“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.”
When Ava Lavender was born with the brown speckled wings of a bird people questioned what she was. There was so much focus on her that her strange and wonderful twin brother Henry hardly got a look in. But the twins mother did not want them to topic of conversation for the rest of their lives and kept them home, safe in the house on the hill at the end of Pinnacle Lane. Family history was spotted with foolish love here there and everywhere and soon it even captures Ava. The Roux family inheritance was the ability to fall so deeply in love that you will do anything for your loved one even when it is unrequited, and on the summer solstice of her 15th year, Ava does the unthinkable; she ventures out in the search of her love, and her family’s saga builds up to a devastating credence until the skies open and feathers fill the air.
Well first things first… I absolutely adored this book and damn that title is appropriate. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender are exactly that; strange and oh so beautiful. It gripped me from the beginning with its gorgeous narrative style and its unique story and I couldn’t put it down, reading chunks at a time around food shopping, eating tea and being forced away from it to play Mario with my partner. This book is incredible and I fail to see how someone could not like it, but that’s just my opinion!
The story is very unique in style and events. It begins with an introduction to Ava from Ava herself, and then falls back into the time when her grandmother was born. The first 100 pages or so were made up with the stories of Ava’s parents and grandparents lives rather than hers, but it all made sense because they shaped who Ava became. From the onset you know that Ava is not a normal teenage girl, and you start understanding that when you see the things her family went through before she arrived. The loves lost, the family killed. Death seemed to follow her grandmother and if it weren’t for Pinnacle Lane Ava may not have ever existed, so its fitting that the major events of her life happened there. The build up of story goes on and on but I was never bored, and then finally at the end you get the blowout. Its harsh, its scary and it works. I loved the entire story and it makes perfect sense to me… but if it wasn’t for the beautiful writing style I could have possibly lost my way before this.
The writing is what kept me reading. It felt like a story told directly to me in such a unique voice that I adored every page. there was an air of superiority to the voice, but not in a stuck up way, no it was more in a fully educated way, like the person talking had indeed seen the world and witnessed both its harshness and its love. It was old fashioned but not so much to alienate me as a reader, more to take me back to the times in which the events occurred… especially towards the beginning of the book. The story told goes up to the events of Ava’s 15th year and as you get further into the book Ava’s voice does take on the times of its events, so at 15 she sounds like she is recalling what it was like to be 15 then. I loved it all and I couldn’t help but want more.
I honestly loved this book and I don’t even know how to saw how much in words. The characters are rich, unsettling and incredible, with people surprising you here and there and others being the best they are at all times. I think Wilhelmina and Gabe were most definitely my favourites, closely followed by Henry, Rowe and Cardigan. Ava was such an interesting character and I did love her but her naivety did put me off… I think more so because Henry didn’t seem to have it so much, but that could be something to do with his mind set and abilities.
This book is seriously magical realism at its best, or what I’ve read of it anyway. Its topics are quite mature and though it seems like a story that is dying to be told aloud, you will struggle to find an audience to do that too because it certainly isn’t a bedtime book for younger children. There are graphic references and swearwords and some very disturbing scenes but for the 14 plus market it is incredible and should be read time and time again. I think its going to be a favourite of mine for a long time to come.
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender will be published on 27th March by Walker books. My copy was sent to me from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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