Reader Reviewed The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

Written by Leslye Walton

YA readers   All Shortlists and Winners   eBooks   
Download an extract Share this book

The Lovereading4Kids comment

Shortlisted for the Waterstone's Children's Book Prize Best Fiction for Teens Award 2015 - One of our Books of the Year 2014 - October 2014 Debut of the Month *** Suitable for 15+ as some explicit content An enormous family saga unfolds in this story shot through with magic that is helped on its way by lashing of luck – both good and bad – and a great many extraordinary and truly unexpected happenings. Ava Lavender, a girl born with wings which cannot be explained or hidden, charts the history of her family from its origins in nineteenth century France to poverty in Manhattan before a long, long journey to Seattle and a new start for a new generation – all before Ava is even born. Although Ava is the most unusual of her family there are many others who will surprise and entertain before the story is fully unravelled.

A Piece of Passion from Gill Evans, Fiction exquisite and mesmerizing story of love and desire told in an exceptional and wonderful way. The magical realism of her style is reminiscent of One Hundred Years of Solitude, but this family story and quest for understanding follows four generations from France to America. Foolish love has beset the Roux family for generations. For Ava Lavender, a girl born with the wings of a bird, it is a burdensome legacy. In her quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to be an ordinary sixteen-year-old girl, Ava ventures into the world. But in a world which may view her as
girl or angel, it is a dangerous place to be. On the night of the solstice, the skies open up, rain and feathers fill the air and Ava’s journey and her family’s saga reaches a devastating crescendo.

Reader Reviews

Teens love to read and so in addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Lovereading4kids Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title.

  • Emer O'Brien, age 16 - 'This book contains brilliantly written, beautiful storylines, all collected together like a book of pressed flowers, albeit slightly macabre ones...this book is gorgeously written, surprisingly thrilling and overall an exciting and mesmerizing read.' Read full review >
  • Alice Horncastle, age 14 - 'The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender really hooked me to another world, where anything can happen! The hugely complicated plot unfolded in such a simple yet attention grabbing way, fab!' Read full review >
  • Millie Windeler, age 15 - 'This book is exceedingly well written and an immaculately thought out story...It is a must have book for when you are looking for something a bit different.' Read full review >
  • Ciara McIlvenna, age 16 - 'A haunting yet beautiful tale of both the darkest desires and selfless sacrifices that love can cause us to make. A divine masterpiece. Walton has captured human emotion so purely in this novel.' Read full review >
  • Isobel Read, age 13 - 'The characters are now etched on my heart as this story went from climax to climax , making me cry many times along the way.' Read full review >
  • Aimee Sweet, age 13 - 'I knew this book was going to be good as soon as I turned the first page...I give this book, without any hesitation, a five star.' Read full review >
  • Rose Heathcote, age 14 - 'This book failed to grip me from the beginning but once in I started to enjoy the story but it was difficult to follow in parts.' Read full review >


The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

This is a mesmerizing, lyrical tale of the bright and dark sides of love and desire. Foolish love appears to be a Roux family birthright. And for Ava Lavender, a girl born with the wings of a bird, it is an ominous thing to inherit. In her quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to join her peers, Ava ventures into the wider world. But it is a dangerous world for a naive girl - a world which may view her as girl or angel. On the night of the summer solstice celebration, the skies open up, rain and feathers fill the air and Ava's journey and her family's saga reaches a devastating crescendo.

First-time author Leslye Walton has constructed a layered and unforgettable mythology of what it means to be born with hearts that are tragically, exquisitely human. This is a stunning literary young adult novel, won at auction, which marks the debut of Leslye Walton. Magical realism weaves through this generational saga which is reminiscent of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, with a taste of Chocolat.


Entrancing and sumptuously written. Publishers Weekly, starred review

This fantasy follows Ava Lavender's discovery of her one-of-a-kind self. Teen Vogue Recommended Read

Absolutely mesmerizing... This book is a wonder and completely took my breath away. Once Upon a Bookcase

About the Author

Leslye Walton

Leslye Walt on was born in the Pacific Northwest. Perhaps because of this, the author has developed a strange kinship with the daffodil – she too can only achieve beauty after a long, cold sulk in the rain. Her debut novel, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, was inspired by a particularly long sulk in a particularly cold rainstorm spent pondering the logic, or rather, lack thereof, in love – the ways we coax ourselves to love, to continue loving, to leave love behind.

Leslye Walton has an MA in Writing and lives in Seattle. When she’s not writing, she teaches
middle-school students how to read and write and, most important, how to be kind to one another, even on days when they don’t really feel like it. She is currently working on her next novel.

Q&A with Leslye Walton

Please describe The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender in ten words or less. Love can make us such fools.

Describe the writing process for the novel. How long did this book take to fully form? What is your writing process like as an author? This novel was a learning process. I was in grad school at the time, earning an MA in Writing from
Portland State University. Though I’d written short stories before, I had no idea how to write a long piece of fiction, and the plot developed as I wrote. I lived and breathed this novel, these characters, for two years. It consumed my life, but again, I was spending as much time learning how to write as I did actually writing. My stories are always very character-driven. For me, the writing process starts with getting to know the characters. I need to understand them, who they are, and what they care about before I can begin to formulate the plot. And usually it’s the characters themselves who tell me where the story is going to go, and not the other way around.

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is a debut novel. What does it feel like now that the book is being published? It feels surreal. I was driving to work when I got the call from my agent telling me we’d sold the book. I pulled over and had my first phone conference with my editor in an alleyway behind a car dealership. I kept looking around, thinking, Is this really happening? But as surreal as this whole experience has been, I’m also a teacher – I teach middle-school language arts – and my students are very good at keeping me grounded.

What are your hopes for the book, and what do you hope readers take away from it? I hope it means something. Although that might not sound very original – don’t we all hope the things we create will mean something?– it still remains true. I bought my favourite book, How to Make an American Quilt by Whitney Otto, at a book fair when I was fourteen. That book sat on my bedside table throughout high school. I brought it with me to college and then later to grad school. The binding of the book is torn, and the pages are yellowed. I can speak some of the lines from that novel as naturally as if the words had derived from my own head. I’d love for Ava Lavender to mean that to a reader. I hope that it speaks some kind of truth for someone – that it makes someone feel less alone, or more alive. I want readers to fall in love with
Ava. I want them to love her like I do.

More books by this author

Loading similar books...

Other Formats

Book Info


320 pages
Interest Age: From 14 years


Leslye Walton
More books by Leslye Walton

Author's Website

Author's Facebook Latest


Walker Books Ltd

Publication date

2nd October 2014




It’s a community united by a passion for books and promoting the best there is in children’s literature.

Sam Bateman and family

I love Lovereading as it provides an honest opinion and showcases a range of fiction. Suited to both parents & kids alike, it’s a must-use.

Georgie Rowe – age 16

We love Lovereading4kids because they put books in front of us we wouldn’t otherwise have read. They make us more adventurous readers!

Emily Jacques

We love Lovereading as my 5 year old loves to read new books before anyone else has a chance, she says it makes reading exciting!

Tracey Chorley

I love Lovereading4kids because I get an opportunity to put my opinion forward and to try new books

Elosie Clarkson – age 11

It is THE website to use for narrowing down your search for any book. Definitely knocks the socks off any other book review website.

Nickey and Tomasz Hawryszczuk

I love all the books they recommend & put up for me to review. I also love the fact that they give new authors the chance to share their boo

Daisy Pennock – age 15

It has introduced my children to books we hadn’t come across before. Real children’s reviews gives a great insight into what others think to

Lorraine Woods

Lovereading 4 schools