Genre: this is honestly a difficult book to place. magical realism?
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.
Rating out of five:
– the plot –
The synopsis, along with the perfectly fitting long title, creates the idea that this is a book about Ava Lavender. It’s simply not, for the most part. More than the first half of the book is about the family she’s a descendant from: with their strange abilities and being caught up in one tragedy after another. We’re learning about the generations before her, but when Ava and her story came into this world, it felt like a lot rested on her shoulders. The family, this story, they all needed something good.
Ava Lavender is the relatable one, it’s why her name is in the title. It is a young adult novel after all, not a tragedy or historical family drama. But maybe it should have been. This book would have been better as a more complete story about her ancestors. Ariel (check her out if you haven’t!) said this book was more like a fairy tale than magical realism, because in magical realism the magic usually goes unnoticed, while here Ava’s wings marks her as different. The ancestors had a better sense of smell and other, much stranger and more twisted abilities, and no one questioned it. That’s what I loved most about this book, that feeling when I’m sitting here like: that’s fucked up, but look at them, they keep going as if nothing ever happened.
– some confusion –
Also, let’s talk about how it’s a waste of potential when a kid have these crazy ancestors, are born with wings (!!), and you make her feel isolated and excluded from the rest of the world because of them. I realize this is an important message, but any person written with a mental or physical illness or a handicap could have made that point in a clearer way. Was it really necessary to give a girl wings to make that point? Of course, the wings are surely some kind of symbol, and they helped the plot unfold later on, but that didn’t help my frustration.
– the writing –
The strange and beautiful sorrows of Ava Lavender had a lot of lovely moments and details. The writing style was alive, but dreamy, in a way I loved. I don’t know how it is possible to connect words in such a way it becomes this level of magical, and I was completely fascinated by it. Just for that thing alone, this book is absoloutly worth reading.
I enjoyed this book. However, I still feel it natural to divide it into before Ava Lavender and after. And I liked before a lot better. Not just because of Ava, she’s nice enough, but because of her mom and how the whole family at that time transformed into something like a picture, stuck in the memory of what it once was. It won’t make much sense until you read it, and I highly recommend it.
– more favourite quotes –
“Summer rain smelled like newly clipped grass, like mouths stained red with berry juice—blueberries, raspberries, blackberries.”
“While the thought of being dead seemed appealing, the actual act of dying did not. Dying required too much action.”
“I found it ironic that I should be blessed with wings and yet feel so constrained, so trapped. It was because of my condition, I believe, that I noticed life’s ironies a bit more often than the average person. I collected them: how love arrived when you least expected it, how someone who said he didn’t want to hurt you eventually would.”