Title: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender
Author: Leslye Walton
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release Date: March 25, 2014
Source: ARC from Publisher
Magical realism, lyrical prose, and the pain and passion of human love haunt this hypnotic generational saga.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.
I really knew nothing about Leslye Walton's debut, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, when I started reading it. I mean, I had read the synopsis and I expected it to be different but I honestly didn't know what I should have been expecting. This book was different from anything else I've ever read in YA, but it was a beautiful story all the same.
If you're familiar at all with my reviews, you'll know that I usually try to summarize the story in my own words before getting to talking about the story and characters. But I just don't know how to even begin doing that with The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. This book was just so different from everything I've read in recent years, especially as far as YA fiction goes. I'll be the first to admit that this book confused me a little at first. I mean, I started reading and for the first 100 or so pages the main character isn't even born, yet she's the one narrating this story. So I was scratching my head a little, but Leslye Walton's writing was just beautiful so I didn't want to stop reading. And the more I read, the more I got drawn into this story. It was so interesting to get to read not just the main protagonist's story, but to also get to read her family's story and see how it was all connected and something that started so long ago impacted Ava's present. Because this was basically a generational story. It started with Ava's grandmother, Emilienne, and moved on to her mother, Viviane, until the story was about Ava. And even at that point the story wasn't all about Ava. It was just all weaved together perfectly.
This might be stating the obvious, but the plot is very much intricately linked to the character's lives. This is the kind of story that's all about the characters, there lives make up the plot in a way that's different than what I've read before. This is especially true when I think back on the story. As I was reading, it was pretty clear that this story was about the Roux/Lavender family and all their quirks and oddities. But looking back on it, this story couldn't really have been told any other way or it wouldn't have had the same impact. The way Leslye Walton chose to tell this story makes it so you're told everything you need to know in order to figure out what's going to happen, but at the same time you won't necessarily piece it all together until it's all laid out for you to see. At least, that's how it was for me. And that's, in my opinion, what made this story so powerful. All those little details that were spread out through the story came together in a way that brought on all these emotions, until the climax of the story where I was just reading with this feeling of dread I couldn't get rid of. It was just all weaved together perfectly.
I'm hoping this (hopefully) somewhat coherent rambling will have made you want to pick up Leslye Walton's The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. This is a story that's so different (apparently that's the only way I can think of to describe this story) from what's currently available in the world of YA fiction and it will make you wish for more like it. If for nothing else, at least read it for Leslye Walton's beautiful prose, you won't regret it.