Friday, 4 April 2014
Review: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
Publisher: Walker Books
Format: Hardcover / eBook
Released: March 27th, 2014
Foolish love appears to be a Roux family birthright. And for Ava Lavender, a girl born with the wings of a bird, it is an ominous thing to inherit. In her quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to join her peers, Ava ventures into the wider world. But it is a dangerous world for a naive girl - a world which may view her as girl or angel. On the night of the summer solstice celebration, the skies open up, rain and feathers fill the air and Ava's journey and her family's saga reaches a devastating crescendo.
Debut novel The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is indeed beautiful and strange; in fact, they're probably the most fitting two words to describe this cautionary tale of love, family and what it means to be different. It's one of the most unusual YA books I've ever read, while also being one of the most compelling. The night I started it I was up reading until 2am, and even then I didn't want to put it down. The Roux and Lavender families will get you like that.
I can't really go into too much plot detail without spoiling this book for other readers. What I will say is that this book is a journey through time, a story that follows three generations of the Roux and Lavender families and a glimpse into a strange world full of absolutes and impossibilities. Nothing and everything is what it seems, like a magic trick or a clever illusion. Perhaps the only part of the story you need to know is that Ava Lavender is born with wings - the wings of a bird, huge and real, and how this unheard of addition to her person affects her, her family and the outsiders around her. I don't even know which genre I'd put it into - it's YA but it doesn't read like it. It's like literary fiction with some magical realism thrown into a sprawling family saga. Like the characters within its pages, it's hard to define.
I loved every single character in The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. There isn't one that stood out more than another, which in itself is testament to Walton's portrayal of these incredibly unique people. Every one of them surprised me, shocked me, and unearthed truths that I never saw coming. Their individual stories are in turn sad and hopeful, but together as one family their story is an accomplished feat of life and living. The Rouxs and Lavenders take every day as it comes, the horrors with the highs, and subsequently create a tale as staggering as any fictional saga you could read.
Leslye Walton's writing really is beautiful. It's lyrical and poetic, infusing her story with some of the most beautiful prose I've read this year. She made me care about this family and those that encountered them more than I thought I would, and she's left me with a longing to read more. I hope there's no sequel to this story and that it remains an almost perfect standalone novel - the only known account of the strange and beautiful sorrows of Ava Lavender, a girl with the wings of a bird and the life of a legend.