Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date: May 3, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 304
Format: e-ARC
Source: NetGalley

Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon ◊ Barnes & Noble

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….

Quick Thoughts and Rating: 4 stars! I don’t think I knew exactly what to expect going in to this novel other than a good book because it was so completely different from Spotswood’s paranormal trilogy, The Cahill Witch Chronicles, where I originally fell in love with this author’s storytelling abilities and words. But I was right about the “good book” bit because this author’s first venture into young adult contemporary was nothing short of captivating.

Wild Swans was an emotional tale of one girl’s journey to discovering her self worth and shredding the thick coat of expectations placed on her by others.

Review: In this novel, we meet Ivy who has the great misfortune of growing up in a small town and being eclipsed by the legacy of women in her family that came before her; ones that were notably accomplished and then died far too young. Bearing the Milbourn name felt like a blessing and curse; destined to be great but to also die tragically. Well, not Ivy. She was smart, but not the smartest. Fast, but not the fastest. Talented, but not incredibly gifted like the other more famous Milbourn women. Much to her grandfather’s chagrin, and after spending all of her childhood testing different extracurriculars looking for the one “thing” that would make her extraordinary, she has finally admitted defeat and accepted that she’s exceptionally normal. And at long last, she’s finally talked her grandfather into a slow summer. The months before her senior year of high school will be filled of with no extras, only beaches, bonfires, and parties with friends. That is until her mother, the one she hasn’t seen since before her second birthday, swoops back into her life, bringing two young sisters she didn’t even know existed. Suddenly, this easy summer just got super complicated.

Just like with Spotswood’s witch trilogy, the majority of the plot is driven heavily by the characters. Yes, there is a romantic interest that when given page-time is wonderfully done, but most of the story focuses on the main character and the people that surround her. Due to the circumstances following her family name and the departure of her mother from such a young age, Ivy is very much a people-pleaser. Normally, I’m not terribly fond of those types of characters because it goes against my philosophy of life being too short so make yourself happy, but in this novel, it works well for Ivy’s character and it didn’t grate on my nerves like I expected it would. It also left enough room for her to develop and that growth lead to her discovering that she could put her foot down, she could choose for herself, and she could decide to pick her happiness over others. It was something that I really appreciated. There’s also several other characters introduced throughout, but if I spent all the time I would need for going through what I loved and hated about each of them, you might be bored with my words. Plus, I feel like they’re better experienced firsthand from the book. With that being said, I truly feel like Spotswood has a talent for capturing the complexity of people in all their multitude of strengths and flaws and using those personality traits to demonstrate the complicated relationship dynamics we have because of those. She also used her characters to give voice to important topics such as sexuality, race, body image, just to name a few of the many. She had a way of incorporating these with powerful messages that came across effortlessly and as natural part of the story without ever seeming preachy or forced. For the record, Claire, one of Ivy’s best friends, could totally be my best friend. She’s my soul sister, I think. I have a serious love and deep appreciation of her character.

Okay, and so maybe I have the teeniest tiniest complaint that she’d introduce someone as deliciously described swoony and awesome (I mean he’s a bi-racial poet with poetry tattooed on all over his body including but not limited to over his heart right above his washboard abs complete with “V” lines. Yes, please and thank you. Come on now!) as Connor and not have Ivy sitting in his lap and making out with him more. I understand that this story is more about Ivy coming to terms with her self-worth, plus dealing with her mommy baggage and the Milbourn namesake expectations, thus making the romantic interest more background noise, but I’d be a liar liar pants on flaming-hot fire if I didn’t say I missed him for every single scene he was absent from. More than that, I liked who Ivy let herself be when she was around him. I’m also not saying that his non-involvement in every page of the book didn’t play a part into my rating, but I’m not not saying that either. (Okay, so maybe I’m saying it was a tiny bit.)

But more than the basic non-issue mentioned above, my one star deduction really came into play with how extremely open-ended this novel felt. After the heart-wrenching journey I’d just experienced, I’d really become quite invested in seeing how all these relationships would play out. After the small conflict resolution (of sorts), I would have loved to have read maybe a tiny epilogue of them in the future just to get a glimpse of the life they would all lead after everything kind of blew up and marginally fell back together.

Overall though, it was the way this story made me feel that stuck with me more than anything else. This author totally reached inside my chest and tugged at my heart’s puppet strings, using her story to influence my emotions page after page, scene after scene. It was a quick read that held notes of angst, humor, and acceptance. Wild Swans portrayed all the best, worst, and in-between parts of family and friendships.

Teaser Quote: 

“Oh, I see,” I say again.

And I do. Clear as day. My mother’s been living two hours away, and she still couldn’t be bothered to come visit. To join us for Thanksgiving dinner. To cheer me on at one of my swim meets.

I’m not even worth a tank of gas.
~quote taken from an e-ARC of Wild Swans at 6%

Book Rating Breakdown
General Book Feels

Rec It? Yes. This novel touches on a lot of the ugly in life–town gossip, secrets, complicated relationships and troubling family dynamics–but that made the more beautiful moments stick out all the better. It was a short book that packed a mighty punch, and I think it briefly highlighted a few important topics that aren’t discussed enough. As always, I look forward to seeing what more Ms. Spotswood has in store for her readers in the future.

♥ A very special thanks to Sourcebooks Fire and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy of this title.

*Disclaimer: An eARC of these title was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. However, that did not influence this review in any way. All thoughts, quotes, and opinions will be of this version and not of the published edition.

Full of giggles, flails, snark and Southern endearments. Avid Reader. Lover of swoony boys, kickass heroines, yummy kissing scenes, and pretty prose.

I like to draw hearts in the sky (eternal optimist) and wish on stars (forever dreamer). Documentaries, sweet tea, sleep, and brightly colored knee-socks are a few of my favorite things. ♥

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