Thursday, August 18, 2016

Ehh Story, Great Societal Topics | Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood

This book didn't really work for me, but at the same time, I loved writing about it! It felt like a chunky review when I posted it on Goodreads, so I did that bold key remark thing that I usually don't do. It seemed to fit this review...

*I received an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
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….

*Released May 3rd 2016 from Sourcebooks Fire*

I can't exactly say that I liked Wild Swans, though I still feel that three stars is the most fitting rating. There were parts of it that I sure liked--and appreciated--but the book as a whole did not work for me. I almost DNFed it in the beginning and was unimpressed with the ending. The middle was okay. The story picked up a little, but still not enough for me to say that I liked the book.

The writing was a huge issue for me! This could've been due to my mood, but it read stilted. In the beginning, there didn't seem to be enough variety in the sentence length. Maybe there wasn't enough variety in the structure either, but I'm not sure. It felt like I was reading short sentence after short sentence after short sentence, and sometimes I do REALLY like that, but only if it's done in a purposeful, artistic way. Despite the focus on poetry, though, the writing wasn't poetic. It's possible that I read this one at a bad time because I was practically craving beautiful writing. Instead, I got something plain and awkward. It was underwhelming. I almost DNFed because of it, but I found that the story was much easier to get into if I skim read.

There was one part of the book that stood out to me as great and that was the pockets of societal topics (focuses? issues?)! Below are some of the ones I had a lot of thoughts on.

  • Ivy clearly knew she was privileged and she was well aware that some of her thought processes were flawed, like being surprised that Conner was biracial. She didn't realize she made the assumption that he was white until she met him and she knew she shouldn't have done that.
  • Before the book started, Claire had revived a Gay-Straight Alliance club at her school and came out as bisexual. Because of the ignorant responses--being deemed a slut by her classmates--she became more passionate about sex education. She was interested in majoring in women's, gender, and sexuality studies and volunteered at a women's clinic. She was an AWESOME character with a personality that shone on the page. If only the rest of the book was as cool as her. I would've liked it so much more!!
  • There's a focus on feminism. One instance of this is when Claire called Alex out on his BS when he got angry at Ivy for making out with a guy while drunk. She wanted that and Alex had his fair share of hookups. So what the he'll was his problem? This points out that double standard of how reactions to girls hooking up is oftentimes different from the reaction to guys doing it.
  • There was a small focus on positive body image. Isobel dealt with some issues with that because her mom shamed her about her eating and weight. Other characters don't put up with that, so part of her journey in the book was becoming a bit more comfortable in her skin.
  • There was a very young transexual character (six or seven) that had a family that was struggling (or, in the case of the dad, refusing) to accept the fact that she was a girl. Abby (her sister) stumbled over her name--saying Eli then switching to Ella and then getting confused--and had a hard time because her dad would always get angry at the use of female pronouns. And of course problems with that were highlighted.
I know these parts weren't the Point, but I really liked that there were so many relevant topics addressed in this book. It was societally aware even though the core of the story was about mediocrity vs. extraordinary as well as family. These parts made reading the book worth it for me! I may not have liked the writing or connected to the character (which I didn't) or cared about the story (eh), but I sure did appreciate the inclusion of these topics. One thing I can't say is whether they're addressed well or whether the representation was good, but I hope they were?

There was one other part that I guess I liked. I didn't connect to Ivy--shakes fist at writing--but I related to her in the way that we both feel mediocre at everything and how we take that way harder than we should. It wasn't a strong sense of relation, but there was a moment where I went, "oh, THAT'S ME." I don't relate to many book characters in regards to feeling mediocre, so that moment was surprisingly nice to have.

Overall, Wild Swans was kind of a miss for me, though all the societal topics that it addressed felt like brain candy. I really liked reading those parts--I even stopped skimming whenever Claire and/or Ella made an appearance because that's when the book was good--even though they didn't make me like Ivy, the writing, or the story more. I still recommend this book because the writing could easily read very different for you and the story may be more suited to your mood. I can see this book going well for other readers.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Discussion Prompt
Wild Swans had some thought provoking elements, which bumped up my rating. But I still disliked other parts enough that the book was a miss as a whole. So, I'm wondering...

How much do thought provoking elements affect your rating of a book that you didn't care that much about?

Happy Reading! ~ Kaitlin ☺

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