Title: Wild Swans
Genre: YA Contemporary
Publication Date: May 3, 2016
Format: Library Kindle book
Synopsis: Ivy Milbourn has a famous and “cursed” family history in her small town. All the previous women had various talents, but meant sad and shocking endings. She doesn’t exude a specific talent and she worries if this “family curse” is true. But during this summer before senior year, she’s got plans that get interrupted by her mother, who abandoned her, returning to live with her and her grandfather. She also has two half sisters that she never knew.
Plot: For the first 45% of this Kindle library book, I was completely sucked in. Contemporaries aren’t my cup of tea and something I never reached for previously. But this was an interesting family drama about a girl who fears the expectations of her grandfather, whose very determined to find out what Ivy’s talent is. She’s also still deeply hurt by how her mother abandoned her and never bothered to do anything with her.
But at at the halfway point, the book slowed down at an awfully slow pace. Nothing happens until the last 15% of the book. You’re getting pages of Ivy being rude, degrading her friends and fighting her grandfather. Then that last section hits and it’s one thing right after the other until the last page. I feel like the author was getting distracted by writing tons of material focusing on Ivy, then realizing that she needs to end it. The ending was rushed and I think that if the stuff at the end was at about the middle, the ending could fill out and show the consequences of the events in a more realistic way. The way the characters changed at the end, while can be realistic for some people, didn’t feel quite right for me. It felt like flat storytelling for me.
Characters: By the end of the book, the only people I cared about were Ivy’s two half sisters Grace and Isobel. They were very fleshed out and had great moments to show their personality. But they were the only ones that made me feel any connection. Everyone else read as either their trope they were attached to, or pushed to the side to allow other characters to bog the story down. Claire was just the major feminist character who wasn’t respectful, not very thoughtful. Abby was nice but was only the quiet friend who also had a family problem. Ivy’s grandfather was just the professor who had major expectations. While I liked him, the author never let him grow throughout the story. Erica was just an awful mother with real back story or time to show any emotion besides anger.
Ivy as a character started out as a great girl, who loves her grandpa and has a good head on her shoulders. She’s hurt by her past and tries very hard not to let her mother get under her skin. But as the book went on, she started becoming like her mother, which she didn’t want to do. She was rude, blaming the wrong people for things that happened, not communicating how she felt when needed and never got back on track. I didn’t like that she blamed her best friend Alex for a small thing that happened. She had chosen her friend Claire to do something, and when something goes wrong, she completely blames Alex and yells at him. She doesn’t blame Claire and says “Oh it’s ok” when Claire was going gaga crazy over a boy and gossiping with people. That read to me as awful. Claire should’ve been talked to since she didn’t fulfill her promise. Alex was present, but didn’t watch what happened.
The male characters were both biracial and had some great personality traits, but they were pushed to the side and basically ignored for parts, if not big sections of the story. Alex is the best friend of Ivy, who understands her past and always tries to make her feel better. He was unrequited feelings for Alex, but after she denies him and starts being mean, he just storms off and things don’t go as you might hope. He got no more development for the rest of the book. Instead, she falls for the intern student Connor that her grandpa adores.
Connor is a good guy who loves poetry and does offer some good advice to Ivy. He does listen very well and they mostly communicate. But there’s a trope that I personality loathe and it happened between him and Ivy in this book. It’s the “having a serious conversation, then decides to have sex.” It felt o out of place and made the serious conversation feel ignored and useless. The love triangle in this book was completely unnecessary in my opinion.
Writing: Spotwoods’s writing style wasn’t too bad. I did like how she described this small town setting and word choices. While the pacing and storytelling didn’t work for me, I’ll give her another try.
Overall: This story felt too long with flat storytelling, underdeveloped characters and way too many current issues crammed into this book that’s less than 350 pages. She tried to tackle too much and I think that people who are looking for more well balanced contemporary books will be disappointed. I also recommend this for older readers, since the more complicated issues and profanity could turn some readers off. If you want to try it, I would see if your local library has it. While it’s not awful, I was sad that the last half failed compared to the first half.
If you’ve read this book, comment and let me know. I’m in the minority on Goodreads for this book, but that’s how the cookie crumbles. I can see how some people do love this story, but my personal preferences are different than others. I am planning on reading more contemporary books. Hopefully I’ll have luck with other ones.