Have you ever read a book that just completely ruins you for all other books?
Like, how do you go on after that book? Will anything ever be as good? Probably not.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt personally attacked by Kaz Brekker. Cos y’all, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo was that book for me. It destroyed me. I woke up with a brand new novel in my head the day after I finished it. It was the end of all things for me.
But, this post isn’t about that kind of a book. It’s about the kind of book that makes you do this instead:
Have you ever read a book that was so impossibly good that you immediately had to devour every book in sight just so you could find another one like it?
If you haven’t read The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton, go pick it up from your bookstore or library or wherever you get books, read it, and then come back to this post where, at the end, I’ll provide a short list (that will hopefully grow longer) of books to read next.
I started posting reviews for books at the end of 2017, which means I can’t link you to my original review of this book because it didn’t exist yet. It was published in March 2014, and I found it toward the tail-end of 2016. It was part of the first bookstack I purchased in my determined mindset to start reading more, and to do that, I was going to start reading YA, which I had always enjoyed, but for some reason had told myself all through college that I was not allowed to read because “I was an adult now.” (Spoiler: it worked.)
From Goodreads, the summary is:
Foolish love appears to be the Roux family birthright, an ominous forecast for its most recent progeny, Ava Lavender. Ava—in all other ways a normal girl—is born with the wings of a bird.
In a quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to fit in with her peers, sixteen-year old Ava ventures into the wider world, ill-prepared for what she might discover and naïve to the twisted motives of others. Others like the pious Nathaniel Sorrows, who mistakes Ava for an angel and whose obsession with her grows until the night of the Summer Solstice celebration.
That night, the skies open up, rain and feathers fill the air, and Ava’s quest and her family’s saga build to a devastating crescendo.
This is one of the most beautiful books written in regards to its language. It’s almost musical at times, and I felt myself getting swept up in the story purely by how it was told. The history of the Roux family is intertwined with the present of Ava’s story, and it feels like a fairytale from a far, distant land that you’re being told by the fire while snuggled into your grandmother with a mug of hot cocoa. (This has never happened to me, but that’s the kind of vibe I felt.) It’s full of both good and bad, normal and strange, triumph and devastation. Coming away from it, I’m in love with the story and its characters, yes, but more the language and the magic.
It very quickly became something of a staple in my reading life. After finishing it, I handed it to my friend, Jen, told her she had to read it, and a few weeks later, she came back to me starry-eyed and unsure of her footing in the world. We both needed more. We subconsciously set out on a hunt for the next Ava Lavender. What would make us feel so hungry for more and so devoured by the magic of words at the same time? It’s a paradox, this book. It satisfies you at the same time it makes you crave unbearably.
So, I did what any sane person does when confronted with this problem, and I kept reading as I had before, but with a little whisper in the back of my mind. Where is it?
Thus far, there are very few books that stand up to the caliber that is Ava Lavender. And that is what Jen and I call them. I’ll text her, I think I found another Ava Lavender, and she knows exactly what I mean. I hope to edit this post as the months pass and I continue to read more, hope to add more to it, but, for now, here are some books to read after you’ve been reborn and destroyed by Ava Lavender.
- When the Moon was Ours by Anne-Marie McLemore
- I’ll Give you the Sun by Jandy Nelson
- Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno
- All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater
Am I being a little dramatic? No. There is no other book out there in the world like Ava Lavender, and though these fill the hole a little, they always make me think of the first one that filled me with this longing.