"To many, I was a myth incarnate, the embodiment of a most superb legend, a fairy tale." That is the first sentence in The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, where Ava sets the stage for the story by telling the circumstances of her birth.
Ava and her twin, Henry, are both unusual in the eyes of the world. Ava has wings...I'm not joking, she has actual wings, adding, along with her grandmother's ghosts, and other strange occurrences, an element of fabulism into the story. Henry, on the other hand, is clearly not neurotypical and has trouble communicating with people, even his twin.
The story is told from Ava's viewpoint, telling her mother and grandmother's history as it follows her life. The history of her mother's family has a heavy influence on Ava's life and outlook, but in the end she seems to break free, as do her mother and grandmother, all three being able to rid themselves of the tragedies and disasters that had tied them down.
The entire story was very well-written, tying loose ends up and keeping to an overall narrative thread. It had a deliciously spooky and whimsical vibe the entire way through that I found very enjoyable. And the descriptions of food, which were inevitable, as Ava's grandmother is the proprietor of a successful bakery, were so mouth-watering at times that I wished I could eat them. At other times, it was so clear that I never wanted to taste a particular food again after seeing a character obsessed with it.
There were a couple things I had a problem with, though. I was honestly a bit bothered by the portrayal of Henry, and the way Ava just dismissed him and pointed out in a negative way how 'not normal' he was. On the other hand, I liked how his family and friends respected his boundaries, and didn't force him to act the way they thought he should. Overall, though, the description of mental illnesses and neuroatypicality in this book made me feel uncomfortable. There are two characters who have unspecified mental illnesses/breakdowns, and it feels like they're just shunted off and put somewhere else so the other characters don't have to deal with them rather than actually being helped.
As a last thing, I need to put a content warning for the book. Content Warning: there is an (attempted, I think) rape scene, and some gore. There is a mention of incest in the beginning of the book, though it's mostly only alluded to.
Have any of you guys read this book?
What did you think?
What bothered you?
What did you like about it?