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

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender
Leslye J. Walton
Candlewick Press
Published January 1, 2014

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Ava Lavender comes from a long line of peculiarly gifted women who’ve been unlucky in love. She relates her family history beginning with her great-grandparents and their journey from France to the United States in the early 1900s. Ava’s grandmother is the surviving member of her small family by the time she marries. Desperate to escape the bitter memories of her lost loved ones, Emiliene and her husband head west, finally settling in a small Washington town. Emiliene bears one child, Ava’s mother, before her husband dies. Each member of Emiliene’s family bears some peculiarity, and it seems Viviane, Emiliene’s child is no exception, when she is born with an incredibly keen sense of smell. But it is Ava, Viviane’s daughter who possesses the most notable peculiarity: she is born with wings.

Ava spends her young life sheltered in her grandmother’s home with her mother and twin brother and their live-in handyman. Gabe is determined to teach Ava to fly, and spends a great deal of time building flying contraptions so he can do just that. The only problem is that none of them seem to work. As Ava reaches her middle teen years, she begins to grow curious about the world outside her family’s home. As she begins to venture out, she must face the various ways people respond to her wings. She finds herself labeled both angel and demon, worshipped and hunted. As danger closes in around her, Ava’s brother (who appears to have some form of Autism) tries repeatedly to warn the family, but the message doesn’t at first make sense to them. Emiliene and Viviane must piece together the clues and find Ava before it’s too late.

The most striking thing about this novel is the style in which it is written. It’s very whimsical and a little bit dark, both quirky and hopeful. Each of the focal characters is expertly created and their stories deeply interesting. There are definitely some intense moments which make this a story better suited to older teens. Readers who enjoy stories in the vein of the movie Big Fish will enjoy this novel.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Infrequent but extreme.

Sexual Content
Brief references to sex, including references to a brother and sister who were rumored to be lovers and two men who are lovers. In one scene a man violently assaults a woman. Details of the attack are brief but brutal, and the progression of events is really choppy, making it difficult to tell what’s happening. The girl is raped. Details of the rape are very limited.

Spiritual Content
Emiliene is haunted by the ghosts of her deceased siblings and a former resident of her home. Rumor has it that a young girl living in sin attempted to receive communion and the host caught fire as it touched her mouth. This event occurs again featuring one of the main characters in the story.
See above for assault. Emiliene’s brother is shot in the face by his lover. His ghost bears the scars from his gruesome demise. Details are limited. One of Emiliene’s sisters commits suicide by removing her heart. Again, gruesome, but with limited details.

Drug Content
A young man drugs a relative in his care.

Note: I received a copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.


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About Kasey

Reads things. Writes things. Fluent in sarcasm. Willful optimist. Cat companion, chocolate connoisseur, coffee drinker. There are some who call me Mom.

2 Responses to Review: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye J. Walton

  1. I LOVE Big Fish, so I am excited to read this book! Going on Goodreads…