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.