Genre: Magical Realism, Young Adult, Fiction, Romance
Published by: Candlewick Press
Publish Date: January 1, 2014
Paperback, 301 pages
To many, I was myth incarnate, the embodiment of a most superb legend, a fairy tale. Some considered me a monster, a mutation. To my great misfortune, I was once mistaken for an angel. To my mother, I was everything. To my father, nothing at all. To my grandmother, I was a daily reminder of loves long lost. But I knew the truth — deep down, I always did.
I was just a girl.
Oh. My. Goodness. This book.
Me immediately after I finished reading it:
This book wasn’t at all what I was expecting. It was infinitely better. The story, the characters, and the writing are magical.
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, as the title suggests, is a strange and beautiful book that follows generations of a family who repeatedly fall for foolish love. The story begins with a retelling of the protagonist’s past and family tree. Ava Lavender first tells us the story of her great grandmother, Maman, followed by her grandmother’s, her mother’s and finally her own story. The synopsis on the back of the book is a tad misleading: we don’t actually begin reading about Ava’s personal experiences until halfway through the novel. Many readers were upset about this, but I found reading about beautiful tragedy after tragedy was intriguing and helped establish the mood/atmosphere for Ava’s own story.
The following is the story of my young life as I remember it. It is the truth as I know it. Of the stories and the myths that surrounded my family and my life – some of them thoughtfully scattered by you perhaps – let it be said that, in the end, I found all of them to be strangely, even beautifully true.
Our protagonist, Ava Lavender, is in all ways a normal girl, except for one hitch – she was born with the wings of a bird. As Ava recounts her childhood and adolescence, she desperately tries to live the life of a normal teenager. Henry, Ava’s quiet and strange twin brother, begins to give ominous and cryptic warnings soon after the pious Nathaniel Sorrows moves into town. As a reader, we know another tragedy is just around the corner (or page, I should say). The saying, “it runs in the family” is all too true in this book.
For such a short novel, only 300 pages or so, you would think that the world building and character development might be lacking. Quite the contrary. With Walton’s writing, less is always more. She uses a simplistic writing style to both construct the fictional neighbourhood and a large cast of unique, realistic and flawed characters. I loved each and every one of them (ok maybe not Nathaniel Sorrows).
Finally, let’s talk about that book cover. How beautiful? I think it is an extremely fitting cover for the story within.
In the end, this book is…
A refreshing, charming, and horrifyingly beautiful story about a girl with wings who just wanted to be a girl. It left me heartbroken, yet smiling. My emotions were totally screwed up for weeks afterward.
This book deserves nothing less than 5 stars and an honourary spot on my favourites shelf.
Until next time nerds,