Gorgeous prose for readers willing to be blindsided

THE STRANGE AND BEAUTIFUL SORROWS OF AVA LAVENDER

 

Lyrical magical realism paints four generations of women with tragic lives until a shocking violation fixes everything. First-person narrator Ava, who isn’t even born until nearly halfway through the novel, never becomes the main character. Instead, the novel opens with Ava’s great-grandmother in France and follows the family through the ill-fated romances and personal calamities that chase them to Manhattan and eventually Seattle. Surrounded by death and despised by their neighbors, the Lavender women live in seclusion even from one another. Ava’s grieving grandmother Emilienne sees ghosts and ignores her daughter, Viviane. Viviane pines away from blighted love while raising its fruit: twins Ava and Henry. In the metaphor-made-flesh style of the genre, both children wear their oddness on their bodies. Henry would be autistic if his strangeness and language difficulties weren’t conceived as fantastical abilities, and Ava is born with wings. Isolated and, ironically, flightless, Ava longs to be a normal girl; her only real social contact is an earthy, vivacious neighborhood girl named Cardigan. The story’s language is gorgeous: “I turned and spread my wings open, as wide as they would go, feeling the wind comb its cold fingers through my feathers.” Disturbingly, a horrific assault acts as the vehicle of redemption, magically bringing people together for reasons that make sense only in the dreamlike metaphysics of literary device.

Gorgeous prose for readers willing to be blindsided . (Magical realism. 16 & up)

Pub Date: March 25, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6566-1

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Jan. 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2014

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A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing.

THE STARS WE STEAL

For the second time in her life, Leo must choose between her family and true love.

Nineteen-year-old Princess Leonie Kolburg’s royal family is bankrupt. In order to salvage the fortune they accrued before humans fled the frozen Earth 170 years ago, Leonie’s father is forcing her to participate in the Valg Season, an elaborate set of matchmaking events held to facilitate the marriages of rich and royal teens. Leo grudgingly joins in even though she has other ideas: She’s invented a water filtration system that, if patented, could provide a steady income—that is if Leo’s calculating Aunt Freja, the Captain of the ship hosting the festivities, stops blocking her at every turn. Just as Leo is about to give up hope, her long-lost love, Elliot, suddenly appears onboard three years after Leo’s family forced her to break off their engagement. Donne (Brightly Burning, 2018) returns to space, this time examining the fascinatingly twisted world of the rich and famous. Leo and her peers are nuanced, deeply felt, and diverse in terms of sexuality but not race, which may be a function of the realities of wealth and power. The plot is fast paced although somewhat uneven: Most of the action resolves in the last quarter of the book, which makes the resolutions to drawn-out conflicts feel rushed.

A thrilling romance that could use more even pacing. (Science fiction. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-328-94894-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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An unflinching portrayal of the devastating effects of domestic violence.

WATCH OVER ME

After a horrific domestic violence incident, Zoey Ward and her family finally find their footing in Las Vegas only to have their lives overturned by a house fire.

Learning that her father has been recently released from prison, Zoey suspects he had something to do with the blaze. After their lives go up in flames, literally, Zoey along with her mom and her younger siblings, Kate and Cole, flee Las Vegas with the help of her older brother, Will, and his best friend, Tristan. They take refuge in California, where Tristan and his sister welcome them into a world where things seem hopeful and more stable than anything they have ever known. Yet the fear of being hunted down by her father consumes Zoey. The story is narrated from Zoey’s and Tristan’s first-person perspectives, and Gray (Run Away With Me, 2017, etc.) has masterfully captured the uncertainty and terror that come from domestic violence. Tristan and Zoey share a budding romance in which Zoey slowly but surely learns to love and be loved in a nondestructive, healthy way despite her fears and reservations. With everything she has been through, Zoey is the underdog readers will find themselves rooting for. Gray spares no detail in this intense tale. All characters are assumed to be white; Tristan is dyslexic, and there are several queer characters.

An unflinching portrayal of the devastating effects of domestic violence. (Fiction. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4281-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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