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Review: Wild Swans

Wild Swans - Jessica Spotswood

I received a copy from Netgalley.


A very enjoyable, well written coming of age YA novel with a theme of summer and family. Tells the story of 17 year old Ivy Milbourne who lives with her well known and respected in town grandpa. The Milbourne family is an old family which goes back for many generations and has sparked a legacy of brilliant women who all seem to be exceptionally talented and have something heartbreakingly tragic happen to them.


Ivy doesn’t quite know where she fits into this legacy. Her mom left when she was a baby and never came back. Ivy’s tried many different things but can’t seem to find a particular “gift” that she excels at. She’s pretty good at poetry and swimming but not to epic standards. She’s very middle of the road and trying to find a way to make her grandpa proud of her. Her plans for the summer are relaxing and having fun with her friends before senior year starts.


Until her mom shows up again with two younger children – bratty 15 year old Isobel and sweet and innocent 6 year old Gracie. Erica the mother pretty much moves to the top of my list in the Worst YA Parent award. She’s horrible and a gigantic bitch from the moment she appears – even introducing Ivy to her new children as their aunt rather than their older sister. She does of course, have REASONS for this. She’s beyond selfish, she yells, she swears and she drinks like a fish.


The grandfather is a very well respected professor and a calming presence, but can be quite demanding in a not even realising he’s doing it way. Ivy finds herself in the middle of all this drama. She’s got new responsibilities of handling her younger sisters. And to top it all off, the grandad says one of his students will be working with them this summer, transcribing some journals from the Milbourne famous and tragic grandmother who also wrote great poetry and something from her collection is about to be published or commemorated. In comes gorgeous poetry mad Conner. And Ivy falls head over heels.


It’s very realistic and a beautiful portrayal of growing up in a tiny town with a family legacy to uphold. Ivy shows some remarkable restraint in dealing with all this new drama thrown her way. New sisters to deal with, her struggles to understand her mom and her behaviour and why she left, one of her best friends starts behaving like a total asshole when she starts to get closer to Conner, and then there’s her feelings for him. While all at the same time she’s screaming inwardly and barely seems to know how to handle it all. Ivy shows some remarkable character growth throughout the novel.


The family drama is moving and the arguments which in one terrible incident spill out in public making things all the worse. It can be very uncomfortable to read, the mother’s piss poor attitude towards Ivy and her grandpa particularly.  The siblings find their way towards each other, Gracie is adorable, Isobel is fifteen and away from everything she knows and she acts like a stroppy brat. But even Isobel by the end grows tremendously as a character. Ivy’s romance with Conner is sweet and believable. A tad more insta-lust than insta-love but it’s interesting to see how they work together with the family drama and Ivy’s friends and Connor’s friends and their different circumstances. Very maturely handled.


A very good, very enjoyable read.


Thank you to Netgalley and Sourcefire Books for approving my request to view the title.