Title: Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
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…
Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood is a thought-provoking journey of self discovery for seventeen year old Ivy Milbourn. A beautifully written, realistic young adult novel, many of the story’s underlying themes are sure to resonate with readers of all ages.
Ivy’s perfect summer comes to a screeching halt before it has even begun. Instead of the carefree summer she has planned, Ivy is stunned to discover her long absent mother Erica and her stepsisters, Isobel and Grace, are temporarily moving in with her and her beloved grandfather. Ivy has not seen Erica since she abandoned her when she was two years old and their reunion is fraught with tension. Reeling from her mother’s animosity and well-aimed barbs, Ivy is soon plagued with doubts and insecurities about her inability to live up to her grandfather’s expectations.
Despite her mother’s abandonment and the Milbourn women’s complicated legacy, Ivy is fairly happy and well-adjusted. She has a good relationship with her granddad but she feels like her best efforts are never good enough for him. Tired of always striving to reach unattainable (and unrealistic) goals, Ivy has convinced him to let her take the summer off from the many classes and extracurricular activities she is usually enrolled in. Erica’s reappearance resurrects Ivy’s unanswered questions about why her mother left her yet chose to raise her sisters.
Already feeling incredibly vulnerable and exposed, Ivy is distraught when her close friend Alex Garcia deserts her after she refuses to date him. Hurt and angry, he is deliberately cruel to her once he realizes she is interested in Connor Clarke, one of her granddad’s students. Understanding all too well the difficulties in stepping out from under the weight of family expectations, Connor encourages Ivy to be true to herself.
As the situation with Erica worsens, Ivy’s frustrations spill over into some very heated arguments. Although not indecisive, Ivy has a hard time speaking up for herself. Feeling pressured by her granddad and her mother, she finally works up the courage to tell Erica a few hard truths about how her poor decisions are affecting their family. She is finally honest with her granddad about her feelings of inadequacy in trying to live up to his high expectations. Most important, Ivy confronts Alex about his hurtful behavior and although her efforts do not have the outcome she hoped for, this is an important step in taking charge of her destiny.
Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood is a captivating novel that is remarkably free from angst or unnecessary drama. The characters are multi-faceted with relatable flaws and imperfections. The storyline is realistic with true to life issues and problems to overcome. Ivy’s frustrations with feeling inadequate are believable and I suspect many readers will empathize with her plight. I highly recommend this delightful young adult novel to readers of all ages.