Review: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows
of Ava Lavender
by Leslye Walton
pub 3/27/14 by Candlewick Press
YA - Magical Realism
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is one of those books I was always tempted to buy when I saw it in a book store. It's hard not to be drawn to the cover and its title so, I finally caved in! And I'm glad I did. It was unlike any other book I've read before and it was in part due to its magical realism (something I don't read often!), the beautifully lyrical prose and the haunting mood that permeated the book. It's ultimately about three generations of women, forever changed by heartbreak and seemingly cursed to never find true love.

We start off learning about Ava's grandmother Emilienne and her mother Viviane’s tragic love stories. How they started off passionately and ended with their hearts being broken for a multitude of reasons. And then we get to present-day with Ava who for all intents and purposes is a regular girl except she was born with the wings of a bird. It immediately sets her apart on the outside, but on the inside she could easily be one of us. Yearning to belong, to be "normal" and to find love. It's through Ava's eyes that we see what happens when she gives into that yearning. She decides to start venturing out into the world and see what it has to offer. It brings her new friendships, a boy who accepts her for exactly who she is and the attentions of a man named Nathaniel Sorrows who believes her to be some kind of angel. We're shown so many complex layers of love, accepting and the deception of others. It's just up to Ava, and the other women in her life, as to whether or not they're willing to let those heartbreaks define them or if they can move on and find joy in spite of the tragedy.

(Super minor) reservations
It's hard to explain because the book was beautifully-written and the ending paragraph was perfect but I still wanted a little more. More time with Ava and more about the relationship between her and her mother.

Do I recommend?
Yes! Even though the mood is definitely dark throughout, there is light and hope to be found in it and I hope you'll check it out!


  1. You're right, it's hard not to be drawn in by the cover -- it's gorgeous! This sounds exactly like the kind of book I would love to read. Magical realism can be wonderful, especially when paired with beautiful writing. Thanks so much for sharing, this sounds great!

  2. I haven't read this one but it's interesting that you mention it left you wanting more--I find that is often an issue for me when I read magic realism. I feel like if you haven't yet you should pick up The Weight of Feathers by Anne-Marie McLemore. It's similar in premise to this and also magic realism and I just have a feeling you'll really like it.

  3. Yes, this kind of title and cover also draws me in. And with the dark premise--perfect.

  4. I'm with you on how beautiful the cover is! My eyes are always drawn to it when I see it in a bookstore. I'm so glad to hear that you found the story to be just as lovely and compelling as the cover promises. It's cool that it's about love too, and different aspects of it - I like that a lot!


with love,