I know that you’re all desperate to hear my thoughts on the rather wonderful book: The Weight of Feathers. But first we’re going to start with a story. A story about *gasp* my life. So a few days ago, I was reading, and a friend of mine came up and looked at what I was reading. “What are you reading, Shanti?” he asked. “The Weight of Feathers”, I replied. “It’s magical realism, a sort of modern day Romeo and Juliet”. He looked at the cover, which has the figure of a girl and boy hugging on it. “Why are you reading these chick books?” he asked “I used to trust your book recommendations, but now I don’t think I will”. Now, I know that half of this was just my friend giving me a hard time because he could. But it made me think: why do some people believe that just because a book has romance in it, it loses its’ value as a piece of literature?
Because I’ll be honest: I like reading romance books. I don’t think romance is necessary to make a book great, but many, many great books have romance. Romance is a pretty important part of human life. Yet books, even pretty wonderful ones, can be dismissed as ‘chick books’ because they have romance in them (and depicted on the cover). And hey, I know I’ve done this before. I‘ve said that sometimes books with too much romance are not as great, or dismissed books with…shirtless guys on the cover. Now I still don’t trust books with shirtless guys on the cover, but what kind of ridiculous is it to assume that a book with romance in it is only for girls and not as valuable a story for some reason? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments; but now I’m going to talk about why I really enjoyed The Weight of Feathers.
One of the things I really loved about The Weight of Feathers was the themes it talked about. These themes are fairly average in YA books, but they were really uniquely executed. Some of the themes I particularly loved were family, identity/‘discovering who you are’, growing up/leaving home and romance. But to explain the themes I’ll have to kinda explain the plot (with minimal spoilers). So The Weight of Feathers is about Cluck and Lace. Lace is a Paloma: a family with Mexican heritage who don mermaid tails and perform around California. Cluck is a Corbeau: A family with Romani (gypsy) and French heritage who don wings of feathers and perform in the trees. They have a longstanding enmity, revolving around the town of Alemendro, where they’re both based for the summer. Due to various factors, Lace and Cluck meet, and after a terrible accident, Lace must follow Cluck to the Corbeaus neck of the woods seeking forgiveness and finding secrets.
So how do those themes work into the plot? Family is obviously a huge deal, and as the story progresses Cluck and Lace, both slightly outsiders, must question their loyalties. Is it okay to blindly believe your family? Should family do terrible things to each other in the name of protection? they ask, and the answers are deeply complex. This ties in to identity/finding who you are, as the two main characters discover who they are outside of the roles their families have given them, and who they are in each other. As both characters have to symbolically leave home and/or physically leave home, they grow up a lot, and find out what they love about themselves. And of course there’s romance: can simple love overcome all barriers? Is love forgiveness? Is it ever simple? The way the story dealt with these questions enchanted me. The love story was very appealing—it wasn’t instalove, but it was really lovely and it made me happy.
This novel is decidedly magical realism. It is grounded in the reality of chemical plants and prejudice and lawsuits; yet the story is told through the symbolism of scales and feathers and myths of magic and transformation. This was a little confusing at times; but in the end, I loved the power of the symbolism. It was as iridescent as the feather of an albino peacock. McLemore uses metaphor wonderfully, and the symbolism is glorious. These are a few quotes to show the amazing writing.
“The rain on her dress and his shirt would stick them to each other, dissolve the skin between them, until their veins tangled like roots, and the breathed together, one scaled and dark-feathered thing”
“He could turn himself into a crow with knives for feathers, and she wouldn’t see in time to run”
“She should have known all along not to trust the sky. It was where the crows lived”
The way the names (Crow vs. Dove), the elements (water and air), and the performance (feathers and tails) worked together was wonderful, especially in the ending.
The characters were slightly clichéd, but they were also beautiful. I’ve seen a tortured boy finding his place in the world before. I’ve seen angry girls not knowing the needles on the path to forgiveness before. But the context—large families, rivers, drowning, fearful rain—was what really gave the story power, and the character development was amazing. I also wished there was a glossary, because I had to work out the words from context because I don’t know Spanish/French. (Even though other people in my family do. I should’ve just asked)
The Weight of Feathers is a beautiful story. Yes, it has romance, but the magical prose and the blossoming themes made me delight in the power of literature.
So have you read The Weight of Feathers? Do people ever judge you for the books you read? How do you feel about romance in stories? tell me your thoughts in the comments!