Book Review: Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood

Posted May 25, 2016 by Alexia in book review / 1 Comment

Book Review: Wild Swans by Jessica SpotswoodWild Swans by Jessica Spotswood
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on May 3rd, 2016
Genres: contemporary
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher

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….

Oh my goodness, this book exceeded my expectations in the best way possible. I cannot believe I almost didn’t request it. I’m really not sure what I expected, but stories about sisters, especially sisters that didn’t know about each other, are my jam. Add that to my unwavering love of dysfunctional families and you’ve got two reasons why this book called to me.

“Granddad says all the Milbourn women are extraordinary.”

Is Ivy’s granddad right, or is it more like one of his colleagues says. Are the Milbourn women cursed? Judy, a bookseller, says all the Milbourn women are crazy. Who’s right? Are they all right, in a way? After all, Ivy’s great grannother was killed along with two of her children. Dorthea, her daughter had a salacious affair with a married man, whose wife then murdered her. Granddad’s wife drowned herself and Erica, Ivy’s own mother took off when Ivy was only 2.

Claire is one of Ivy’s best friends and as much as I liked Ivy, I loved Claire. I made a joke that if she were ten years older, I would have married her. She may have been rebellious with sharp edges, but she was freaking awesome. Feminist to the core and stubborn. She believes in making choices and owning them. To Claire, there is no such thing as fate.

Ivy’s other best friend, Abby is a bit more calm about things. She doesn’t worry about things that are out of control. Her family has their own issues. Like her six year old brother, Eli, who has demanded to be called Ella, insisting upon wearing girly clothing. He insists that he is a girl. Abby’s having a hard time with it and her family is not okay with it. I loved that they had a six year old, possibly transgender (I’m not going to slap an official label on her) kid.

There was one character who I liked initially, but ended up disliking. It was Alex, Ivy’s third best friend who turned into a possessive asshole, especially when Ivy began seeing Connor, a student in one of her granddad’s classes. Ivy had stuck Alex in the friendzone, and despite her telling him she would never see him as anything but a friend, he kept trying to climb out of the friendzone.

When Ivy learns that her mother, who she hasn’t seen since she was a toddler, is coming back home along with two half sisters Ivy never knew about, Ivy doesn’t really have much of a choice to object, and that really bothered me. It felt like she was just agreeing because that’s what her granddad wanted from her. God forbid she disagree with him or fight against this, which is what I would have done.

Claire’s response to this news was very much in line with what I would have said.

“You don’t owe that woman a fucking thing, She left you.”

Abby on the other hand, was more forgiveness minded, and much less vulgar.

“Try to keep an open mind. Maybe she’ll surprise you.”

When Ivy’s mom, Erica arrives along with Ivy’s half sisters, Isobel and Grace, things instantly become more awkward and intense. I don’t think I have ever hated a mother this much before. Erica really was a terrible mother. Not only had she walked out on Ivy, but she was now policing every bit of food that went into Isobel’s mouth and that infuriated me, as well as Ivy.

“Iz could stand to lay off the chocolate-chip cookies.”

Seriously, what kind of a mother says that about her own child?

“Isobel’s curvy, not all angles like Erica and Gracie. But she’s not fat. Even if she was fat, who cares? It still wouldn’t be okay to police what she eats and shame her in front of everyone.”

And the idea that Isobel is on a diet infuriated me. I mean, come on, we all know why she’s on a diet. Her crazy mom probably PUT her on the diet.

“She’s beautiful the way she is. There is more to being pretty-or healthy-than being skinny.”

We also find out that Erica has told Isobel & Grace that Ivy is their aunt, not their sister and that infuriated me. What infuriated me more though, was that Granddad agreed to it. Seriously that was not okay, and I still wish Ivy had stuck up for herself about this. That was one of the things that drove me absolutely batty about Ivy.

As things heat up between Ivy and Connor, Alex gets more pissy about it. Seriously did not like that guy. He might as well have peed in a circle around Ivy while they were at a party. So not cool and the way he claimed he knew what she wanted and what was best for her. BARF.

“Let her alone.”

“Look, I don’t know who you are but I’d like to hear from Ivy what she wants to do.”

Three words: Thank you Connor.

Ivy struggled to put into words exactly what Alex was to her. After all, they had known each other pretty much their entire lives. Just because she wasn’t interested in him romantically, did not mean she didn’t want him in her life anymore.

“Do you want him to take you home?”

Ivy really doesn’t want to go home until she realizes what time it is. Then she realizes it’s past curfew. Breaking curfew is something she has never done. After all, she’s the good girl who does what she’s told to do without argument. On the way home, she uses a few choice words to let Alex know that it’s none of his business who she dates or even kisses. It’s also not her granddad’s place to say what she can or cannot do with Connor. Alex admits that he’s been waiting for Ivy to change her mind about him. He sounded so confident that she would change her mind, and that was another thing that bugged me about Alex.

“Nobody would treat you better than me. Nobody knows you better.”

“Maybe I don’t want somebody who already knows me.”

I was so happy when Ivy finally shot him down that last time. I was thrilled that it seemed she was finally finding her own voice, independent of the Milbourn legacy. But he still wanted to hurt her and given that he had known her for such a long time. he knew just where to hit her, metaphorically.

“For somebody who’s worked so hard to be nothing like your mother, you sure are acting like her a lot tonight.”

I was livid. That is not okay and all it did was make me hate Alex even more and I did not even think that was possible. Thank god for Claire though, because she swooped right in all protective best friend style. Alex was so indignant over Ivy kissing Connor and awesome Claire wouldn’t have it. She had a response for every whiny thing Alex said about it. Alex finally gave up and left, leaving Claire and Ivy alone.

“Claire, that wasn’t very nice.”

“I don’t give a shit about being nice.”

Yessss, I LOVE Claire. She went on to make sure that Ivy was actually into the kissing and that Connor hadn’t pushed her for more than she was ready for. Really, all teenage girls should have an awesome friend like Claire. Add on to the fact that she’s bisexual, and YAY some bi rep, even if Claire was technically a secondary character. She was even there for Isobel in the later part of the book and she dropped some truth-bombs on the girl, all of which I loved.

It was right around this time that the entire town found out that Erica was in town and that those two girls she had with her were here daughters, and Ivy’s half sisters. Things kinda went batshit insane after that. Isobel was angry at everyone, but most teens are annoyed by their parents anyway, and Grace was still a sweetheart to everyone. And Ivy, well she’s freaking out about the whole town knowing about Erica and the girls and now she’s also freaking out because her best is never good enough in her eyes and in the eyes of the Milbourn legacy.

About halfway through the book, I started to empathize with Erica. She had been so smothered as a teenager and I know for a fact that I would have never wanted to live like that, so in a small way, I couldn’t hate her anymore. Yes, she should have taken Ivy with her, but she didn’t. I got the feeling that Ivy also felt smothered sometimes and I’m honestly shocked that she had never taken off.

Holy crap, I think I’ve rambled about this book enough. I did really enjoy this book, the strong female friendships, dysfunctional family setting, but I really wish Granddad and Erica had gotten more character development. I desperately wanted to know more about the two of them. This book was really good overall and I’m glad I read it.

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