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 naive 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." (synopsis and picture from (x).
This book is kind of intensely amazing.
Before I bought this book, all I'd heard about it was that it was magical realism and that it had the most gorgeous prose ever. Both of these things happened to be true. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is quite unlike anything I've ever read. So, to pass it on, this is all I'm going to tell you about the story
Before I begin this review though, I just need to give a PSA about this book. The title and the blurb are a little deceiving. While yes, Ava Lavender is a character and narrator in the book, she certainly isn't the focal point. The book itself looks at her whole family - all the way from her great-grandmother to herself.
Ok, now onto the actual review.
As I mentioned above, the book has insanely gorgeous writing. It completely sucks you in. There is such a tragic tone to it. If the title doesn't give you the idea that this book is sad, the writing certainly will.
Speaking of which, this is a sad, sad book. Like, if you don't deal with death very well, do not read this book. I think that because there's so much, it gives off the impression that the book shouldn't be classified as YA.
Also because of this, the book comes off as very dark. It definitely isn't one of those light reads for the summer. Because of the magical realism elements, the author allowed herself to play around with the darker moments of the story (like all the deaths). I was browsing the review section in GoodReads and I saw someone say that the book is a throwback to the traditional fairytales, and I completely agree.
It was strangely wonderful.
My one and only problem with the book is that I feel a slight disconnect from it. Let me explain. While I was certainly engaged in the story line, I found myself not feeling for the characters. It was as if there was a barrier between myself and them. I only really start feeling for them in the last few pages.
Perhaps this was done on purpose - I'm not sure. In traditional fairytales, you never totally feel for the characters - they're just a device in which a moral is told. Unfortunately however, it did really detract from the novel for me.
Overall though, this is a thoroughly unique read. It's quite like nothing else I've read this year. 4 stars.
Rating: **** (4 Stars)
Publisher: Walker Books Australia
Publication Date: March 27th 2014
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This review will also appear on Book Nerd Reviews