May 03, 2016

Summer of changes

By Jessica Spotswood
Review by

Wild Swans swings from dream summer to mega-bummer and back again.

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After growing up under the long shadow of her absentee mother and dealing with her grandfather’s lofty expectations, Ivy is looking forward to a brain-dead summer before her senior year. Those plans go right out the window when her mother turns up with intentions to move back into the family home along with her two new kids. Readjusting to this bombshell cramps Ivy’s style, and it only gets worse when her mom pretends that Ivy is her sister, calling her “Aunt Ivy” in front of the new children. Wild Swans swings from dream summer to mega-bummer and back again.

If the plot twists and a multigenerational family curse get a little snarled from time to time, they don’t drag things down. The pleasure here is getting lost in Ivy’s enormous house, with its widow’s walk and library and carriage house, and hanging out with her friends and not one but two potential love interests. There’s a mere sketch of a subplot about one friend’s younger sibling who is showing signs of gender variance—much to the family’s Southern small-town consternation—that is handled with insight and grace.

The town of Cecil is like a character itself, cozy enough so that you know your neighbors, and they darn well know you’re not your mother’s sister. (The scene where a well-meaning bookstore worker outs Ivy to her sisters may be tough news for them, but it’s still a riot to read.) Rich in atmosphere, Wild Swans is also a touching look at a family struggling with a big question: Can you break free of your past and still honor its traditions?

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Wild Swans

Wild Swans

By Jessica Spotswood
Sourcebooks Fire
ISBN 9781492622161

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