fiction, reviews

Review: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

18166936The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

Leslye Walton

320 pages

Published in March 2014 by Candlewick Press

Source: Public Library

“To many, I was myth incarnate, the embodiment of a most superb legend, a fairy tale. Some considered me a monster, a mutation. To my great misfortune, I was once mistaken for an angel. To my mother, I was everything. To my father, nothing at all. To my grandmother, I was a daily reminder of loves long lost. But I knew the truth—deep down, I always did.

I was just a girl. “

I’m not going to lie. I picked up The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender because of its beautiful cover and the fact that it’s magic realism. The book is steeped in the genre and doesn’t have a tinge of magic like other books that are also labeled the same way.

The main character, young Ava Lavender, is a girl who is born with wings. Her wings aren’t the wings of an angel, white and magnificent. Ava’s wings are the wings of a bird: strong brown wings that cannot fly or be cut from her body without killing her. Her twin, Henry, wasn’t born with wings but maintains a silence that most people can’t break. Along with their mother and grandmother, both heartbroken over past loves and loss, the twins live secluded at their family home away from the world and all of its dangers.

I think the best books of magic realism are those whose magical aspects aren’t distracting and also make readers feel at home in a world where anything can happen. Beautiful writing helps too. Luckily, readers of this book won’t have any problems with the things I listed. This is Walton’s first novel and for the most part, the book doesn’t read that way.

Ava’s family, the Roux, have a long history of heartache. From Ava’s great-grandmother losing her husband, to various members dying as the result of love, forbidden or otherwise. As a result, Ava’s grandmother, Emilienne, and mother, Viviane, are closed off to pretty much all types of love.

Love. That’s one of the biggest themes of this book and it’s also the reason why I don’t understand this book being deemed as a young adult read. Walton expertly explores various forms of love: between parent and child, the young love of teenagers, and the love of two friends. It felt more like a book I can recommend to an adult but not a teen.

The one disappointment of this book is that the characters are kept at a distance from not only each other, but from the reader. I didn’t really care about any of them. The only feelings I had for a character was Viviane, whose willingness to ignore the man that truly loved her and her children, infuriated me. I wanted to reach through the book and slap her many times. Because of this distance, I couldn’t give this book a perfect score.

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is a book that readers of magical realism will enjoy for its imagery and beautiful writing even with its fault. My rating: 3 ½ of 5 stars.

13 thoughts on “Review: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton”

  1. And now I know what it’s about. 🙂 And I may just have to go borrow it from Annie’s library pile. Oh right, who am I kidding? Like I don’t have enough books on my own pile! But I do think I’d love to read it sometime. When you said this: “I think the best books of magic realism are those whose magical aspects aren’t distracting and also make readers feel at home in a world where anything can happen.” I just sighed contentedly. I agree with you completely!

  2. Oh the pretty cover, I like it so much. I’m going to read it just for that cover (and the Candlewick name on it — I love those guys), even with all its flaws.

  3. I would get this just for the cover, too! It is lovely. I wish it was easier to know the characters, but I bet the magical realism element would be enough for me to pick this one up, too 🙂

  4. The cover and the title are both gorgeous! I am not usually a fan of magical realism, but if it isn’t distracting, I can enjoy it quite a bit. Looks like this book is one of those.

  5. This sounds like a very intriguing idea, but I have a hard time with characters I cannot get close to. Still, I’d love to maybe give it a try. Loving the cover, too!

  6. I started this one but for some reason just didn’t get into it. I keep thinking I should give it another try.

  7. I’ve been thinking a lot about the distance that writers sometimes put between characters and readers and how the story usually suffers for it. I think there are a lot of narrative voices that naturally keep the reader at a distance, but the trick is making the characters shine through. I have been frustrated by this recently! I’m sorry to hear that’s the case for this book… it does have such a lovely cover and a good premise.

  8. I’d never really had any interest in magical realism until recently – I was always a “give me tons of magic and fantasy please” type of reader. But lately I’ve really felt the pull to read more of the genre. This looks like a good title to add to my list.

  9. Hm, I’ve seen this book in stores but never picked it up. This sounds like my sort of book. The magical aspects definitely appeal to me – I like magical realism but read less of it than I should. Onto the TBR list it goes.

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