Feb 21, 2014

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, by Leslye Walton

Magical realism is big nowadays, and Walton takes full advantage of that. This is a beautifully written book, but it tries a little too hard for originality and ends up feeling a bit like an amalgamation of other magical realism books. The title, first of all, is terrible. Too long, and too similar to "The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao." And I'm confused as to why this has been marketed as a Young Adult book. There's harsh language, rape, violence, and vocabulary only the most precocious of high schoolers would know, let alone the average adult. It may be written from (mostly) the perspective of a 15-year-old girl, but I really don't think this is an appropriate book for teenagers.

That out of the way, I did really enjoy it. It's quite well-written, even if the style is a bit derivative, but that's not all that surprising from a first-time novelist. The best part is the beginning, as Ava recounts the history of her grandparents and parents. As we get into Ava's story, the plot flattens a bit, but the writing is still lovely. I think, perhaps, I'm just getting a little bit tired of the whole magical realism thing. I appreciate it more in small doses than as the main event in a book; it no longer has the ability to make me gasp with wonder.

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