The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
Genre: YA magical realism
Format: hardcover, library
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender was a whimsical read that I enjoyed, but it was confusing and far from want I expected.
It felt to me like a plot wasn’t really decided and that the story lacked direction. For the first half, it was about Ava’s grandmother Emilienne and how she eventually had and raised Ava’s mother Viviane. I understand that the book is supposed to be about Ava researching her family and past, but I wasn’t expecting it to be presented quite like that. Ava herself didn’t come in until halfway through the book, and even then there wasn’t a lot of detail about her living her life. I was also left wondering how Ava obtained such in-depth information about her mother’s and grandmother’s life, since they weren’t exactly a very open family.
I also want to mention that sometimes the basic idea didn’t seem very original. A girl that’s different and therefore has to stay in her house, but longs to be normal and outside. I can’t name any books with a similar story off the top of my head (although The Little Mermaid did come to mind), but it just felt like something I might’ve read before.
There were a lot of characters in this book. Occasionally it was a bit overwhelming trying to keep track of them all — it was slightly similar to To Kill a Mockingbird in this aspect. But really, only a few really felt important.
The story starts with Emilienne Roux, Ava’s grandmother. She was originally from France, until her father Beauregard decided to move their family to Manhattan. She fell in love easily as a teenager, and ended up having her heart broken three times before she was eighteen. Then she married a baker, Conner Lavender, and they moved to Seattle. She had special talents, per se, and thus earned the title of witch. After Conner died, she took over the bakery, had Viviane, and became a master baker. She felt a little like a female Peeta in that aspect. Also, she didn’t seem to know how to be a parent, and didn’t interact much with Viviane once she learned to take care of herself.
So then it moves to Viviane Lavender, Ava’s mother. She had a very keen sense of smell and could detect things others couldn’t through scent. She became infatuated with her childhood best friend, Jack, and then lived heartbroken for nearly twenty years after their relationship didn’t work the way she wanted. She also raised his twin children with some help from her mother and a lot from a young man sharing their home named Gabe. Like her mother, Viviane didn’t seem to know how to be a parent, and I just couldn’t like her, either.
Finally we get to Ava herself. Like I said, she didn’t seem to be very unique. She was abnormal but wanted to be normal, kept inside but wanted to be out. Unlike her mother and grandmother, she didn’t fall in love very young. She developed feelings for her best friend’s brother when she was fifteen. Again, not very unique. Wings aside, she really was just an average girl, and I’m not sure what to think of that.
There are also a few lesser characters I want to bring up: Henry, Gabe, and Nathaniel. I loved Henry — he was so sweet and misunderstood, and I kind of felt bad for him. It wasn’t said outright, but I assume he had some form of autism. He was a great sibling even though he didn’t interact with Ava much, and he was typically overlooked because of Ava’s wings. Regardless, I think he’s my favorite character from this book. ❤ I liked Gabe, too, but I thought he was kind of plain as well. He was the guy on the sidelines that was secretly madly in love with Viviane, who took way too long to realize it. My least favorite character was definitely Nathaniel. Shortly after he was introduced I thought he was a creep, and his actions in the end solidified that. He definitely got what he deserved.
This book took place mostly in Seattle, and it was clearly mentioned multiple times. While that did get slightly repetitive, I could look past that because it was described beautifully. I could imagine Pinnacle Lane perfectly, and the Lavenders’ house and Emilienne’s bakery as well. It was lyrical and unbelievably easy to imagine; possibly the one aspect that did live up to the magical realism genre. ❤
I don’t feel like there are any relationships worth mentioning. Emilienne and Viviane had only heartbreak, with the exception being Conner for the former and Gabe for the latter. But Conner and Emilienne didn’t seem very in love, and by the time Viviane realized Gabe’s feelings for her, there wasn’t time for her to really act on it. Ava and Rowe were only hinted at in the end, and I didn’t care for Ava and Cardigan’s friendship, honestly. Not to mention, Ava’s family really didn’t spend time together or talk with one another, and thus the familial relationship was mediocre. 😦
I’m going to be honest — nothing exciting happened. Nathaniel’s actions toward Ava in the end were shocking, as I assume was intended, but the bonus from that was lost after the uneventful and, in my opinion, confusing, ending.
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender had a pleasant whimsical aspect, but the plot seemed aimless, most of the characters were plain, and the relationships were lacking. It unfortunately didn’t live up the expectations I had for it. 😦
my rating: 2¼ out of 5 stars
Have you read this book? Is it on your TBR? If you have read it, what did you think? I’d love to know! 🙂
I’ll be *finally* starting The Selection by Kiera Cass tomorrow! 😀
Until next time…