Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Review: Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood

Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood
Series: Standalone
Published: May 3rd, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
304 pages (eARC)
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult
Acquired this book: Via NetGalley in exchange for honest consideration
Warning: May contain spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy this book: Amazon || Chapters/Indigo}

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…

I’m not sure if Wild Swan’s synopsis changed from the original, but for some reason I went into this book thinking it was going to have elements of the paranormal. Maybe because of Spotswood’s Cahill Witch Chronicles, or maybe because I was expecting some sort of actual curse/paranormal reason for all the women in the Milbourn family to die young and tragically. And while I’m stating random facts, I’ll also add that I expected to enjoy this book but not love it. I don’t know why. Do you ever go into a book thinking ‘this sounds good, it’ll be a nice addition to my reading list, but my expectations aren’t that high’? It doesn’t necessarily make sense, but there are just some books like that, at least for me. Within a few pages of Wild Swans, I knew I was wrong. I was completely enthralled from the very beginning, and I didn’t want to put it down. Wild Swans is an amazing contemporary YA that has become a new favourite.

I adored Ivy. She was complex, flawed, and had a great voice. After her mother abandoned her when she was only two, her granddad raised her. While her granddad is great, he expects a lot from Ivy - the Milbourn women all have a gift, and he’s determined Ivy will not only find hers, but also be the best at whatever she does. It’s a lot of pressure, and since Ivy doesn’t want to disappoint him, she goes along with it, trying all these new things, taking classes, and filling every spare moment with activities that will help her find her gift. I was amazed by Ivy’s maturity and strength. Besides the suffocating pressure of her granddad’s expectations, she also had to live with being abandoned at a young age and never knowing why. So when her mother returns, bringing Ivy’s little sisters in tow - sisters she didn’t even know existed - things become even more complicated.

Wild Swans tackles a lot of serious subjects, and does it in a way that felt very authentic and never preachy. I’ve read a few books recently that touched on feminism, sexuality, and/or gender identity and had me rolling my eyes at times because it felt forced or contrived. Spotswood wove these elements in seamlessly and in a way that made me have a huge amount of respect for her. There was varied and authentic representation of diversity in general, which I loved.

This book had the perfect blend of compelling plot and complex characters. I appreciated that all the side characters had a purpose and weren’t just there as scenery. I love stories that deal with complicated, messy relationships, and Wild Swans had that in spades. It’s hard to go into details without getting into spoiler territory, but I was so impressed with the way Ivy’s relationships were handled, both with her friends and her family. There were so many scenes that frustrated me and made me ragey on her behalf. Parts of the book were difficult to read and absolutely broke my heart, but Ivy’s strength and her growth made me so proud. I felt like she was one of my best friends and I was watching all this happen and cheering her on from the sidelines. It wasn’t all heavy and serious though - there were scenes that were quiet and lovely, and scenes that made me smile or laugh. It had a great balance. 

Wild Swans captivated me from beginning to end. Full of dynamic and memorable characters and believable real-life situations, this is one of my new favourite coming of age stories. If you enjoy books about self-discovery and growth that deal with messy and often complicated but also beautiful family, friendship, and first love issues in an honest way, I highly recommend Wild Swans.

Have you read Wild Swans? What did you think? If you haven't read it, do you plan to? Do you like books that deal with messy family relationships and friendships?


  1. In the author notes at the end of this book, she mentions removing the ghost elements during editing. You're not the only one who has mentioned that the synopsis changed.

    I enjoyed this book, but it was kind of meandering and slow for me. It reminded me of Sara Dessen in that way. But it was still enjoyable overall.

  2. Well you've intrigued me. I always add books to my shelves that I think are going to be only OK. I love when they suprise me.


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