The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

Post #2: Morris Award Finalist Blog Tour Week
YALSA’s Morris Award honors the year’s best young adult novel by a debut author. The Morris Award winner for 2014 will be announced at the upcoming ALA 2015 Midwinter Meeting in Chicago. Writers’ Rumpus is honored to host a week of posts about the Morris Award Finalists.

strange and beatuiful sorrows of ava lavenderBook Review by Kirsti Call

The moment I saw The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, by Leslye Walton, I wanted to read it.  The lyrical title of this book is the perfect companion to its starkly beautiful cover. The book is haunting, thought provoking and well written. The lyrical and whimsical writing had me thinking about the book for days after I finished.  From the prologue:

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.

These words speak for themselves.  When I read the book, I felt immersed in a the magical world of Ava Lavender (who is born with wings), and her family.  Their quirks and sorrows and loves resonated with me. Many of their relationships result in pain and loss, but in the end we feel a very real metaphorical and physical hope for love and a better future.  Walton’s descriptions give us empathy, understanding and a strange longing for food. I especially loved this passage about cake:

Happy smiles were shared between the bride and groom, but it was the cake their guests remembered – the vanilla custard filling, the buttercream finish, the slight taste of raspberries that had surely been added to the batter. No one brought home any slices of leftover cake to place under their pillow, hoping to dream of their future mate; instead, the guests… ate the whole cake and then had dreams of eating it again. After this wedding unmarried women woke in the night with tears in their eyes, not because they were alone, but because there wasn’t any cake left.

This story artfully addresses how much we cause our own sorrows, and the isolation of being different.  I highly recommend reading this story if only for the pleasure of reading words that are perfectly placed.  Here’s one last quote to whet your literary appetite.

“It’s… dangerous for someone like me to be out in the open.”

As if in response, my wings started to flutter underneath their shroud. I gave the cloak a good yank.

“Someone like you? Someone different, you mean?”

I shrugged. “Yes,” I answered quietly, suddenly shy.

“So, is it dangerous for us or for you?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, are you the threat, or are we?”

“You are! Well, They are.” I motioned to the cluster of teenagers. Of course it was them.

Rowe peered at me thoughtfully. “Funny. I suspect they might say otherwise.” He stood.

“And that might just be the root of the problem: we’re all afraid of each other, wings or no wings.”

strange and beatuiful sorrows of ava lavenderTHE STRANGE AND BEAUTIFUL SORROWS OF AVA LAVENDER
By Leslye Walton
Candlewick Press. Young Adult, ages 14 – 17
320 pages

Finalist for the William C. Morris Award. The William C. Morris YA Debut Award, first awarded in 2009, honors a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens and celebrating impressive new voices in young adult literature.

Check out Monday’s posts in the Morris Finalist Blog Tour!

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