Thursday, February 26, 2015

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

I like magical realism. I like a story about a girl (Ava) with wings who isn't an angel, a super hero, or a thing that has to be explained or forced to conform. I like a book-long metaphor that isn't explained. I like the nod to “A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings.”

But, I don’t think the reader needed the backstory at the front of the book. The great-aunt who turned into a bird when her love affair soured. The great-uncle, also killed with/by love, whose ghost followed the family. Wonderful characters and stories, but stories that could have been better woven into Ava’s story, rather than laid out in front of it.

(Incidentally, this criticism may be coming from my burnout on stories set in 1850-1910. I’m tired of trash-cluttered city streets lined by tenements and covered in horse-shit. It was the bad luck of this book to be the latest 19th century origin-story novel that I read.)

My only other criticism for this book is that I was aghast to find out “Ava Lavender” is a YA novel given the horrifying way Ava is violated at the end of the book, which is difficult to discuss without a spoiler. I think this criticism points more to the fact that my kids are very young, and I can’t imagine them reading something like this. This is the age of “Twilight” and “Hunger Games,” though, so perhaps I am the one out side of the norm. Kids, and YA readers especially, have been pampered for so long, when what they seem to crave is Grimm fairy tales, the grimmer the better.

Still. I like a story about a girl with wings and no explanation.

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