I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood
Also by this author: A Tyranny of Petticoats, Wild Swans
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on May 3rd 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Family & Relationships, Girls & Women, Young Adult
The summer before Ivy’s senior year is going to be golden; all bonfires, barbeques, and spending time with her best friends. For once, she will just get to be. No summer classes, none of Granddad’s intense expectations to live up to the family name. For generations, the Milbourn women have lead extraordinary lives—and died young and tragically. Granddad calls it a legacy, but Ivy considers it a curse. Why else would her mother have run off and abandoned her as a child?
But when her mother unexpectedly returns home with two young daughters in tow, all of the stories Ivy wove to protect her heart start to unravel. The very people she once trusted now speak in lies. And all of Ivy’s ambition and determination cannot defend her against the secrets of the Milbourn past….
Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood is one of those stories that is much needed in the YA world. With vibrant, strong female characters it delves into issues of acceptance, loss, obsession, sexuality, gender, and love giving equal opportunity to each topic. I was left reeling by this book and the story within its pages. And as a reader who often looks for an experience like that, there is nothing more satisfying.
Ivy, the main character of Wild Swans, is a young woman who has been through more than her share of tragedies, especially at her young age. Abandoned by her mother, she has spent most of her life being raised by grandfather, attempting to live up to his standards, and prove that she is nothing like her mother. Unfortunately, it isn’t easy living up to her grandfather’s standards as he wants her to find her talent and fulfill the family legacy. All the other women in the family were noteworthy and talented (including her mother) in some way and he expects the same for Ivy. She expects the same for herself as well except that she has no idea what her talent is, and then suddenly her mother is back in life with her two younger sisters, Isobel and Grace, which she didn’t even know existed.
I really enjoyed reading the family dynamic in Wild Swans. The author, Jessica Spotswood, created five characters who are so vastly different from each other yet almost need each other to survive. Much of this story is the idea of this family figuring out exactly what they mean to each other. There are moments where the tension is so thick you could slice it with a knife. Ivy has lived without her mother for so long that she thought she has let it all go in terms of the resentment and the feeling of being abandoned because she thought she was better off without her. But once she was in her presence again, for the first time in years, everything came out in droves. I could feel the emotion coming off the page, and I loved it as hard as it was to read.
Ivy’s mother, Erica, is a character that is difficult to understand. It is obvious that she has issues of her own, and that is one of the many reasons why she left Ivy. But there are also times with her other two daughters that you can see the “good” mother that she could be. Unfortunately, these are few and far between as there were many times where I wanted to reach through the page and slap this woman myself. That is how drawn into it I got. So kudos to Jessica Spotswood for being willing and able to write a character that made me scream because of her mental abuse towards her children but whom I could also understand more by the end of the book. I was even able to accept her in the way that Ivy attempted to accept her.
Acceptance of self is one of the big overall messages that is within Wild Swans. Living up to others expectations of you can be difficult but even more so if you are unable to accept yourself as who you are. Ivy goes through a journey of self-discovery and acceptance once her mother comes back into her life. Luckily, she doesn’t have do it entirely alone as she has her good friends, Abby and Clare, and the possibility of a new boyfriend, Connor, to help keep her afloat and help her find acceptance within herself. Abby, Claire, and Connor also each push and protect Ivy when it comes to herself and her family. They protect her also from her best friend, Alex, who believes that there should be something more between them than just friendship. He doesn’t understand the boundaries which Ivy has put on their relationship and because of this becomes disconnected from her. While Ivy misses Alex and their friendship, she finds herself being upset that he would go to such lengths to convince her to change her mind, and this unfriendly tension between them forever alters their tension. I loved the fact that Ivy refused to back down on her commitment to just staying friends with Alex. I think not compromising your beliefs because of a friendship (no matter how old) is a very important message to be sending to young and older adults.
Wild Swans took me by surprise especially at the very end. So many of the moments within this story are right there in your face as a reader. Like I said, you can really cut the tension with a knife. But there are also moments of more simplistic beauty where the message of acceptance is still very prominent but it acceptance of a loss of a person or an event in your life. Many of these moments occurred when Ivy is attempt to build a relationship with her sisters. The fragile moments between them allowed each of them to grow and spread their wings. I didn’t realize how attached I had grown to these characters (loving or hating them) until it was all over. Not to spoil anything but I do wish that we had been able to see a bit more closure for the characters. I can understand why it was left the way it was though especially given the context of the story but I still find myself wondering what happened to all of them. And there is something very special about that too … about characters that stay with you long after you’re done. I didn’t expect to love those wild swans as much as I did but I’m sure glad I got to know them.