The Strange And Beautiful Sorrows Of Ava Lavender | Leslye Walton | Book Review

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.

The Strange And Beautiful Sorrows Of Ava Lavender | Leslye Walton | Book ReviewThe Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
Published by Candlewick Press on 2014
Genres: Young Adult, Love & Romance, Family, Multigenerational, Fantasy & Magic
Pages: 301
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon

A 2015 William C. Morris YA Debut Award Finalist Magical realism, lyrical prose, and the pain and passion of human love haunt this hypnotic generational saga. Foolish love appears to be the Roux family birthright, an ominous forecast for its most recent progeny, Ava Lavender. Ava -- in all other ways a normal girl -- is born with the wings of a bird. In a quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to fit in with her peers, sixteen-year old Ava ventures into the wider world, ill-prepared for what she might discover and naive to the twisted motives of others. Others like the pious Nathaniel Sorrows, who mistakes Ava for an angel and whose obsession with her grows until the night of the summer solstice celebration. That night, the skies open up, rain and feathers fill the air, and Ava's quest and her family's saga build to a devastating crescendo. First-time author Leslye Walton has constructed a layered and unforgettable mythology of what it means to be born with hearts that are tragically, exquisitely human.

I am going to be straight up and honest with you — when I first cracked open The Strange And Beautiful Sorrows Of Ava Lavender by debut author Leslye Walton, I was really skeptical. I thought, a girl with wings and her struggles this is going to be dumb. Turns out the only dumb one was me. Really you guys I read The Strange And Beautiful Sorrows Of Ava Lavender because it was the shortest book on my Winter TBR stack. I AM SO GLAD THAT I DID. After many dogeared pages and many YOU NEED TO READ THIS tweets, I think I might finally be able to tell you why it is essentially that you add this literary young adult gem to your pile. It’s hard to articulate love you guys.

It’s really hard for me to go into the plot and it’s details because The Strange And Beautiful Sorrows Of Ava Lavender is a multigenerational read. Here’s my best shot though: Basically the book opens up with Ava Lavender being born and it causing a stir. Then we go back in history to when her grandmother was living in France with her parents and her sisters and brothers. They then emigrate to “Manhatine” and shit hits the fan. A few bizarre things go down. Emilienne ends up in Seattle with her husband, she has a daughter. Her daughter has an almost life long love affair with this man named Jack Griffiths and we get to understand unrequited love. Ava is born. Ava has a twin brother named Henry who is Autistic. The two never leave the street they live on, not even for school. There is a puppy named Trouver. Ava grows up, there is a deep friendship with a girl named Cardigan. Tragedy and then triumph. You guys, this whole book is a triumph and I am not even exaggerating and pulling out the cliche bag. I am serious as hell when I call The Strange And Beautiful Sorrows Of Ava Lavender one of my YOU MUST READ THIS 2014 releases even though I am typing this in December 2013.

The thing about Ava Lavender’s character is that I can say she is incredibly human despite having wings. I can say that she’s interesting and realized. I can say that she has tenacity and is one of the stronger voices that I have read. Yet, that would not even begin to cover the depth of her character. Instead, I will say that her character is just so fascinating and interesting in the context of her family history. You see, while Ava is the title character and the narrator, I am not sure that she’s really the main character as this book is as much the story of her grandmother Emilienne and her mother Viviane as it is Ava’s. I am kind of sitting here and thinking about how great the characterization and writing is, but sigh, it’s hard to really tell you that. So, maybe this means I fail as a book blogger?

If you came for the swoons, you might be disappointed, but you also might not. There are swoons, but not in the commercial young adult way. Instead, there’s a whole lot of sexuality in this book, it’ll probably be contested by some wet blankets. But honestly, I thought it made a lot of sense in context. Also, there’s a whole lot of different forms of love in this book. There’s unrequited love that lasts for over ten years. There’s a few slow burns that just, sigh, are perfect. Like, there’s some patient waiting and hoping and it is perfect. Like I said though, the swoons are not what you would expect and feel more adult than most things I’ve read in YA, but man, it’s perfect is all.

The best comparison I can think of for this book is to say Walton’s writing style reminded me a lot of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Isabel Allende and Laura Esquivel in that there’s magical realism and the fantastic happens and as a reader you are amazed but at the same time might say ‘seems legit’. I think Leslye Walton does a great job blending the grotesque and the ugly with the beautiful. Really, the title says it all as far as the writing goes. I will say that this is a bit lighter than Marquez. It might be a hard sell if you are recommending books for teenagers — but trust there are some out there who would LOVE this book, like teenage me who read One Hundred Years Of Solitude and loved the writing but had the symbolism fly over my head. I would have loved this book back in good old 2004. I think there’s kids now who are like past-April. Recommend this book to those students. ALSO TO ALL YOUR FRIENDS. It is that good you guys.

Disclosure: Review Copy Provided By Publisher

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. I wanted this book anyway, but now I really, REALLY want it. And I’m no wet blanket, so I won’t contest the swoons 😉 I love magical realism, and I cannot wait to meet this family of amazingly complex characters–I AM EXCITE. Great review!

  2. I have this book on hold at the library. It sounds amazing! And I love the cover. I usually have great success with Candlewick Press titles, and their literary YA. You sold me!

  3. I want! I love magical realism. This sounds fantastic.

  4. I’ve just ordered this book on Amazon, then went to check out some reviews. After reading yours, I CANNOT wait to get this in the mail. It really excites me that you compared her writing to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, as I love his writing style.
    I just started blogging, so it’s good to see I chose a book that I’ll love to read AND review.

  5. I have heard some many good things about this, but I too was very doubtful that it would be any good. After reading your review I now wish I would have taken the time to read this when I had the chance.

    Awesome review!

  6. YAY! I’m so happy to hear that you wound up loving The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. I’ve been intrigued by it ever since I first heard the title, and I’m happy to hear you thought it was really good. It being multi-generational and really beautifully written is definitely a winning factor for me!

  7. Cassandra Swartz says

    I have one quick question I finished the book but the ending is leaving me so confused!!!!!! Did Ava die? Or did she just get new wings? Someone pleaseeeeee email me and help me out: sassy2014@live.con

  8. I really liked this book and all the magical realism! On the same note, I found the ending a bit difficult to come to terms with. So I guess that makes this post need a MAJOR SPOILER ALERT

    So here it goes. As Ava has grown and evolved from her experience she also grows new wings and she jumps of off the widow’s walk and flies. I can’t tell if the author is using her flight like an extended metaphor and maybe Ava died or if Ava actually did fly. I feel like the character wouldn’t have committed suicide and in the beginning of the novel she mentions writing about her past, in the present. But what are your thoughts?

    • I’m going to say Ava actually flew… The prologue is like a letter from Ava saying she was born in 1944. When she signs it it says 2014. But I agree, it threw for a moment before I remembered the prologue.

      Hope this helped!


        I was really hoping for an empowered ending for Ava, so you can imagine my disappointment when I thought the ending was a metaphor for her death. I was searching the internet for some answers when I stumbled upon your post. THANK YOU. You’ve made me feel a lot better! 🙂