You guys, this wasn’t the way that I intended to finish the Cannonball. I had it all planned out — I was going to review the shockingly less-than-amazing “My True Love Gave To Me,” a book of short stories all about Christmas by some beloved authors: Holly Black, Stephanie Perkins, David Levithan, Kelly Link, Gayle Forman, and Rainbow Fricking Rowell, among others. But other than the Perkins story, I really, really didn’t have much to say about it. It was decidedly and disappointingly “meh.”
And then I remembered that I have book club on Wednesday night and that I had yet to read this month’s book. And so, I sat down this morning with a cup of coffee. And I read the entire thing.
It. Was. Amazing.
First of all, can we talk about the cover of this book? My little jpeg doesn’t really do it justice. The aqua and copper and intricate details are simply lovely.
And then we have the story. This is the story of a girl named Ava Lavender. Born (along with her fraternal twin, Henry) in Seattle in 1944, Ava caused a bit of a sensation when she arrived. She was born with a full set of wings. Doctors could find no medical reason for the wings, and also could find no safe way to remove them without endangering Ava’s life.
This is also the story of Ava’s mother, Viviane. A girl so in love with her high school sweetheart, that his kisses leave a mark on her skin forever. When Jack moves on and marries someone else, Viviane raises her twins on her own, in their old, odd Seattle mansion.
And this is also the story of Emilienne, Viviane’s mother. She came with her family from France after World War I, and one by one, lost her parents and siblings to horrible deaths.
This is a story about magic, but not really. Emilienne “gets a feeling” and can sometimes say what’s about to happen, but she can’t really tell the future. Viviane has an exceptionally strong sense of smell, which sometimes helps her to tell what’s about to happen, but she can’t really tell the future, either. And Ava, the girl with wings? Well, other than those wings, she’s just a normal girl. It’s not as if she can fly. Or can she?
This is also a story about love, and how hard it can be to give sometimes. Emilienne and Viviane had their hearts broken, and thought they had nothing left to give. And it isn’t until a terrible storm comes one night that they realize that their giving their love is easy.
My book club did give us a “trigger warning” about this book, and I feel that I should mention it here. There is a fairly violent and sexual scene toward the end of the story that is the turning point for many of the characters. It was clear that the story was building up to this horrific moment, but that didn’t make it any less shocking. Especially for a book that is supposedly geared for ages 12+. There is literally no way in hell I would let my daughter read this until she was at least 16 years old. Other than the fact that Ava was a teenager, I didn’t think this book was “YA” in the least.
This was a beautiful story, one that I’m glad I was forced to read. I never would have had it on my radar otherwise.
By the way, if anyone out there has read this, please let me know what your thoughts are on the ending. I guess it is somewhat controversial, and that readers are pretty split on what actually happened. Kind of a “glass half empty/half full” thing, I guess.