REVIEW: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton


Catherine Doyle chose The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender as one of her favourite books to be read by our book club. I can definitely see why Cat chose this book as one of her favourites. Her novel Vendetta is all about family, and Ava Lavender is the ultimate family saga. The relationships between siblings and parents and children is what really resonates about this story – it keeps a very magical and surreal plot tied firmly into reality.

One of my favourite things about this book was the length of the timeline. The author isn’t afraid to go back to the very traces of the family history, long before the real plot happens, and the gamble works. The writing is so lovely that it carried the book and kept me reading, even without any payoff in sight. The plot doesn’t kick off of a long time, but when it does I felt like I’d earnt it. The emotions of the characters hit hard, because you’re so invested in their lives and family.

I love the detail and sheer attention to worldbuilding that clearly went into this story. It feels so lifelike that at times I forgot it was fiction and not an autobiography. That’s how real and true the magic feels.

It also has one of the most tragic endings I’ve ever read: I think it’s going to haunt me for a long time.

I wouldn’t say it’s one of my all-time favourites, because I tend to be drawn to plot-driven rather than character-driven stories; however it was a lovely read that I can see myself going back to in the future. It’s not really a YA, in my opinion. It covers so many characters from childhood to adulthood that it can be read by people of any age, and everyone will get something different out of it.

I reviewed The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender for my book club, The Whackademics. You can read the rest of the reviews by Alice Oseman, Catherine Doyle, Louise O’Neill and Sara Barnard here, and find out what our magical powers would be! 

Published by Lauren James

Lauren James is the twice Carnegie-nominated British author of many Young Adult novels, including Green Rising, The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker and The Loneliest Girl in the Universe. She is a RLF Royal Fellow, freelance editor and screenwriter. Lauren is the founder of the Climate Fiction Writers League, and on the board of the Authors & Illustrators Sustainability Working Group through the Society of Authors. Her books have sold over a hundred thousand copies worldwide and been translated into six languages. The Quiet at the End of the World was shortlisted for the YA Book Prize and STEAM Children’s Book Award. Her other novels include The Next Together series, the dyslexia-friendly novella series The Watchmaker and the Duke and serialised online novel An Unauthorised Fan Treatise. She was born in 1992, and has a Masters degree from the University of Nottingham, where she studied Chemistry and Physics. Lauren is a passionate advocate of STEM further education, and many of her books feature female scientists in prominent roles. She sold the rights to her first novel when she was 21, whilst she was still at university. Her writing has been described as ‘gripping romantic sci-fi’ by the Wall Street Journal and ‘a strange, witty, compulsively unpredictable read which blows most of its new YA-suspense brethren out of the water’ by Entertainment Weekly. Lauren lives in the West Midlands and is an Arts Council grant recipient. She has written articles for numerous publications, including the Guardian, Buzzfeed, Den of Geek, The Toast, and the Children’s Writers and Artist’s Yearbook 2022. She has taught creative writing for Coventry University, WriteMentor, and Writing West Midlands.

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