Perhaps that was just something I told myself. Because what else was there for me – an aberration, an untouchable, an outsider? What could I say when I was alone at night and the shadows came? How else could I calm the thud of my beating heart but with the words: This is my fate. What else was there to do but blindly follow its path?”
Synopsis: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is author Leslye Walton’s entrance into the writing world. And with her she brings us the Roux family – specifically Emilienne, Viviane, and Ava – all of whom are just a little . . . strange. Perhaps the most outwardly strange of the family is Ava, a normal teenage girl who is born with the white and brown speckled wings of a bird. After being caged to her house and the hill, hidden away from the cruelty of the world, sixteen-year-old Ava sneaks out from her home in hopes of being a normal teenage girl. However, it’s hard to be normal when Nathaniel Sorrows believes you are divine.
Let me just start by saying I don’t do stories of tragic and unrequited love. Perhaps it’s my own teenage experience with such cases, or maybe it is my fear of losing the person I love to some terrible incident. Either way, I can’t stand to read such stories. I have never understood why characters (and real people) settle for someone they don’t love but their family accepts, when there is a person they truly love and who loves them and is available to them. It hurts me, it breaks my heart, to read these stories – and that is the point of them. But I have no tolerance for such sadness, especially when it is preventable. Maybe this makes me an unsympathetic reader, but I am who I am. For this very reason, halfway through Ava Lavender I swore to take a break from books after I finished this one. (This is mostly because a few weeks ago I finished The Best of Me by good ole Nic Sparks, courtesy of my grandmother. And let’s be real, when have we read a truly happy Sparks novel? So needless to say, I am done with tragic love.) Unfortunately, the women of Ava’s family are cursed with tragic love stories, and after reading the story of Viviane, Ava’s mother, I didn’t think I could subject myself again anytime soon to the emotional roller coaster that we love and call reading. However, I say now that I am glad I pressed on, because thankfully, this book ends well.
One thing I truly loved about this book is Walton’s style of writing. She is a master weaver in that she weaves together the story of the Roux women so well, showing how history repeats itself and how the pasts of the women comes into play in their future in what Ava calls fate. Walton also weaves together mystical realism and historical fiction, turning an otherwise ordinary story in an ordinary world into a slightly mystical, though still believable, experience. Her voice, and I believe she uses her voice when writing Ava’s narration, reminds me of J. K. Rowling. Oh, Rowling! Who has the power to drag me into Hogwarts every time I open her books. No matter how many times I have read the Harry Potter series I am always just as enchanted upon reading it again. Though Walton isn’t quite as enchanting and her writing not as strong as Rowling’s, I did enjoy the voice. Walton creates such charming images, saying things like, “The fact filled Gabe with so much hope that he grew another two inches just to have enough room to hold it all.” C’mon! How can you help but to smile?
I also found it interesting that from the get-go, Ava clarifies that she is an unreliable narrator. She tells us in the prologue that some facts are omitted, whether on purpose or accidentally. She admits that her recollection (AKA: the book) cannot be considered a holistic document, and that her accounts are (obviously) biased. So many times as readers we go into books expecting a reliable narrator. Yet, in this book, we are told from the start that is not the case. I personally forgot this warning. So I think it will be interesting when I reread it to read it with the mindset not to trust everything Ava says.
Though Ava’s story is one that is charming, it is charmingly tragic. Because of this fact, be aware that there is a trigger warning. “What’s a trigger warning?”, you ask. (No worries, I didn’t know what it was until just a few weeks ago.) A trigger warning is to let you know that there are some scenes that may be tough to read. In the case of Ava Lavender there is a scene where one character is raped. Therefore, victims of sexual assault or those generally more sensitive to such content should be aware of that. If you would like to know what page this scene is on, feel free to comment or email me and I will be glad to let you know.
Overall, I would give this book 3.5 stars out of 5. However, I feel like star ratings are vague. Perhaps the better way for me to convey if I like a book or not is whether or not I plan on rereading it. And to The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender I say yes, yes I will reread you! I love the magical realism and the historical fiction being woven together. I loved the tragically charming Roux family, with their special abilities and quirks. And though some character plots I think I could have done without, I loved Ava’s struggle with destiny and fate and how all the stories came into play. In due time, I will go and reread her journey again because I believe this is one of those books that you will pick up something new each time you read it.
Favorite Quote: This book has so many good quotes! However, many of my favorites also contain spoilers. Regardless, I have two quotes that really stood out to me and that made me smile. (1) “And that might just be the root of the problem: we’re all afraid of each other, wings or no wings.” (2) “I loved you before, Ava. Let me love you still.”
What about you? Do you enjoy tragic love stories, or do you share my distaste? Can you understand or relate to the pressures of choosing a partner based on your family’s feelings toward the person?
For another great book review of this, check out Forever Young Adult! They bring up some interesting points I hadn’t thought of when writing my review.