Synopsis: Foolish love appears to be the Roux family birthright, an ominous forecast for its most recent progeny, Ava Lavender. Ava—in all other ways a normal girl—is born with the wings of a bird. In a quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to fit in with her peers, sixteen-year old Ava ventures into the wider world, ill-prepared for what she might discover and naïve to the twisted motives of others. Others like the pious Nathaniel Sorrows, who mistakes Ava for an angel and whose obsession with her grows until the night of the Summer Solstice celebration. That night, the skies open up, rain and feathers fill the air, and Ava’s quest and her family’s saga build to a devastating crescendo. First-time author Leslye Walton has constructed a layered and unforgettable mythology of what it means to be born with hearts that are tragically, exquisitely human.
Huge thank you to Candlewick Press and Netgalley for this ARC.
So I want to share something that is misleading about The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender — it’s not actually about Ava Lavender. Yes she’s a young lady with wings, but the story really is more about her family history, particularly, about her grandmother and mother. For those curious, this is also a book made of 95% telling, and 5% showing, and that’s something I know that will not work for everyone.
What I loved about this book is the narration. Ava makes it so easy for the reader to fall into her voice and just take large glimpses of her family’s devastating history. Despise being a history, the book also weaves in fairy tale elements that add a rich layer of mystery to the story, one which isn’t necessarily easy to unravel. This book is dark, is even disturbing at times, and yet you never get the sense that hope doesn’t exist. If anything, Walton argues its there, just not always in the forms in which we look for it. I really appreciate that because I think people are going to read this and compare the level of tragedy to books like Angela’s Ashes, when really, it’s its own beast with a very different emotionally engagement level.
The letters also that Nathaniel sends are so heartbreaking and often were my favourite parts of the book. You get a lot of insight into how his character is treated and his relationship to the family and it just made me sad. Admittedly, the majority of this book is pretty much a downer, and yet it reads so quickly and with such ease that I read it all in one sitting. This is going to be one of those YA novels that doesn’t read like YA for a lot of readers and that too could be something in its favour or be what makes it falter. Truthfully, I loved the maturity and intrigue in this book — it’s how I knew I was enjoying it, turning the pages and not realizing how much I had actually read, it’s a good feeling.
I don’t want to spoil too much else about this book, it’s definitely got the appeal for those who love fairy tales and those who love historical fiction. It’s not a perfect book (I felt like parts of it wrapped up a bit too neatly at the end considering all the doom and gloom) and yet a lot of it still worked for me. This book has gorgeous prose, well defined and imperfect characters and a narrative style that I just jived well with. If you love quirky books that are tough to pin down, definitely check The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender out.