Wild Swans is a beautifully written contemporary about learning how to find yourself when you’re amid chaos and things that might cause you to lose track of who you are. It’s such a nicely crafted tale, full of emotions that will leave you thinking about long after you finish reading the book.
Ivy Milbourn’s family is full of women who have had amazing talents – painting, writing, music – you name it. All of the women for as far back as she can remember have been famous for one of their talents, except her mother, who while had a great talent for singing, is only known for how she left and abandoned her two year old daughter fifteen years before.
Ivy managed to grow up having a nice life – she was raised by her grandfather, who has encouraged Ivy to do any of the activities that she wanted to try – piano, dance classes, etc., in a hope to help her discover her talent like the other Milbourn women before her. However, Ivy can’t seem to find what she is good at – she feels barely adequate at everything she tries, and often like she will never be good enough to make her grandfather happy. Even so, he continues to love and support her, and the two have a very close relationship. Ivy also has a very close relationship with their housekeeper, Luisa, and her son, Alex. While Alex has always wanted to be more to Ivy than just her best friend, Ivy has never felt the same way about Alex.
Even so, Ivy is ready to spend her summer before senior year having a blast with Alex and her two best friends.
Until she gets the news from her grandfather – her mother is coming back home to stay for the summer – and she’s bringing her two daughters with her.
Ivy is instantly faced with a wave of feelings that she has difficulty sorting through. Her mother, who abandoned her when she was only two years old, is not only coming back, but bringing her two other children with her – children she stayed with and was a mother to.
To make it worse, upon arrival, Ivy’s mother informs her other to daughters that Ivy is their aunt. She isn’t pleased to see Ivy in the slightest, and isn’t afraid to make it known. While her mother spends her days drinking, passing out, and complaining about how horrible her life is, Ivy is left to take care of her two sisters, much to her dismay. All of this, without her best friend Alex, who is upset with Ivy for shutting him down again and telling him that she has a new love interest – Connor, one of her grandfather’s college students.
As Ivy wades through the rough feelings that she is forced to deal with, she learns a lot about her mother, as well as herself. She has to come to terms with the fact that maybe she really isn’t like the other Milbourn women in her family, especially her mother.
What I loved most about this book was the fact that it was centered around family. Sure, it has a nice little romance in there, but the majority of the book focused around Ivy, her grandfather, her mother, and her two sisters. It didn’t throw a whole bunch of different plots around and get confusing – it stayed on topic, and the story was amazing from page one.
Ivy’s character was beautifully written – we have a young girl, who has grown up feeling like she might never be good enough to fit in her family unless she has a talent like the other women before her. She has also grown up with the horrible knowledge that her mother has left her, and she will never really understand the reasons why. If that isn’t hard enough to deal with, throw her mother back in the mix, coming back home and bringing two other children with her – children she didn’t abandon and walk away from. That’s a difficult situation, and you could say that you couldn’t imagine how Ivy would feel, but Jessica Spotswood did a marvelous job conveying Ivy’s emotions through her writing, and you could feel the pain that Ivy felt as she dealt with everything.
There wasn’t a lot of romance, but there was kind of a love triangle. Ivy’s friend Alex was in love with her for a long time, but Ivy didn’t feel that way and kept telling Alex how she really felt, which caused them to argue through most of the book. However, Ivy did meet Connor, a student of her grandfather’s at the college, and instantly developed feelings for him. It was a nice, sweet romance that didn’t overtake the main plot of the story, and for that it was fantastic.
Ivy’s sisters have two very different personalities – and Ivy wants to get to know them both. Her youngest sister hangs on Ivy and wants to spend as much time as she can with her, while her fifteen year old sister doesn’t want anything to do with much of anything. Ivy’s mother had a lot of issues that caused her to make so many mistakes, including leaving Ivy behind when she was only two years old, and never once contacting her in fifteen years.
This book really was amazing. Wild Swans would make a wonderful summer read, so if you like YA contemporaries (especially those involving family issues), you definitely can’t miss this one!
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About the Author
I heart books, board games, tea, the color pink, theatre, twirly dresses, and bells chiming the hour. I live in Washington, DC with my playwright husband and a cuddly cat named Monkey. I work part-time as a children’s library associate for the DC Public Library. I’m frighteningly enthusiastic.
I use GR to keep track of what I read and to recommend books that I really love.
If you’re interested in interviews or guest posts, please contact me at cahillwitch (at) gmail (dot) com. Thanks!
3 Finished Copies of Wild Swans – U.S. Only