12th August, 2019

Review: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton (Candlewick Press)

I know I'm a bit late to the party as this novel was published a few years ago, but I was only recently gifted a copy. But boy, I didn't know what I had missed! This is a book that had me captivated from the beginning onwards and I loved it with all my heart. Just look at this sentence:

„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.“

Isn't it wonderful? The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is a story full of magic realism and if you want to fully enjoy it, it’s necessary that you willingly suspend disbelief. If you do that, I promise you’re in for a real treat.

It’s a bit hard for me to understand why this book should be labelled as YA literature. Yes, it is about a young girl (with wings) but it is also a three-generational family story: a story of love, loss, alienation, home and friendship. Love here is not treated as something altogether positive, however. It is depicted as something that can be extremely ugly and painful, a feeling that can cause hopelessness and despair, something with the power to destroy individuals. Ava’s family has been repeatedly influenced by this side of love and, consequently, every single one of the characters carries some sort of burden with them. 

What I adored about Walton’s book was its poetic diction: Some sentences almost read like poetry which all but underlines the story's overall magical feel. Even though The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is set in the “real world”, it is brimming with magical moments and often reminds the reader of a fairy tale. Because it is magic realism, these weird little incidents are treated normally and are hardly ever questioned. Walton’s characters are unique and fascinating: the little girl turned into a canary, the boy speaking in riddles, and of course the girl with fabulous wings. I fell in love with all of them instantly and was sad to say good-bye to them and all their individual little stories when the book was finished.

This book is a little strange but it is also astonishingly beautiful (see what I did there? ;-P). It is a novel that touched me deeply and stayed with me way beyond the last page. I still find myself thinking and marvelling about the ending. If you are looking for a bit of magic and enchantment, this will be the book for you.

Rating: 5/5 stars

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