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Wild Swans

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The summer before Ivy’s senior year is going to be golden; all bonfires, barbeques, and spending time with her best friends. For once, she will just get to be. No summer classes, none of Granddad’s intense expectations to live up to the family name. For generations, the Milbourn women have lead extraordinary lives—and died young and tragically. Granddad calls it a legacy, but Ivy considers it a curse. Why else would her mother have run off and abandoned her as a child?

But when her mother unexpectedly returns home with two young daughters in tow, all of the stories Ivy wove to protect her heart start to unravel. The very people she once trusted now speak in lies. And all of Ivy’s ambition and determination cannot defend her against the secrets of the Milbourn past….

295 pages, Paperback

First published May 3, 2016

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About the author

Jessica Spotswood

18 books1,659 followers
Jess is the author of the historical fantasy trilogy The Cahill Witch Chronicles and the contemporary novels Wild Swans and The Last Summer of the Garrett Girls. She is the editor of the anthologies A Tyranny of Petticoats and The Radical Element, and co-editor (with Tess Sharpe) of Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women & Witchcraft. Jess lives in Washington, DC, where she works for the DC Public Library as a children’s library associate. Her newest book is Great or Nothing, a World War II-era retelling of Little Women in which each March sister is written by a different author.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 292 reviews
Profile Image for Trina (Between Chapters).
876 reviews3,754 followers
August 28, 2017
I really enjoyed this and am so glad I finally read more by Jessica Spotswood. Her writing is very atmospheric and she writes wonderful bookish boy love interests.

This is more of a character driven story and the plot can seem wandering at times. The conclusion came on pretty quickly but it did wrap up the main conflict in the main character's life. I'm usually a plot driven reader, but I enjoyed these characters and don't have many complaints. The main tone of the book focuses on family and the main character's struggle with family expectations vs being her own person. I think if you love atmospheric reads about family, this is definitely one to try.

There is a good amount of diversity in the side characters. The love interest is biracial. There are Mexican American characters, a bisexual female friend (who is my favorite character in the book for all her feminist rants!), and one of the friends has a 6 or 7 year old trans sister. Alcoholism is portrayed in a parent. There are many great conversations about weight shaming and sexuality, and one impactful scene where a boy acting possessive is called out.
Profile Image for Sarah Elizabeth.
4,744 reviews1,305 followers
February 20, 2016
(Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to SOURCEBOOKS Fire and NetGalley.)

“She told my sisters I’m their aunt. Her little sister.”

This was a YA story about a girl left behind after her mother ran away.

I felt quite sorry for Ivy, especially when her mother came back and wouldn’t even admit that she was her daughter! Being abandoned like that, and feeling mediocre because she didn’t have a ‘gift’ was really hard for her, and learning that her mother hadn’t abandoned her other two daughters just made things worse.

The storyline in this was about Ivy’s mother and two younger sisters coming home, and treating Ivy like their sister/aunt rather than their daughter/sister. We also got a bit of family history, and a bit of romance, although this did turn into a bit of a love triangle.

The ending to this was okay, although not a lot really seemed to happen in this book. We got some past mistakes hashed out a bit, and a bit of romance, but not a lot else really.

6 out of 10
Profile Image for Stacee.
2,740 reviews711 followers
April 3, 2016
I've loved Jessica's words from the very first page of her very first book. I was so excited to see her new story and finally get my greedy hands on it.

Ivy is a great character. She's not sure what she wants out of life, but she's excited to get out there and just live. Normally, the quiet people pleasing MC would drive me mad, but I found myself instantly intrigued and rooting for her. There is a great cast of characters, but I'll let you find them on your own. I will say that I want Claire to be my BFF. Like right now.

There are so many important things in this story. It touches on gender identity and feminism and body image and slut shaming. And it is done in a way that doesn't come across as preachy. I seriously squeezed this book when I was done.

My only complaint is that I could have read 100 more pages if they existed. I would have liked a bit more of an ending, but the slice of time we got was perfect.

**Huge thanks to Sourcebooks Fire for providing the arc in exchange for an honest review**
August 8, 2018
wild swans is a bold contemporary that tackles issues of the heart in a sensitive manner and makes for a really engaging read on a summer afternoon. it has a vaguely whimsical feel, one that leaves a strange sense of longing in your heart.

the book mostly focuses on character development instead of plot development. this means that everyone in the book is well fleshed out and has their own unique vibe, which really appealed to me as a reader.

i loved ivy. a lot. she was a brave, fiercely loyal character who was also vulnerable at times and that just made me want to protect her even more ?? ivy is too pure she just wants everyone to be a happy family i love her. and honestly don't get me started on connor or i'll swoon. he's always so supportive of ivy and yet knows when to give her space.

most of the side characters in the book (claire, gracie, alex, luisa) i loved, and i enjoyed seeing them interact with each other. even the "villain", erica, gets some form of redemption in the end. character development is definitely written very well in this book, which is always the trait of a decent writer.

the book is mostly driven by dialogue, which i enjoyed a lot because it kept the pace fast enough not to be boring. also, it leaned more on the angsty side, which is something that appeals to me a lot because it makes me feel emotions. lots of them. i guess that's the main reason why i enjoyed this book - i was genuinely invested in the characters and i liked seeing the relationships between them play out.
Profile Image for Amanda.
160 reviews77 followers
June 6, 2016
I absolutely adored this book! Wild Swans was an effortless read that I couldn't and didn't want to put down. The entire book happens within a 2 week period but I felt like I was reading a story that was happening over months. Great visual detail put me in the middle of the Milbourn home with Ivy, her Granddad, her sisters and mother, Erica. These characters felt so believable and true it's hard not to think of them as real people. Ivy is our main character, she's a hard working girl who believes the women in her family are cursed. She loves to learn and swim but doesn't believe she'll ever be good enough and with that comes good reasoning behind her way of thinking. She wants a relationship with her sisters and wants to know why her Mother left her. She has great friends and meets a guy she instantly falls for. The romance is sweet and doesn't feel too much like instalove, but that may be because it didn't feel as though they've only known each other for a week since, like I said, I felt as though this story happened over months, still cute nonetheless. As the story progresses we see Ivy's personality take a turn in the way we've hoped since page 1. Truly loved every page of this book! It's a light, easy and refreshing read that any YA romance fan will devour. So that leaves me with this... are the Milbourn women really cursed? Well you'll just have to read this fantastic book to find out!
Profile Image for Ari .
933 reviews304 followers
April 26, 2016
Original review: The Daydreaming Bookworm

*I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.*

The Milbourn name is both a blessing and a curse, with each generation bringing about a talented and gifted woman whose life ends in tragedy. Ivy knows the pressure she is under to find her ‘special’ talent, to find what makes her a Milbourn, to leave her mark in this small town, and it doesn’t help that her Grandfather has set the bar so high. To make matters worse, Ivy’s mother, Erica, returns to town after walking out of her life, and she’s not alone. What was suppose to be a care-free summer, has now turned into her worst nightmare and Ivy will learn that sometimes being ordinary may be a good thing after all.
“…the Milbourn women are all reckless and bound for bad ends.”

Wild Swans is a young adult contemporary novel about family, love, and self-discovery. I wasn’t quite sure what I was in for when I started this book, but I quickly fell in love with the story of Ivy Milbourn. One thing I liked about this book was the writing. It was BEAUTIFUL and SIMPLE, straight to the point. The dialogue between characters was raw and emotional as none of the characters held back and you could feel the tension between them.Besides the theme of family, this book touches upon a number of other themes, like sexuality, gender identity and sex positivity which was great to see.

The characters in this book are so dimensional and beautifully flawed. They all have big personalities and each play and important role throughout the story. Ivy is an AMAZING character who speaks her mind and doesn’t back down and I loved her right from the beginning. Ivy’s relationship with her grandfather was rocky at some points and even though they didn’t always see eye to eye, they still had this strong bond that couldn’t be broken. I have to say, the relationship between Ivory and Erica was not what I was expecting. Although Erica doesn’t say it, I think she does regret leaving Ivy like she did and their relationship had the most development throughout this book. While wounds don’t completely heal, they do gain a better understanding of each other and a small connection is formed between the two by the end. Erica is not likable at all, but I understand why she did what she did and her character development was great as she realized that if she was ever going to make something of her life, she had to start by pulling herself together and getting the help she needed.
“Erica doesn’t know me, but she’s managed to zero in on my greatest fear: that I’m not enough, will never be enough, for anyone to love.”

There is a love triangle in this book, but it didn’t overshadow the overall plot which I liked. I felt like the love triangle even added to the story because it was another situation where Ivy had to make a choice which led to new experiences. I felt like Connor actually played an important role throughout the book because he showed Ivy that it was okay to fall apart. You don’t have to figure it all out at once. What is important is that you don’t stop trying to find yourself. This eventually leads to Ivy accepting the fact that even though things are not perfect right now, in the long run, she will be okay.

I really liked the fact that that everything wasn’t wrapped up and topped with a bow at the end. It was open-ended, full of possibility and hope that anything could happen.
“Letting myself daydream like this is kind of terrifying because it means I have choices. I do. I might not always feel like it, but I do.”

Wild Swans was a STUNNING book that I couldn’t put down. I really couldn’t find anything I hated, even if I tried. I HIGHLY recommend this book to all contemporary readers who are looking for a YA novel that is less romance based and more family oriented. & just remember, sometimes the journey is more important than the destination.
Profile Image for Liviania.
957 reviews64 followers
May 23, 2016
Jessica Spotswood leaves fantasy and historical fiction behind for contemporary, but keeps the themes of sisterhood and family legacies. WILD SWANS is unlike Spotswood's debut trilogy the Cahill Witch Chronicles in genre, but I think her fans will be satisfied if they make the trip to contemporary with her.

Ivy Milbourn comes from a long line of talented, troubled women, most of whom died tragically. She is, however, perfectly ordinary. She pushes herself hard, and her grandfather pushes her harder, but she's generally good at most things but never great. But those expectations are only one of her burdens. Her mother abandoned her when she was two, and she's always wondered if there was something wrong with her that drove her mother away. She gets her chance, fifteen years later, when her mother is forced to move back into her father's house.

With her two other daughters.

Spotswood's writing beautifully expresses Ivy's emotional turmoil as she juggles her family issues, boy problems, and her expectations for herself. Her intended summer of fun imploded, but she finds far more to enjoy than she first expected. I thoroughly enjoyed Ivy. She's refreshingly mature (although she still has the naivety of a sheltered teen), and I thought she struck a really good balance with how she shook things up.

WILD SWANS is painfully earnest at times. One of her best friends has a younger sibling who might grow up to be transgender, and for now prefers to identify as a girl instead of a boy. The other is bisexual, the pioneer of the town's Gay-Straight Alliance, and very vigilant about women's sexual freedom. These are timely issues that helped flesh out the setting and the secondary characters, but some of the longer scenes felt like Ivy's story stopping for a Very Special Episode. (At the same thing, I think Spotswood's characters were often saying things that needed to be said.)

For those looking for a summery, feminist bildungsroman, look no farther than WILD SWANS. It has poetry, hot tattooed guys, and a mother who is a major piece of work (but sometimes makes a few good points). It's a lovely book, the sort that isn't huge on event but sucks you in anyway because of the characters.
Profile Image for Jamie (Books and Ladders).
1,382 reviews189 followers
July 21, 2016
I have literally nothing bad to say about this one. This book is marvelous and I am so glad I picked it up when I did. I am a huge fan of realistic fiction and this one really takes the cake. I liked that this one had so many layers and elements to it, more than just falling in love -- even though that happened too. I liked that the main focus of this was Ivy and her wants and needs, even if she didn't realize that at first.

Ivy was such a great character. I liked that she put pressure on herself, felt the pressure from her Grandad, and still wanted to just be true to herself. I thought her character development was plausible and really heart warming while also giving me feels. I think there is something to be said to parents in this one about the type of pressure you put on your kids to be better, do more, and to generally IMPRESS. I liked that Ivy wanted to take time to herself in the summer to figure out what she liked, what she wanted to do, and to not succumb to what her Grandad wanted for her, even if it was with good intentions. I liked that even though she did let him make some decisions for her in the sense that she took courses, etc. the topic of those courses were things she enjoyed to do. I liked that she was sometimes honest about her opinions but also kept some things back. I think she was good at making compromises and sometimes that is really important. However, I also liked that at the end she stood up for herself and made herself really clear about her wants and needs for the future.

I also really liked her relationship with Alex, because I saw it from both sides. I liked that she was really firm with Alex on multiple occasions about what she wanted out of a relationship with him. I think it is so important for teen girls to see that you can be firm in a decision and not have to cave just because someone else wants something different. I also understood that Alex wanted something more and needed time to get his head wrapped around it, but I was super glad that Ivy called him out on his ghosting and said that he can't expect things to stay the same if he isn't willing to be there when things get rough for her just because he doesn't like that she wants to just be friends. I LOVED that scene.

Ivy and Connor's relationship was great though. I loved that he was so supportive in everything that she did or wanted to do, but also pushed her to see all her options. I liked that he obviously saw her Grandad as a mentor, but didn't let that influence how he saw Ivy and their relationship. I also really liked that he just genuinely seemed to like Ivy and want to spend time with her. They had so much chemistry and heat and I loved them together.

I liked seeing Ivy as a big sister and a daughter. I was a bit meh about how her final scene with her mom went because I felt like she was letting her off the hook too easily, but I also get it. Because Ivy was more concerned about her sisters welfare than anything else. And Ivy had every right to be angry with her mom for leaving and coming back like nothing was wrong. I also liked that even though this was over the course of about two weeks, Ivy and her sisters became really close. I think there is a lot to be said about their relationship, but a better person than me would have to do it.

Spotswood writing was perfect. I liked the descriptions of the town and being inside Ivy's mind. I thought she had a really good grasp on how Ivy would handle situations and also her growth. I easily sped through this one because of how well written it was. It was really easy to get lost in this story and feel like you were in Ivy's mind. This was just SO GOOD.

WILD SWANS comes with high praise and recommendation from me. I loved everything about the story and thought Spotswod writing was perfect. I am not sure I would have trusted this story to be told by anyone else. I think this is one that everyone who enjoys a good contemporary novel will enjoy.

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Profile Image for TL .
1,880 reviews53 followers
July 16, 2016
Ivy is a good girl who is unsure of herself and what her goals are... if she's worthy and/capable of living up to the family name.

When her mother rolls into town with her two little sisters, things get turned upside down.

A quick poignant read that touched my heart and me seething, laughing, and blinking back tears in places. It never strays in the AMAZING category (for me), but I loved this little story to pieces.

Ivy and Erica both have some growing to do and in vastly different ways. For Erica, its a little harder and she could be an easy character to hate but you can see the insecurities and pain behind the hostile exterior.

So even though I wanted to shake her sometimes, I could see where she was coming from.

Claire and Connor, love love them! I wish I could pull them out of the book with Ivy and we could all hang out together :-D

Only downside: wish I could have 'seen' Connor's poems, they sounded wonderful from the descriptions.

Would recommend, happy reading!

Profile Image for kate.
1,226 reviews948 followers
March 10, 2016
3.75* For some reason I expected this to be a mystery or paranormal. My expectations were proved wrong as this ended up being a lovely contemporary. There were some really brilliant messages within the plot regarding body image, gender, sexuality, mental health etc. It was great to read a book which touched on so many of these topics but dealt with them in such a positive, forward thinking way and didn't belittle or patronise the characters dealing with these issues. Although these things were not the main focus of the plot and were often quite subtle, I felt that they were some of the best parts.
Since there were so many elements to the story and its characters, I feel as though everyone will be able to relate to it in some way or another. I really enjoyed Ivy's character development. She was a strong character from the beginning but became stronger throughout the plot in a lot of ways which I really enjoyed. I thought the friendships in this were really lovely, as was the romance. The family relationships and dynamic was really interesting to read as there were so many dimensions to it. Overall, Wild Swans was a really lovely and enjoyable read which touched on some really important subjects in a sensitive, yet truthful way.
Profile Image for Dahlia.
Author 18 books2,499 followers
June 9, 2016
If you have ever wanted to see how intensely you could hate a YA parent, make sure this book is on your radar. Lots of emotional resonance here, not just in that area but even with the parent figures you love and the lengths we go to in order to try to live up to expectations that may never have been possible to begin with.
Profile Image for Linda (un)Conventional Bookworms.
2,736 reviews333 followers
July 11, 2016
This review was originally posted on (un)Conventional Bookviews
Realizing there's more to family than first imagined is something Ivy has to do in Wild Swans, which is a tender story about truly growing up.

Review - (un)Conventional Bookviews

Ivy has lived most of her life in a small town, where both she, and everyone else knows that her mom left her when she was very young. Since she was two, she's never seen her mom, but she's had a stable and good life with her grand-dad and some good friends. Wild Swans unfolds over the span of just a couple of weeks in the summer before Ivy's senior year at high school, and she has a lot of choices to make about her future. Alex, her best friend and the boy next door has showed her that he has more than just friendly feelings for her - but she just doesn't want anything to change. Then, her grand-dad throws a curve-ball her way, saying her mom needs to come home, with her two daughters so she can regroup.

As you can imagine, there are a lot of emotions in Wild Swans, and I thought Ivy dealt with those in quite a mature way! She wasn't the character who needed to grow up the most. Always striving to be good, to be better, to live up to her grand-father's expectations, Ivy was a hard worker for sure. And when her mother - whom she called Erica - came back with two girls, and pretended that Ivy was her sister rather than her daughter, things became more complicated and quite a bit ugly as well.

On top of having to deal with her mom and new sisters, she also had to live with her best friend not wanting to be around her anymore because he was in love with her. Also, falling in love with one of her grand-father's students, working on her grand-mother's poems and trying to forge a relationship with her younger siblings. Written in first person point of view, from Ivy's perspective and in present tense, the story unfolds in a way that makes each of Ivy's discoveries the reader's discovery at the same time. Definitely a solid read, and one I recommend to those who enjoy coming of age stories that are angled slightly differently than the norm.

Fave Quotes - (un)Conventional Bookviews

Lightning hasn't split the sky yet, but I can taste it coming. The air's so thick I could swim through it.

Later, when he walked me to my door at three in the morning, he stopped and looked at me. Really looked, like I wasn't the Ivy he'd been looking at his whole life - or maybe I was, but I was also more. Ivy-plus.

No one is expecting him to be extraordinary. Except... I think he expects it of himself. I watch as he leans down, tripping his fingers lightly over those spines again, and he is so goddamn gorgeous I want to cry. He knows what he wants and he's going to make it happen.
Profile Image for K..
3,796 reviews1,022 followers
July 9, 2017
Trigger warnings: shitty parenting, alcoholism.

I had...high...expectations where this book was concerned, mostly because I LOVED The Cahill Witch Chronicles. So I was super excited to read it when I saw that we had a copy at work through Overdrive. And it's likely that my expectations were a little TOO high, buuuuuuut personally? I was pretty disappointed by this.

So the gist of the story is that Ivy comes from a long line of incredibly talented women. Poets, artists, singers. They live amazing lives and die young of tragic circumstances. When Ivy was a toddler, her mother bailed and signed over her parental rights to Ivy's grandfather.

Since then, her grandfather has pushed her to find her talent, encouraging her to sign up for a million and one classes so that she'll live up to the family name. And even when Ivy feels like she's doing really well at something, it's never enough for her grandfather.

Now, at the age of 17, her mother has moved home, bringing with her Ivy's two younger sisters, who she's literally just found out about. Also, she's caught between two cute boys because of COURSE she is, it's a YA contemporary.

So here's the thing: Ivy, as a character? Is definitely solid. I liked her a lot. I liked how well she handled becoming an instant sister and having her mother come back into her life. I liked how she struggled to meet the expectations her grandfather had for her. I liked her friendships and her sex positive, body positive attitude. I liked how she helped her friend navigate the idea of said friend's younger sibling being transgender.

Basically? There was a lot to like about Ivy. (Although I will say that I wasn't a huge fan of either of the guys in the story, because they were...a liiiiiittle on the stereotypical side. I appreciated that they were both people of colour, but they were basically The Boy Next Door(TM) and The Mysterious Hipster Poet(TM), and ugh)


This book just...ended? There wasn't really any real conclusion for any of the plots or subplots. It felt like there was all this build up, with Ivy and her mother, with Ivy and her sisters, with Ivy and Alex, with Ivy and Connor, with Ivy and her grandfather and his expectations of her. And then I realised that I had two chapters left, and I was like ".............wait, WHAT???".

Look, I don't need everything wrapped up neatly in a bow. But I feel like NONE of the threads were sufficiently wrapped up, and I felt like my copy was somehow missing like 50 pages of resolution before that final chapter. But no.

So...yeah. I wanted to love this one. But it fell pretty flat for me, unfortunately.
Profile Image for Liz.
884 reviews185 followers
June 6, 2016
This was a fantastic read, just as I expected it to be. I loved the setting of this book, the way poetry tied into the story and the characters, and the way it dealt with mental illness. There's so much feminism in this story, in Ivy and Isobel's and Claire's characters, and in how they interacted with other people in their lives. I loved that. There are also some swoony moments. I cannot wait to buy myself a hardcover of this. If Wild Swans is not on your TBR, then you need to add it, stat!
Profile Image for nick (the infinite limits of love).
2,120 reviews1,365 followers
May 8, 2016


Wild Swans was a beautiful little story about complicated families, love and growing up. I wasn't exactly sure what to expect from the book, but it certainly delivered an emotional story.
Here are some of my quick thoughts about the book:

- Ivy's character growth throughout the book was a huge highlight for me. She had grown up with her grandpa after her mother took off and she grew up with a lot of pressure on her shoulders because of expectations for her to be extraordinary at something since every woman in her family had a talent. At the beginning of the book, her self-worth was pretty non-existent, but she grew up to become a confident young lady. Watching her growth throughout the book was great.

- I loved the complicated family dynamics in Wild Swans. Ivy's relationship with her grandfather was so realistically portrayed. There were moments and highs and lows and despite all the pressure that Ivy felt from him, she loved and respected him with all her heart. Ivy's mom on the hand was a real piece of work. She angered me with her dismissal of Ivy and her treatment of her other daughters. I was a little disappointed we didn't get to see more growth from her mother by the end.

- The romance between Connor and Ivy was my favorite part of Wild Swans. Connor was a sweet and swoony poet who easily wooed me throughout the book. Connor and Ivy had a ton of chemistry between them and the kissing scenes in this book were surprisingly (and in a good way) sexy and I couldn't get enough of them together. I liked that their romance was so free of drama and that they were so open with each other emotionally.

- While the book was great, I was a bit unhappy with how rushed the ending turned out to be. I was expecting some big revelation but nothing of the sort happened. I was actually very surprised when the book ended.

In the end though, Wild Swans is a definitely a book I recommend. It's a very lovely tale about growing up.
Profile Image for Aoife.
1,334 reviews585 followers
June 24, 2016
I received a free digital copy from the author/publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest feedback.

This book was a cup of absolute refreshment. A great story about a girl dealing with the pressures to always be better than who she is, dealing with a whole load of new family drama and a few boy problems on the side.

What made this book great was just the way some things were talked about so openly from Ivy’s friend Abby’s transgender sister and the family’s fears that while they loved Eli/Ella for she was how, the small town they were from might not. And then Claire’s brash but amazing attitude towards everything, never letting anyone get away with slut-shaming, sexism or anything else. And then I really enjoyed the brief discussion about contraception between Ivy and Claire. There’s not a whole lot of that in YA contemporary so to have two teenage girls discuss being safe and responsible was ace.

One of my favourite quotes:

"And that better be the only wiener you put in your mouth. We do not give blow jobs so that boys will like us!"Claire roars, and Connor nearly chokes on his beer.

I really loved Ivy’s relationship with Connor and Alex and how it became very clear early on that Ivy wasn’t interested in Alex in that way and she made her feelings known (as I was afraid it was trespassing into love triangle territory). Connor as a whole was swoon worthy - bookish, biracial, tattoos of poems across his ripped body, understanding, patient. He was kind of perfect.

Ivy’s complex relationship with her family was the main storyline of the book and my heart literally ached for Ivy through most of the story because her mother was just that terrible to her. I really really felt for her and I really wanted to reach through the pages and slap Erica, and hug Ivy.
Profile Image for Mel González.
464 reviews64 followers
July 21, 2016
“And that better be the only wiener you put in your mouth. We do not give blow jobs so that boys will like us!" Claire roars, and Connor nearly chokes on his beer”

Book #3 for the Booktubeathon

(3.5) This felt like such a simple story, it went really quickly and not a lot really happened. What I loved were all the layers that were behind the main story. There were so many different characters with representative races, sexualities and gender identifications. This easily demonstrates that a normal contemporary books can have so many different types of people because that's what happens in real life.
It was very easy to read but there were so many complex characters. What I didn't like was that it seemed that everyone was more complex than the main character. She seemed very stereotypical and I wanted to shake her sometimes. But her character development was amazing.

It was immersive, interesting and entertaining. I adored that everyone had their own voice and I thought that the romance was incredibly cute even though it was very in the background and happened kind of fast. I also really liked the relationship that Ivy had with her sisters and her grandpa. I thought they were all really well done and achieved. Claire was by far the best character, maybe I like her so much because she reminds me of myself but I don't know, I think she always said what it needed to be said at very specific times.

Even though it was not the most perfect book ever written, it was still enjoyable and I appreciated that Jessica Spotswood decided to push the boundaries and break stereotypes and make a diverse story that also felt very simple and that had open discussions about a lot of different topics.
Profile Image for Nina Rossing.
Author 5 books185 followers
March 28, 2016
Wonderful! The characters are multi-dimensional, the plot is complex yet neatly woven, and everything comes together so naturally. I only wish it could have been longer, especially toward the end.
Profile Image for Kristin Hackett (Merrily Kristin).
215 reviews3,663 followers
April 14, 2016
Originally posted on Super Space Chick:

Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood is the first book I have read by this author and upon finishing, I quickly added her Cahill sisters trilogy to my TBR. I devoured Wild Swans within a day of starting it and I wish there were more to the story because I fell in love with the characters. Wild Swans tells the story of Ivy, a young girl who isn't really sure of her place in the world or what she wants to do. Her mother left her when she was a child so she was instead raised by her grandfather and housekeeper and she's spent her life trying to live up to the legacy of the Milbourn women. Wild Swans is a contemporary that tackles some serious issues and handles them very well.

Each character in Wild Swans is well developed and complex which is not an easy feat in such a short novel. I immediately took a liking to the main character Ivy who is always trying to please everyone. She's had a tough life and despite the situations her family puts her in she is still always thinking about their feelings and acting rationally when it would be really easy to do otherwise. She seems like the kind of person I would be great friends with. I don't want to reveal much about some of the other characters in Wild Swans because I don't want to spoil anything but trust me when I say that the relationships are messy and complicated and handled so so well. Wild Swans also tackles some major social issues relating to gender and sexuality and I just want to hug Ivy's friend Claire because she is the awesomest. The romance in the story is cute and sweet but it isn't my favorite and I found myself much more interested in Ivy's family dynamics. If I had one complaint about Wild Swans it would be that I want to know more about what happens after the resolution. I feel invested in these characters and I just have so many questions. I hope Jessica Spotswood will write a sequel or a short story epilogue or something!

Final Thoughts: Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood is a complicated and messy contemporary about a girl named Ivy who comes from a long line of passionate and talented women. It's a story of self discovery and finding out how you fit into the world during those crucial teen years. It tackles heavy hitting subjects like gender, sexuality and feminism but the characters are truly what drives this story. Wild Swans has a lot of heart and I wish I could read more about what's going on in Ivy's life. I definitely recommend this one and I'm glad I already preordered a copy!
Profile Image for Alyssa Marie.
58 reviews6 followers
February 21, 2016
*Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for my copy of Wild Swans.*

Wild Swans is one of the those rare beautiful books that makes you reflect on your own life. Normally, I am not a big YA contemporary reader, but I really felt connected to this story. Ivy Milbourn's summer before her senior year of school is not going as planned. Ivy is struggling trying to find her calling in life and feeling the pressure of the legacy in her family. Milbourn women are known for being artistic and dying tragically young. This is a lot of pressure for Ivy, who feels she is only "mediocre" at everything she does. I think a lot of readers, including me, will be able to connect to her struggles of not feeling good enough with her talents or things that she does.

Ivy's mother left when she was very young, so she grew up with just her Grandad. When her mother returns, with two young children or Ivy's half sisters, her life is turned upside down. This is such an inspiring story with family dynamics, dealing with the pressures of life, and learning to be who you are. It has a good message that you don't have to be what everyone else thinks you are. Is this a book with a lot of action? No. However, it is a really beautiful coming of age story that really stuck with me after I read it.

I especially loved the romance in this story. Ivy's love interest, Connor, is just a truly nice person. It was really nice to see a love interest in a story that was just so goodhearted, kind, and supportive. I also liked that the romance did not carry the entire plot or take over the story either.My favorite part of this story was just the character of Ivy - she wasn't perfect, but she was strong and knew how to stand her ground. No matter what her best friend Alex would say about them being romantic, she stuck with her decisions. I loved that about her and I think that makes her an inspirational role model for young girls reading this. There is also some feminism mixed in this book with Ivy's friend, Claire.Ivy's character and voice was written so well, it practically felt like I knew her and she was a friend of mine.

Wild Swans is a really feel-good book with realistic friendships, romance, and family. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys YA coming of age stories.
Profile Image for Lelia Nebeker.
125 reviews23 followers
January 27, 2016
I can't really express how much I loved this book because the things that were so great about it are hard to pinpoint (but basically everything). There were so many times while I was reading that I just had to stop and revel in the beauty of it, whether it was the characters, the dialogue, or Jessica Spotswood's overall skill at executing it all so flawlessly.

Elegant prose, a simmering romance (two words: tattooed. poet.), and a protagonist who is a role model for women of all ages, 'Wild Swans' is a marvel in every aspect. Like she did in her 'Cahill Witch Chronicles' series, Jessica Spotswood doesn't rely on romantic tension to drive the plot. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) Instead of revolving around the "will they/won't they?" suspense, 'Wild Swans' keeps you glued to the page because of Ivy's evolution as a character--and what a transformation it is. Somewhere between her best friend Claire's sassy self-esteem PSAs and struggling to cohabitate with her estranged mother, Ivy becomes a feminist heroine for the modern reader. Honestly, it was a little disconcerting to realize how much I could learn from a character 10 years younger than myself, but Ivy is one of those characters that sticks with you long after you've finished the book. 'Wild Swans' is not just about finding your voice, but having the courage to use it.
Profile Image for Paula Stokes.
Author 14 books1,153 followers
March 9, 2016
Filled with complicated relationships and streamlined but evocative prose, Wild Swans is the kind of thoughtful, summery book you'll want to savor under starry skies or read on a porch swing with a glass of lemonade nearby. This compelling story of a girl trying to figure out who she is and who she wants to be vs. who everyone else expects her to be manages to feel both fresh and like a timeless classic.

Highly recommended for Sarah Dessen fans.
Profile Image for Jason.
109 reviews10 followers
January 23, 2016
Compulsively readable, it's clear that Spotswood's writing style does not rely on any one genre to be successful. Fans of her Cahill books will fall in love all over again with sassy protagonist Ivy and her swoony boyfriend Connor. This is a book where you'll want to dive deep and not come up for air until you're finished. Enjoy!
Profile Image for Sophie.
1,235 reviews445 followers
January 29, 2021
I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher via NetGalley. This in no way impacted on my view.

Being a Milbourn woman, Ivy has known from a young age she was expected to have an extraordinary life. From her great-grandmother down, the women in her family have been magnificent, but very troubled, and she feels lacklustre and mediocre that she is just good at everything, and not a prodigy in any particular ventures. Abandoned by her teenage mother, she's lived with her grandfather her whole life, and is starting to be comfortable with knowing her mother left her. But now, the summer before her senior year, her mother returns, along with her two younger half-sisters, who think she is their aunt, and it's clear her mam has never cared about her. Over the course of two weeks, can Ivy come to terms with her own life, and grow to understand her mam a little bit more?

I've been on a binge of overdue NetGalley arcs recently, and this was one I needed to read. I liked it, and read it all in a day, but if I'm completely honest, it was a bit blah. I mean, I'm writing this now less than two hours after I finished the book - which I only started about 12 hours ago, and did work around it - and I've already gone hazy on some aspects of it. Erica - the mam - was awful, and yes, I think the expectations of her father, and the grief she felt after her mother's suicide exacerbated it all, but her treatment of Ivy was abhorrent. Ivy was an okay character, nothing bad, nothing really exceptional about her, and I liked seeing her come to terms with being an older sister, and caring for Grace and Isobel in the short time she knew them. There was some romance with Connor, which again, was nice, but I hated the way Alex and Ivy's friendship imploded. There's also a range of diversity too, of gender, sexuality, and race, which was a pleasant surprise when I started it. All in all, it was an okay book - nothing special, but not bad either.
Profile Image for Wendi Lee.
Author 1 book470 followers
July 18, 2018
I was expecting more of a fairy tale retelling, but really enjoyed this novel. Generations of Milbourn women have excelled ... And then imploded. Ivy is growing up under the shadow of her grandmother and great grandmother, and feeling very inadequate. It doesn't help when her mother, who abandoned her as a toddler, wheels back into town with two other daughters.

Erica, her mother, is disparaging of Ivy and the grandfather who raised her. She doesn't want to be there, but Ivy makes a tentative attempt to befriend her estranged half-sisters.

An enjoyable read overall.
Profile Image for Kelly Gunderman.
Author 2 books77 followers
May 3, 2016
Check out this and other reviews on my young adult book blog, Here's to Happy Endings!

Wild Swans is a beautifully written contemporary about learning how to find yourself when you’re amid chaos and things that might cause you to lose track of who you are. It’s such a nicely crafted tale, full of emotions that will leave you thinking about long after you finish reading the book.

Ivy Milbourn’s family is full of women who have had amazing talents – painting, writing, music – you name it. All of the women for as far back as she can remember have been famous for one of their talents, except her mother, who while had a great talent for singing, is only known for how she left and abandoned her two year old daughter fifteen years before.

Ivy managed to grow up having a nice life – she was raised by her grandfather, who has encouraged Ivy to do any of the activities that she wanted to try – piano, dance classes, etc., in a hope to help her discover her talent like the other Milbourn women before her. However, Ivy can’t seem to find what she is good at – she feels barely adequate at everything she tries, and often like she will never be good enough to make her grandfather happy. Even so, he continues to love and support her, and the two have a very close relationship. Ivy also has a very close relationship with their housekeeper, Luisa, and her son, Alex. While Alex has always wanted to be more to Ivy than just her best friend, Ivy has never felt the same way about Alex.

Even so, Ivy is ready to spend her summer before senior year having a blast with Alex and her two best friends.

Until she gets the news from her grandfather – her mother is coming back home to stay for the summer – and she’s bringing her two daughters with her.

Ivy is instantly faced with a wave of feelings that she has difficulty sorting through. Her mother, who abandoned her when she was only two years old, is not only coming back, but bringing her two other children with her – children she stayed with and was a mother to.

To make it worse, upon arrival, Ivy’s mother informs her other to daughters that Ivy is their aunt. She isn’t pleased to see Ivy in the slightest, and isn’t afraid to make it known. While her mother spends her days drinking, passing out, and complaining about how horrible her life is, Ivy is left to take care of her two sisters, much to her dismay. All of this, without her best friend Alex, who is upset with Ivy for shutting him down again and telling him that she has a new love interest – Connor, one of her grandfather’s college students.

As Ivy wades through the rough feelings that she is forced to deal with, she learns a lot about her mother, as well as herself. She has to come to terms with the fact that maybe she really isn’t like the other Milbourn women in her family, especially her mother.

What I loved most about this book was the fact that it was centered around family. Sure, it has a nice little romance in there, but the majority of the book focused around Ivy, her grandfather, her mother, and her two sisters. It didn’t throw a whole bunch of different plots around and get confusing – it stayed on topic, and the story was amazing from page one.

Ivy’s character was beautifully written – we have a young girl, who has grown up feeling like she might never be good enough to fit in her family unless she has a talent like the other women before her. She has also grown up with the horrible knowledge that her mother has left her, and she will never really understand the reasons why. If that isn’t hard enough to deal with, throw her mother back in the mix, coming back home and bringing two other children with her – children she didn’t abandon and walk away from. That’s a difficult situation, and you could say that you couldn’t imagine how Ivy would feel, but Jessica Spotswood did a marvelous job conveying Ivy’s emotions through her writing, and you could feel the pain that Ivy felt as she dealt with everything.

There wasn’t a lot of romance, but there was kind of a love triangle. Ivy’s friend Alex was in love with her for a long time, but Ivy didn’t feel that way and kept telling Alex how she really felt, which caused them to argue through most of the book. However, Ivy did meet Connor, a student of her grandfather’s at the college, and instantly developed feelings for him. It was a nice, sweet romance that didn’t overtake the main plot of the story, and for that it was fantastic.

Ivy’s sisters have two very different personalities – and Ivy wants to get to know them both. Her youngest sister hangs on Ivy and wants to spend as much time as she can with her, while her fifteen year old sister doesn’t want anything to do with much of anything. Ivy’s mother had a lot of issues that caused her to make so many mistakes, including leaving Ivy behind when she was only two years old, and never once contacting her in fifteen years.

This book really was amazing. Wild Swans would make a wonderful summer read, so if you like YA contemporaries (especially those involving family issues), you definitely can’t miss this one!

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Sarah Jude.
Author 1 book177 followers
February 25, 2016
Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I really wasn't sure what to expect when I read the summary of Spotswood's WILD SWANS. Was it a mystery? A ghost story? Something else altogether? The one thing I did know was that I had to read it.

It didn't disappoint.

The Milbourn women have a complicated history of premature deaths and abandonment, but during their brief lives they manage greatness. Except for the narrator, Ivy, who feels as if she is only average and therefore not enough. She has been raised by her grandfather after her mother left, doomed by her wasted talent and alcoholism, and while Ivy loves her grandfather, she struggles with feeling as if he truly loves her or if he just loves the idea of what she could be. Ivy doesn't know what she could be. When Ivy's mother returns home bringing two younger sisters, Ivy's plans for the summer take a new direction, and in that direction, Ivy finds herself with her first relationship, first time being a sister, first time being a daughter, first time being herself.

Spotswood creates a realistic protagonist facing self-doubt and questions of who she wants to be in the face of feeling as if whatever she chooses can't possibly live up to her family's legacy. While she's not indecisive, she's timid about her decisions until pushed. Throughout the book, Ivy is routinely pushed--by her grandfather, by her jealous best friend, by her now-returned mother, by her insolent younger sister--and the reader feels Ivy's frustration with her situation and herself because she feels she cannot speak up for herself. This is not to say that Ivy is frustrating--she's not. She's allowed to go back and forth in her feelings because she is sorting them out for herself, and the reader happens to be along for that right. Ultimately, WILD SWANS is about finding yourself and understanding that family and friendships are complex. They rise and fall, and sometimes they fly.
Profile Image for Alicia.
71 reviews50 followers
March 7, 2016

Okay. This was such a cute book. The entire time I felt like I was reading a little snippet of someone's life and it actually felt real. I connected with the MC's on many different levels and the ending had me tearing up so bad it was lovely.

Ivy Milbourn is a brilliant teenager who lives with her granddad. Her mother, Erica, abandoned them both when Ivy was very young. Ivy has a very famous yet crazy family history. The Milbourn's are known for their "special talents". Ivy struggles to find hers, if she has one.
Out of nowhere, Ivy is told her mother will be living with them for the summer, as well as her two daughters. She has sisters. This is crazy news, and then the drama begins.

Ivy goes through a lot, dealing with her alcoholic mother, trying to develop a relationship with her two sisters, losing a best friend, finding love, and balancing her school and swimming and pressure to be as good as all the Milbourns. UGH. Sounds crazy, right? How does she do it..

I loved this book for many reasons. It felt very real, the family drama, high school girl problems, and love interest. I read half the book in one day cause I really wanted to know what happened next in Ivy's drama-filled life. And this all happened within 10 days. I was shocked about that. Felt like since SO much had happened, it would've been longer but man, were they busy.

Definitely would recommend! Cute and entertaining. PS- I'm totally in love with Connor and the image I have in portrayed of him in my brain. *swoons*
-I received an ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review-
Profile Image for cassie wang.
160 reviews14 followers
May 8, 2016
Wild Swans was a surprisingly quick read for me. Lately I've been in a sorta reading slump, as in starting a ton a books but not really finishing them. However I finished Wild Swans in a record two days. (at least a record for me lately)

The story was engrossing and the main character, Ivy was so relatable. Her struggle in trying to live up to her grandfather's expectations really spoke to me. Once I got into the plot of Wild Swans I had a hard time putting it down..

I also liked the backstory about the Milbourn women, and how they were dazzling but then crashed and burned. I found that the parts of the book that talked about Ivy's ancestors were by far my favorite. The Milbourn women add an extra layer of mystery and intrigue to this contemporary.

I particularly liked how the book ended, not exactly a HEA (happily ever after) but at the same time everything felt liked it'd be all right.

If your looking for a contemporary read, I'd say Wild Swans is well worth the time.
Profile Image for Theresa.
30 reviews55 followers
June 29, 2016
I picked this book up because several people I know have had nothing but good things to say about it! I'm so glad I did, I just loved this book!!!! (I have to admit that contemporaries are not my usual genre of books to read, but I must say that I have read several this year and have loved most all of them! Obviously I have been missing out!)

Ivy is struggling with living up to her family's expectation (mostly her Grandfather) vs what she wants to do. And throw in her mom showing up after many years with 2 daughters, Ivy has a lot to deal with. Fortunately she has some great friends to help with deal with things! I loved the relationships between Ivy and her friends!! We all need friends like that in our lives!
I think deep down, Ivy knew what she wanted, it just took the help of friends and her boyfriend to realize it and have to courage to say it!
This book dealt with a lot of current issues - gender identity, body shaming, typical teen stuff (boyfriends, parties, alcohol) which I felt were handled in a pretty realistic way.

as I said, I loved this book. (it even had me in tears at one point!)

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