Publisher's Note:  

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...

This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Sourcebooks Fire

Wild Swans

by Jessica Spotswood

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Overall Review:  

From fantasy to contemporary, YA author Jessica Spotswood claims a different genre with her latest work, Wild Swans. Within this new venture, Spotswood integrates hot topic issues in a compelling coming of age tale that is somewhat reminiscent of bestseller Jodi Picoult's work.

Lightning hasn't split the sky yet, but I can taste it coming. The air's so thick I could swim through it.


Goose bumps prickle my shoulders in spite of the heat. Lately it feels like a storm's coming even when the sky's blue. Like spiders crawling through my veins.

Told in first person, Ivy Melbourn veraciously illustrates how one season (or the span of two weeks, give or take) can change your life. Trying to live up to the lofty legacy of her forbearers has overachiever Ivy feeling inadequate and craving a slow down summer. But, a vacation is just not in the books as the season entails more than she could have ever expected when her estranged mother appears, with baggage that exceeds that of personal belongings.

My – mother?” The word feels foreign on my tongue, like one you read in books and know how to spell but never learn to pronounce.

Set within a scenic bay side town, the author uses illustrious imagery to set the stage for all the drama the characters bring to shore, and there is a LOT of drama! (Please see below for Mature Subject Matter.) With the protagonist having so many upheavals of her own, it seems exorbitant for the secondary characters to have their own set of large scale dilemmas. Sure, the author wants to be relevant to today's subject matter, but it appears that she took every current controversial topic and stuffed it into one novel. While some may appreciate the author's efforts to appeal to the masses, others may find the gorge, (interesting as it may be), overwhelming as it does little to move the plot or protagonist forward.

Although it does not have a storybook finale, the ending did come a bit abruptly and seemingly clean cut for a novel that willingly delves deep into contentious themes. Still, you can't argue that Spotswood is a talented writer.

The secret is out, but the house still feels like it's holding its breath.

I find myself sneaking around on tiptoe, wary of every creek and groan of the old floorboards. The sense of doom that descended the night of the storm, the night I found out Erica was coming back, still hasn't lifted.”

Enticingly progressive characters, intelligent prose, and sensuous subject matter, Wild Swans assures to be a hot story for young adults this summer.

Content Analysis:  

Profanity/Language:  33 Religious exclamations; 46 mild obscenities; 10 religious profanities; 15 derogatory names; 23 scatological words; 7 anatomical terms; 2 offensive hand gestures; 11 F-word derivatives.

Violence/Gore:  Report of automobile accident resulting in death (referred to a few times throughout novel); report of murder (referred to a few times throughout novel); report of suicide (referred to a few times throughout novel); report of injury; brief secondhand mention of parent dying in car accident; mention of childhood injury; report of gunshot inflicted injury; character reveals they were bullied and beaten up at school as a child; joke about murder; idle threat of property destruction; character has idle thought about being violent towards another person; parent scratches their teen causing minor injury.

Sex/Nudity:  Sexual references “knocked up”, “hooked up”, “slept around”, “one night stand” and “slut” are used a few times throughout the novel; report of extramarital affair (mentioned a few times throughout novel); underage character thinks about dating; report of unwed pregnancies; underage female character is said to be in a low cut dress exposing cleavage; a few mentions of attraction between female (17 years old) and an adult (19 years old); male looks at underage female's cleavage; character is reported to have been sexually reckless as a youth (mentioned few times); character mentions female friends' swimwear is revealing; female character compares her body to female friends' bodies, comments on chest; female imagines kissing male character; comment on adult female's revealing clothing; comment on previous kisses; mention of 15-year-old teen having boyfriend/girlfriend; character recalls an almost kiss; comment on male character coming out as gay; mention of male child (under 10 years old) identifying as a female; character teases another character about needing a kiss; character desires to make out; character worries they're sending a signal that they are sexually frustrated; female admires male's body; extended scene (about 1 ½ page) descriptive kissing and touching/touching parts normally covered by swimsuit by 17 year old and 19 year old in public; teen inquires if other teen has had sex; mention of teens giving and receiving oral sex; joke about size of male's genitalia; mention of teen character coming out as a bisexual, reviving LGBT school club, working at women's clinic, wanting to study women's gender and sexuality studies at university; character thinks romantically about other character; mention of teens discussing each other's sex life; extended scene (about 3 pages) character discusses how their sibling (male child) identifies and wishes to be treated as a female, discussion includes topic of being bisexual, transgender, and testing for STD'S; thoughts about kissing another character; few brief scenes of 17-year-old and 19-year-old hand holding, kissing on lips/cheek and embracing; extended descriptive scene (about 2 pages) 17-year-old and 19-year old-kiss, touch one another in places normally covered by swimwear and remove shirts, female's bra is removed; characters are told to “get a room”; character if their current significant other has had sexual relations; joke about “sex talk”; extended scene (about 2 pages) teen characters sex; homosexual character laments about not being able to find a partner; slang for male genitalia; character worries that their younger sibling is more experienced with sexual relations than they are; character states that they are bisexual, character replies that their friend is also bisexual; mention of using birth control and condoms; extended scene (about 1 page) characters discuss male child identifying as a female; teen wants to have sexual relations with their boy/girlfriend; character fantasizes about kissing their boy/girlfriend; male character appears shirtless (2x); character describes their significant other as “kissable”; character appears to be reading a poem about being attracted to the same sex; characters apparel is compared to a “streetwalker”; 15-year-old reveals their boy/girlfriend wanted them to send semi-nude videos, and talk in a sexual manner; brief mention of bra shopping and visiting a gynecologist.

Mature Subject Matter:  

Parental abandonment; dysfunctional family dynamics/family dispute/estranged relationship/parental separation/custody; child born out of wedlock/unknown paternity; restricted eating/eating disorder; alcoholic parent/alcoholism; death of a loved one by unsavory means/suicide/murder; family history of mental health problems; LGBT issues/child/teen explores sexual identity; feminism; underage drinking/partying; underage (17 year old) is romantically/sexually involved with adult (19 years old).

Alcohol / Drug Use:  

Several mentions of parent's excessive drinking; parent admits to being an alcoholic, attending AA; a few incidents of underage characters drinking alcohol at parties; extended scene (few pages) underage character becomes drunk and must be attended to; adult parent smokes cigarettes few times; reference to marijuana; parent offers teen child alcohol; mentions of parent needing rehab/treatment/professional help.

Reviewed By MaryLou
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