Cover of Ava Lavender, with a yellow illustration of a delicate feather against a blue background

About the Book

Title: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender
Published: 2014
Swoonworthy Scale: 4

Cover Story: Montell Jordan
BFF Charm: Maybe
Talky Talk: Magically Real
Bonus Factors: Family Saga, Tasty Business
Relationship Status: Exotic Fling

Content Warning: This book features one scene of sexual assault, and while it’s not graphic, it’s still awful.

Cover Story: Montell Jordan

I hope Candlewick Press got this designer to sign a lifetime contract because they need to lock that shizz down. This cover is straight up GORGEOUS. The colors! The simplicity! The design of the feather, which is a key element of the story! This book passes the true test of good YA artwork: it could very easily end up in the adult section by accident.

GIF from Montell Jordan's music video "This Is How We Do It"

The Deal:

Ava Lavender is a normal girl in every single way but one: she was born with wings. In the world of 1944, science can’t determine the cause, and even if the right technology did exist, the origin of her wings might remain inexplicable. The secret, perhaps, lies with her extraordinary family, whom she later spends forty years researching. The result of her efforts is this story of Emilienne Roux, her grandmother, Viviane Lavender, her mother, and Pinnacle Lane, the place that these three generations of women would eventually call home. Rife with tragedy and etched with enchantment, the tale of the Lavenders explores the vast territory of the human heart, from the darkest crevice to the purest beat.

BFF Charm: Maybe

BFF charm with a :-| face

In spite of the fact that she has wings, Ava is actually overshadowed by the fascinating story of her family. I liked her, but I didn’t feel like I really got to know her. In order to protect her from prying eyes, Viviane has kept her daughter at home, resulting in a sheltered girl with a tender heart and a thoughtful disposition. She hasn’t had enough life experience to develop into her true self, which is why I wouldn’t mind bumping into modern day Ava. As a 70-year-old, she’s bound to be a complex creature, and I would love to buy her a drink and listen to her stories for hours on end. (And don’t worry, Ava. I won’t ask to touch your feathers, because RUDE.)

Swoonworthy Scale: 4

All three of the women in this book experience love and heartbreak, but the latter outweighs the former considerably. Most of the men in their lives are huge assholes, which definitely puts a damper on any romance, but I had to award a few points for Gabe, the sweetest man alive, and Rowe, the boy who falls for Ava. But then I had to detract points, because Viviane insists on ignoring Gabe like a HUGE IDIOT. He’s basically the Luke to her Lorelai. Rowe doesn’t appear on nearly enough pages, but when he does, he made me sigh exquisitely.

Talky Talk: Magically Real

From the very first page, you’ll be spellbound by Leslye Walton’s fantastical, deeply mesmerizing style. A debut novelist, she’s already an epic storyteller with a true gift for infusing the ordinary with a whimsical and eerie light. Her descriptions throb with life while ushering in an off-kilter world bustling with colorful figures and striking turmoil. But while Pinnacle Lane is an intriguing place, the lack of character development prevents it from being fully captivating. Walton certainly wove a beautiful tale, but by neglecting the motivation of certain characters, the emotional impact of the novel was severely lessened.

Bonus Factor: Family Saga

A book open with a family tree growing out of it

Discovering all of the twists and turns in the Lavender/Roux family tree was my favorite part of reading this novel. Emilienne Roux’s life as a French immigrant living in 1917 New York City was especially interesting, especially given the dramatic fates of her siblings.

Bonus Factor: Tasty Business

A table with an assortment of delicious looking pastries

After the death of her husband, Emilienne Lavender takes over his bakery, which means there are frequent descriptions of delectable goodies. If you’re on a carb-free diet, I would stay far, far away from this book.

Relationship Status: Exotic Fling

This book snapped me out of my regular existence and delighted me with its magical ways. Wholly unique, it dazzled and excited me, but by the end of our date, I knew I needed a partner with a little more substance. Still, I’m thankful for the dash of adventure it brought to my life, and I’ll always admire its deep respect for the female spirit.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free review copy from Candlewick Press. I received neither cocktails nor money for this review (dammit!).

Sarah lives in Austin, and believes there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure, which is part of why she started FYA in 2009. Growing up, she thought she was a Mary Anne, but she's finally starting to accept the fact that she's actually a Kristy.