The Weight of Feathersby Anna-Marie McLemore
Published by Thomas Dunne, Macmillan on September 15th 2015
Genres: Romance, Young Adult, Fantasy
I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
The Palomas and the Corbeaus have long been rivals and enemies, locked in an escalating feud for more than a generation. Both families make their living as traveling performers in competing shows—the Palomas swimming in mermaid exhibitions, the Corbeaus, former tightrope walkers, performing in the tallest trees they can find.
Lace Paloma may be new to her family’s show, but she knows as well as anyone that the Corbeaus are pure magia negra, black magic from the devil himself. Simply touching one could mean death, and she’s been taught since birth to keep away. But when disaster strikes the small town where both families are performing, it’s a Corbeau boy, Cluck, who saves Lace’s life. And his touch immerses her in the world of the Corbeaus, where falling for him could turn his own family against him, and one misstep can be just as dangerous on the ground as it is in the trees.
One of the best young adult books I’ve read since… well, I almost don’t want to compare it to other books because then if you didn’t like those other books, you’ll immediately be all, “Hell no!”
But I honestly haven’t gotten wrapped up in a story or “tale” like this since Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea or Cruel Beauty. Unlike those books, this story is clearly set during current times, despite the mixture of superstition, old world traditions, and familial hierarchy ruling the character’s everyday routines.
Set in the central valley of California, two rival traveling performance families find themselves in the same town every year performing for tourists and townsfolk during an annual festival. Because of a tragic event that happened 20 years prior, both families vehemently hate the other family to the point that rumors have become truths and superstitions have become the way of life. Things like touching a member of the other family for fear of catching their “disease” become absolute truths to both families!
Lace is a Paloma, a family that performs in the water as mermaids. Lace has done everything her grandmother ever asked of her. She does the makeup on all the girls for the show and now has finally gotten her chance to be la sirena rosa, the pink mermaid in the show.
Cluck is part of the Corbeau family of aerial performers. This french family performs in the branches of the highest trees they can find. Cluck’s job is to make the wings the performers wear. He spends most of his time with his grandfather learning as much as he can about engineering from him. Cluck can’t get away from most of his other family members fast enough.
This modern “fable” starts off with Lace’s POV as her family arrives in town for the festival. Lace’s POV is heavy on the details about her family and some of these facts slip into Spanish.
Cluck’s POV immediately follows Lace’s. Cluck is getting ready for the show and interacting with his family. Because Cluck’s family is from France, his dialogue is peppered with French words and phrases. But you get to see that despite their family’s differences, Lace and Cluck have a tremendous amount in common with each other.
For both POVs, some of this Spanish and French is immediately translated for us… and sometimes it isn’t. And it’s okay when it’s not translated. In these instances, you can get the gist of what the meaning is. More importantly, it gives the story it’s “fable” feel. It reminds you that in this current time, there may be old world traditions currently being held that may seem out of date or just plain ridiculous and irrational. But that’s how some families do it… period. Doesn’t make it right though… whoops, my opinion snuck in there.
Speaking of “fable”, you might have noticed that I tagged this story as a “fantasy”. There is a wee bit of a fantasy theme to this story. I would be remiss in my review if I didn’t even mention it but I don’t want to spoil the uniqueness of the story by telling you more about it. I also took extra evil pills this morning so there is that, too.
I can’t even begin to pick my favorite character from the story. There are just too many. Besides Cluck and Lace as obvious favorites, I will mention Lace’s aunt Lora (nope, I won’t tell you anymore!). But in the big picture of all the characters, I thought Ms. McLemore did a fantastic job of “fleshing” out each character enough so he or she served their purpose in the story without spending too much time on that character. It made the book the perfect length.
And the story continuously moves! There are no wasted words on these pages. NONE. NADA. I wore my brain out reading this story but I found myself continuously going back to it just to see what would happen next. I never had to wait for anything to happen.
How glorious is that?