Cover Image: Hazel Bly and the Deep Blue Sea

Hazel Bly and the Deep Blue Sea

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Member Reviews

Thank you NetGalley for an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review

Hazel Bly is a 12-year-old girl who has been living in different rental homes all around the country with her Mama and little sister Peach. Previously, they had a wonderful life in a home in California with Mum. Then a tragic kayak trip happens, and Hazel is left without Mum and with a face full of scars. Not to mention her family is constantly moving. They move to a small coastal Maine town, and Hazel’s Mama runs into a childhood friend. They rekindle their friendship as Hazel learns about the town's mermaid myths and mysteries. Hazel begrudgingly befriends Lemon, Claire’s daughter, who is secretly hiding her own grief. This MG book was so deep and emotional, but filled with so much hope. Great for anyone (definitely upper middle grade and higher) looking for a very inclusive book as well as for those dealing with major anxieties stemming from tragedy.
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Once again Ashley Herring Blake has written a roller coaster of feelings that leaves you an emotional wreck by the end of it. She writes emotions so well that you can't help but feel them yourself. Aside from the emotional component, I love the inclusivity of her stories,. They fill a void in middle grade and give readers of all identities a chance to see themselves reflected in a strong, well written story.
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A highly emotional but beautifully written middle grade novel set in a small coastal Maine town. 12 year old Hazel Bly, her five year old sister (Peach), and their mother (Mama) have been wandering the country for two years in the wake of the tragic and accidental death of Mum's (Peach and Hazel's mother and Mama's wife). Mama is so distracted by her own grief that she is unable to see that Hazel is struggling with PTSD, anxiety, depression, and the mistaken but crushing belief that Mum's death is her (Hazel's) fault. When they arrive in the small town Rose Harbor for an intended three month summer stay, they are surprised to discover their nearest neighbor is Mama's long lost childhood best friend and first crush, Claire. As Mama and Claire become closer, Hazel's on-going trauma response deepens as she becomes increasingly convinced Mama is trying to replace both the memory of Mum and Hazel herself (who looks exactly like Mum). This in turn troubles her growing friendship with Claire's daughter, Lemon, and Lemon's friends group, all of whom are fixated on the town's legend of a local mermaid (that Hazel also happens to look exactly alike). 

It's a very emotional story about loss and recovery, but I have trouble believing it will have broad appeal amongst middle school-aged readers it is purportedly aimed at. Instead it seems much more likely to appeal to adults who enjoy middle grade novels and clean romances. LGBTQIA2S+ content is strong, with positive, non-token representations of homosexuality, bisexuality, and non-binary characters that have significant roles. Strong trigger warnings for PTSD, untreated trauma, parental death, and psychologically damaging parenting that seems to verge on emotional abuse and/or emotional abandonment (albeit unintentionally, if I am being fair, but "Mama" really sucks when it comes to caring for her eldest child).
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Hazel Bly is a 12-year-old girl who has been living in various rental homes all around the country with her Mama and little sister Peach. Before the last 2 years they had a wonderful life in a home in California. Then a tragic kayak trip happens, and Hazel is left without a M0m and with a face full of scars and a constantly moving life. They move to a small coastal Maine town, and Hazel’s Mama runs into a childhood friend, Claire, and rekindles their friendship and maybe more. This town is also full of mermaid myths and mysteries. Hazel begrudgingly befriends Lemon, Claire’s daughter, who is secretly hiding her own grief. 

This was such a sweet middle grade book that my students would LOVE! Thank you NetGalley and the publisher for gifting me this ARC!
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I have loved every single book Ashley Herring Blake has published, and Hazel Bly is no exception. I don't really read middle grade, but this book seems like an important one for young readers, and very well done. This was a delicate yet honest read about dealing with grief and change. The author was careful and meticulous in showing how individual people of all ages experience loss and trauma. The characters were all flawed and messy in their own unique & beautiful ways. Hazel was just trying her best to cope, and be a good sister and daughter despite her anxiety and the profound trauma she went through. She made some not good choices, but was doing the best she could under the circumstances. Her mom was also clearly processing things in her own frustratingly messy way. It was all just so very human.

The book also managed to be very cute and endearing, despite covering such heavy topics; from Peach's energy to Lemon's nicknames to the mermaid obsession, there were moments of brightness in this tale that really made it special.

I can't recommend this book enough, truly. It's just so solidly well done.
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Hazel Bly and the Deep Blue Sea by Ashley Herring Blake completely destroyed me. This book made me cry start to finish. I will forever love all of Ashley Herring Blake’s books, but this is absolutely my favorite.

Hazel Bly is a 12-year-old girl who has been living in various rental homes all around the country with her Mama and little sister Peach. Before the last 2 years they had a wonderful life in a home in California. Then a tragic kayak trip happens,and Hazel is left without a Mum and with a face full of scars and a constantly moving life. They move to a small coastal Maine town, and Hazel’s Mama runs into a childhood friend, Claire, and rekindles their friendship and maybe more. This town is also full of mermaid myths and mysteries. Hazel begrudgingly befriends Lemon, Claire’s daughter, who is secretly hiding her own grief. 

This book was so beautiful. If you believe that MG books are all fluffy and lighthearted and not that deep, I highly recommend you give this book a try and re-frame your ideas about books for young people. This book handles so many tough topics with such grace and composure. It’s messy and ugly and incredible, I finished days ago and still can’t get my thoughts in order. Mermaids, anxiety, queerness, this book just had so many things going on and they were all handled so well.
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I received this book for free for an honest review from netgalley #netgalley

A sweet middle grade book. The friendship is truly timeless
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Hazel Bly and the Deep Blue Sea was absolutely fantastic. This story will break your heart and put it back together. It is fueled by tragedy, yet repaired by love. I couldn't put it down. It is a must read!
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An excellent character-driven exploration of grief and loss, this book is engaging and moving. The addition of the mermaid myth serves to create an even more engaging narrative that helps readers absorb the heavier, emotional moments. Highly recommend this hopeful book.
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As soon as I saw AHB was writing another queer middle-grade I knew I was going to adore it and boy was I right. 
  This book followed the outline of many of AHB's books as it deals with some very hard subjects in a way that is digestible for children but also makes those who may suffer through it feel seen. This book does that beautifully in the way it deals with both grief and anxiety. It doesn't sugar coat the subjects but it does make it a little easier to read and understand what the characters are going through. 
  If I could I would love to be able to go back in time and give this book to my younger self so she could see she wasn't alone in her feelings. I will of course have to settle for owning it as an adult but either way this was fantastic and another great addition to AHB's collection.
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5 stars 

Ashley Herring Blake is an all hits no misses kind of writer for me thus far, and this newest work is no exception. 

Hazel Bly is a few months from turning 13 when readers meet her, but she has had experiences that no adult should even have to suffer. Readers learn immediately that Hazel's mother - Mum - died two years ago in a tragic accident...that also involved Hazel. This leaves Hazel with her mother - Mama - and her little sister, Peach, and an outrageous amount of pain, grief, shock, and torment. Mama's way of handling Mum's loss is to really just not speak of it, and she carries on this motif by moving her family across the country, making it impossible for them to put down roots, connect with others, or - obviously - begin to heal. In their most recent location, Mama unexpectedly runs into a childhood friend and first love who has a daughter and some really sad experiences of her own to share. It's incredibly moving to watch so many characters - all of them relatively young but most of them actual children - manage the unimaginable. 

Although there is so much sadness in this novel, there is also profound hope, and I love the way that the brief but essential magical elements come in to play. Healing in any capacity does feel like magic, and these connections work so well, especially for the intended audience. Themes of grief, loss, communication, familial bonds, friendships, and romantic love are ever present and complex, and the representation is well articulated. 

This is not an uplifting novel by any stretch, but it is a beautiful addition to the middle grade package and a surprisingly hopeful effort in the face of so much sadness. Recommended!
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I received an advance copy of, Hazel Bly and the Deep Blue Sea, by Ashley Herring Blake.  This book was to depressing for me.  Too much death and change for the characters in this book.  I also did not care for the adults in this book, they were selfish.
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Once again Hazel’s mama has moved them after Mum died. Hazel blames herself for Mum’s death and has a tough time coping. In Maine, Hazel hears all about the legend of Rose Maid, a mermaid. During the summer, Hazel meets some girls who try to be friends, but she feels she doesn’t fit in because of her sadness. When something happens to change her relationship with her mom and those girls, she realizes that being yourself and letting love is worth the risk.
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Hazel has a pretty perfect life with a loving family, but when a kayaking trip goes horribly wrong and her Mum ends up dead, she, her little sister Peach and her other mother, Mama, are looking for something new. They move around a lot and don't stay in one place for long. They then end up in Rose Harbor, Maine for the summer and Mama runs into an old childhood friend named Claire. Hazel and Peach are forced to make friends with Claire's daughter and the two older girls go to summer camp together, the last thing Hazel wants to do. Can she make it work or will this be the worst summer yet?
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Ashley Herring Blake is always an excellent author and Hazel Bly and the Deep Blue Sea is no exception. She's crafted a story about grief and living with anxiety that is incredibly moving while not being too heavy a read. It's a great read for young readers who like diverse stories that is naturally inclusive on many levels.
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HAZEL BLY AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA is a true winner for middle grade readers. Touching and heartfelt, this novel explores what it means to grieve---and how to find your way back to a full life after experiencing a shocking loss. I was with Hazel every step of the way and adored the satisfying conclusion. The ocean imagery is lovely too!
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Oh Hazel! This book had me in tears multiple times, I felt so much for Hazel and what she is going through and how she is having a hard time dealing with her grief. I loved that she had her safety pack and tried to control things around her to help her feel more in control. I liked the friendship between her and Lemon and how it blossoms. I loved the sea imagery, and how Hazel finds her way back to loving it. 

The characters are likeable and enjoyable and this book is a very inviting heartfelt read. I know it won't be for everyone but I will be putting it into as many people's hands as I can. 

Thank you NetGalley and the publisher for gifting me this ARC!
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