger, especially as I transitioned from elementary school to middle school and was experiencing the loss of my old friends and acquiring new acquaintances. I highly recommend Breadcrumbs to children and adults alike.