GoodReads): font-family: Georgia, serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 19px; text-align: left;">This thoroughly compelling, gorgeously told tale, begins as the weather turns warm enough to swim in the local lake, twelve-year-old Ava is looking forward to a lazy summer, and her crush, Jeff is most definitely taking notice of her. Everything is going beautifully. Until Ava starts to grow feathers—all over her shoulders, arms, and back. Horrified, mortified, and clad in a hoodie, she hides out in her bedroom missing her dead mother and worrying about the summer, and the rest of her freakish life. Carolyn Turgeon has a gift for imagining magical worlds. In Ava’s case, this other-worldly place belongs to the Swan Maidens, one of whom is Ava’s mother. Ava goes back and forth between middle school and this magical realm taking the reader along for an exhilarating, extraordinary ride.
And here's what I thought: Beautiful. Imaginative. Dreamy. Lovely.
As you can see from the above summary, Ava's life seems to be progressing smoothly ... until she gets closer to her thirteenth birthday and starts to grow feathers. These are no ordinary feathers; they are soft, beautiful, swan feathers. And from that point on, Ava's life takes a turn into the mysterious/magical, as she discovers more about not only her mother, but about herself.
Ava's a well-written character --- she's a believable 12 year-old, with her emotions sometimes on a bit of a rollercoaster, just over a boy she likes (not to mention the whole feather thing). Lucky for her, she's got a good best friend (even if she's a bit odd at times), and a supportive father. She's annoyingly impulsive at times, but at the same time, pretty thoughtful about what she begins to learn about the Swan Maidens.
I also liked how the author gives us a different twist on the whole growing-older-you-are-changing time of life that we experience at 13 (or around that age). The early teenage years are a period of sometimes turbulent changes (physical, emotional, etc.) -- and here, the twist is that Ava is changing into something completely unique. It's definitely a different way of approaching that period in a girl's life -- and what I really appreciated was that Ava doesn't berate herself for being different. At first, she's not that happy about her looks, especially compared to the popular girls at school, then understandably, begins to panic when the feathers start coming in. However, when she discovers the power that lies in her feathers, and understands what it is to be a swan, she then embraces who she is. Her change is what makes her feel powerful. That's positive -- and that's a powerful message to girls reading this book. Her change also makes her view some of her other classmates differently; if she has this magical secret, maybe someone else does, too. Just the idea is something exciting (and imagine if that kind of thing could explain someone's behavior, for example).
As with all of Carolyn Turgeon's books, this book is beautifully written. She has a way of being descriptive without sounding too overwrought or flowery, and she's got an even pace throughout this book, steadily building towards the ending. However, Turgeon doesn't take things too seriously -- there is an absolutely awesome scene in the book where Ava changes into a swan in front of her best friend, and then proceeds to start honking at her. Loudly. Or here's another example, earlier in the book, when Ava is still growing her feathers: "Imagining herself, suddenly, covered in white feathers, her black hair piled on top of her head, riding around on the top of an elephant. The crowds would laugh and roar and applaud as she guided the elephant around the ring. Maybe she'd stand on the elephant's back and wave a baton with tassles on the end the whole time. Tassles on fire." (p 39)
As Ava is twelve (almost thirteen), I think this book would be loved by younger teens -- but I think it would be an enjoyable book for older teens, and adults, to read, especially for those readers who like a bit of magic in their storytelling.
First sentences: It started with a feather. One little white rounded feather resting on her pillow. Ava didn't think much of it, though, considering that it was a bright Sunday morning and there were only three weeks left of school and in just over a month she would turn thirteen and the whole summer stretched out before her like a long shimmering gift.
Thoughts on the cover: Absolutely perfect. It doesn't get better than this --- beautiful imagery that perfectly suits the story; eye-catching without being too distracting.
And a few additional comments: I will admit that I have a bit of an author crush on Carolyn Turgeon. It all started when I picked up a copy of Rain Village from my library, and got completely caught up in the book (I'm planning on re-reading and posting a review soon). Then, I saw that a new book (2011) would be coming from her, Mermaid -- and I quickly ordered a copy for my library (of course, planning to try to get my hands on it before anyone else. Selfish librarian, I know). I loved Mermaid --- gulped it down and posted my review ..... and then, went a step further. Contacted the author, with a gift I made her of a mermaid necklace that I made for her (with a pendant, flourite stones and pearls). I was a bit amazed at my own audaciousness (because I have never, ever done something like that). And ---- she was so gracious about it all, and sent me a book.
And then, sent me this book. When I opened the envelope and saw this book, I did a little happy dance ... and I just felt so special. Thank you, Carolyn!!!