Book Review: Wild Swans

Wild Swans
Published By: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date: May 3, 2016
Page Count: 304
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via NetGalley
Audience: Young Adult - Contemporary

Ivy Milbourn has lived her entire life in the shadow of her family's legacy. Milbourn women are immensely talented, but often meet tragic ends. Her great grandmother was an award winning poet who was murdered. Her grandmother was a gifted artist who drowned herself in the bay, steps away from her house. The exact same house that Ivy has grown up in. That's a lot to deal with as everyone in town waits to see what Ivy will excel at while waiting to see how she will self destruct. The pressure to find her talent makes Ivy insecure as she feels that she will never be anything more than average. She has decided instead of taking college courses and various workshops for the summer that she wants to be a normal teenager. She plans to spend her time volunteering at the library, soaking up sunshine, and spending time with her friends.

Ivy's plans take a turn when her mother, Erica, shows up with Ivy's two sisters. Ivy has been raised by her grandfather who is estranged from her mother. Ivy has a few vague memories of life with her mom before she was abandoned, but she has lived the majority of her life without a mother figure. Ivy isn't sure she wants her mother around for the summer, but she is excited at the chance to get to know her younger sisters. The family relationships in this one were complicated and intense. I couldn't stand Ivy's mother and the way she treated everyone around her. She has some serious issues of her own to work through, but it was no excuse to treat Ivy and the other family members with such disdain.

In addition to her family relationships, Ivy also is navigating friendships and a new romance. I loved that there were positive relationships between Ivy and her female friends. These three girls are supportive of one another. I also appreciated that the novel focused on some major cultural issues such as slut shaming, transgender issues, and sexuality. There is a diverse cast of characters that will appeal to a wide audience.

The romance aspect was both frustrating and satisfying due to a love triangle. It's obvious from the beginning that Ivy's best friend, Alex, is in love with her, but Ivy only sees him as a brother figure. She makes it very clear that she does not see Alex in a romantic way, but he chooses to hold out hope. In the beginning, I loved Alex, in spite of his romantic intentions concerning Ivy. He just couldn't accept that she wasn't interested until Ivy begins to spend more time with Connor, a handsome poet who attends the local college. When Connor enters the scene, Alex becomes a character I couldn't stand. I didn't like that he threw away his years of friendship with Ivy because he couldn't handle her choices. I loved Connor and he certainly has book boyfriend written all over him.

The novel was partially inspired by a poem written by Edna St. Vincent Millay. I cannot speak on the allusions that may be present in Wild Swans as I have not read any of the poems written by Edna St. Vincent Millay. I will certainly be checking them out in the future.

One Last Gripe: The novel was intensely driven by characters and relationships. I was hoping for a little magical realism.

Favorite Thing About This Book: I loved the relationship between Ivy and Connor.

First Sentence: Granddad says all the Milbourn women are extraordinary.

Favorite Character: Ivy

Least Favorite Character: Erica

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….