Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood | 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.

Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood | Book ReviewWild Swans by Jessica Spotswood
Also by this author: A Tyranny of Petticoats, Wild Swans
on May 3rd 2016
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Family, Multigenerational, Romance, Contemporary, Social Themes, Dating & Sex
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon

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 a book I would absolutely recommend to anyone looking for some forward thinking, feminist young adult contemporary fiction. I realize that is a bit of a mouthful to say. It is the best way to describe Spotswood’s latest novel and also the best way to describe all of her other books like Born Wicked and A Tyranny of Petticoats — but in different genres.

This book is the first contemporary book I’ve read by Spotswood and it really hits the I DIDN’T KNOW I NEEDED THIS BOOK IN MY LIFE BUT I AM SO GLAD I READ IT spot. Reading this book also has me wanting to put a hold on the final Born Wicked book at the library. It makes me want to just get over my disappointment about it not being available via audiobook. What I am getting at is that Wild Swans is a truly excellent book and one you need to read this summer.

Wild Swans is set in a small college town. Main character Ivy Milbourn lives with her grandfather who is a professor of poetry at the local college. Ivy has no known memories of her mother who abandoned her when she was two years old. Ivy does not know who her father is. However, she’s got a big family legacy to fill. All of the women in her family are extraordinary. They have an intense amount of talent and are the best in their field of talent.

Along with that talent comes tragedy though. The summer before Ivy’s senior year changes everything. You see, her mother who is named Erica shows back up with two girls in tow – sisters Ivy didn’t know she had. It is not a warm fuzzy family reunion. Erica is cruel and unkind and hates her father, Ivy’s grandfather. Meanwhile, Ivy is exploring her first relationship with a college student named Connor – who is her grandfather’s student.

Ivy, however, does not seem to have a “thing” like the rest of the women in her family. She does not feel very talented or extraordinary at anything. It is not for lack of trying either, she has tried her hand at many activities but none seem to come natural to her. Instead, she makes up for this by working very hard to be the best that she can be. Her work ethic is spectacular. She does enjoy swimming and is one of the best girls on her time, but not good enough to win at State.

She also enjoys poetry and writing, but she is not nearly as talented as her dead ancestor, Dorothea. Aside from angst about her lack of natural talent, Ivy is dealing with the fall out of having a mother who does not seem to love her. Erica is messed up you guys, so many scenes involving her made me feel rage. However, I think that Ivy handles the situation the best way that she can.

Aside from family drama and questions about her lack of talent, Ivy is navigating her first real relationship. Connor is an older guy and does have some experience. Their relationship is refreshing. It’s serious without being too heavy to read about. The two talk and there’s consent throughout each romantic interlude. There is consideration of each other’s feelings. Ivy is certainly exploring her sexuality in this book — meaning she’s engaging in activities with Connor. I thought Wild Swans came across as very sex positive and very pro “move at your own pace.”

Family is a complicated thing. The ties that bind and all that. Jessica Spotswood details the complexities of old dramas and resentments within Wild Swans. She illustrates how the people we are related to are not perfect and do have character flaws. Even Ivy’s granddad who raised her has a tendency to push too much and expect a lot out of not only her, but also her sisters who he just met. Speaking of which, there’s a lot of rage that is induced by Erica and the way she introduces Ivy to Isobel and Grace. Also, in how Erica treats Isobel and how she is extremely nice to Grace.

Finally, I found Ivy’s friends to be vastly appealing. Her best friend, Claire is an outspoken bisexual girl who is very forthright about being sex positive. Trust, you want someone like Claire in your corner. Then there’s her other friend Abby. Abby’s got this home that Ivy loves being at, also Abby’s family is not loaded like Claire and Ivy’s. Further, Abby has a sister who is transgender — Eli who wants to be Ella. This is all so seamlessly woven into the story. There’s intersectionality and it does not feel tacked on, but natural. I haven’t even mentioned the friendship between Ivy and Alex who has this massive crush on Ivy but whom Ivy just cannot see herself with.

There is depth and an exploration of various plot elements that I love within Wild Swans – don’t miss out on this wonderful book.

Other reviews of Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood:

(un)Conventional Book Views – “Definitely a solid read

The Compulsive Reader – “emotionally hefty and breathlessly romantic

The Book Hookup – “nothing short of captivating

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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.

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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 haven’t paid much attention to this book, but it sounds great! Your review makes me want to read it asap!

  2. Want! I’m not much on contemporary books but your review makes me want to try this one.

  3. I have yet to read a Jessica Spotswood novel, but Wild Swans sounds like a really great place to start! I think the way you’ve talked about Ivy and her portrayal in this story sounds absolutely phenomenal, and totally encourages me to pick this up sooner rather than later. Lovely review!