Tell Me More:Here is a story of unbearable pain and regret, told in musical prose and by a character whose sadness is hazy but still visible in everyTell Me More: Here is a story of unbearable pain and regret, told in musical prose and by a character whose sadness is hazy but still visible in every sentence. Ava Lavender and her tragic, luminous family are some of the most memorable characters I've ever encountered in fiction, and Leslye Walton tells their stories in short bursts, letting their strength carry the words forward.
Sorrows is not an easy book to read. The narrative follows a rough timeline, and Ava begins with the story of her great-great grandmother, with the reader trusting that this history will contribute to Ava's own tale. Other than that, it meanders, taking breaks every now and then to share a tidbit, visit an old friend, ponder the meaning of past events. Readers who want a clear-cut story with obvious conflicts and villains won't find that here, or at least not for a good long while.
In addition, Sorrows is a magic realism novel, with girls turning into canaries and ghosts silently watching their siblings live. Unlike a lot of speculative fiction, there's no obvious logic to the magic in Sorrows. Ava, like her aunts and uncles before her, deals with her inexplicable wings with the help of her family, and they keep her sane. Walton's writing style complements the tone of the story beautifully--she has a gift for picking the right word to make her sentences sing, and they will haunt you. I particularly admired how Walton handles Emilienne's story, as it stretches from her arrival in Manhatine(as her father calls it) to the warping of her family's quiet existence. Readers need an anchor, and while the story is told through Ava's eyes, it is Emilienne who grounds it in her tragedy and strength.
Female characters outnumber males in Sorrows, and while the story doesn't quite make a statement about feminism, it does make a statement about abuses committed in the name of love, highlighting the way women are used, discarded and forgotten by men. Emilienne and Viviane give their hearts to men, trusting in that love, and they are treated cruelly, rejected because of their eagerness to love. Ava is more cautious, and suffers for it anyway. There are reminders of the original "The Little Mermaid": both stories are about girls who try to go after their dreams and are punished for wanting more than what they have. Emilienne, Viviane and Ava face men who are used to getting what they want, and they all recognize that entitlement too late to save themselves in the moment that it hurts them. But they don't lose themselves in the end. More than determination, I think that Sorrows reminds its readers that having the will to survive can carry you through the worst moments of your life. And maybe it's too hard to muster up that will in your darkest times, and that is when you let someone else carry you for a while.
The Final Say: Leslye Walton is an astonishing new voice in YA fiction, much like her unforgettable Ava Lavender. Her Strange and Beautiful Sorrows will stay with you past the last page.
Discovery: Retellings of fairy tales always make their way onto my TBR pile, but I was especially intrigued by this post-apocalyptic twist on “SleepinDiscovery: Retellings of fairy tales always make their way onto my TBR pile, but I was especially intrigued by this post-apocalyptic twist on “Sleeping Beauty.”
+ Voice. Rose is very much an innocent and while that naivete can sometimes become tedious for the reader, it’s very clear why she thinks and speaks the way she does. It’s obvious to the reader just how awful her “fairy-tale life” really is, but she doesn’t seem to lose any sense of optimism. Rose has a quiet strength, only emerging when she needs it, because she doesn’t actually ask for much. I enjoyed her curiousity the most–she wants to learn but is afraid of what the knowledge would mean. I liked seeing her cast that fear aside when she realizes it can only do her more harm than good. She’s also quite funny and insightful; I appreciated Otto all the more because of her interaction with him.
+ Sci-fi and fairy tales. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: my standards for dystopian novels are high. Thankfully, Anna Sheehan delivers a world that is complex and beautifully rendered. I had a great time imagining the limoskiffs and comms and other gadgets that Rose’s futuristic world used. Stass is also a noteworthy piece of tech and the ethics of its use gave the novel a perfect backbone. The juxtaposition of such a technologically-centered future with a fairy tale makes for some complicated questions–like “Was waking Rose the right thing to do?”–but Sheehan handles them all with deft precision and care for the characters she’d created. The revelations in this novel are expertly paced and
- Length. I do feel that some sort of a companion novel is necessary, if only because Sheehan included characters that readers will want to know more about even after Rose’s story has ended. I LOVED that the romance wasn’t the focus of the book. It’s easy to imagine where a second novel might go: Otto is a particular favourite of mine and I’d love to know more about his life.
Recommendations: A Long Long Sleep is a truly unique and complex novel, which will keep readers up all night trying to solve the mystery of Rose Fitzroy. They won’t be disappointed.