For twenty years, the Palomas and the Corbeaus have been rivals and enemies, locked in an escalating feud for over a generation. Both families make their living as travelling 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 from 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. Beautifully written, and richly imaginative, The Weight of Feathers is an utterly captivating YA novel by a talented new voice.
I haven't had much luck with circus/performers-themed books this year, so I was a bit scared that I wouldn't like this book, or it just wouldn't live up to the hype. Luckily, neither of these things happened, and I enjoyed The Weight of Feathers really a lot! The writing was beautiful, occasionally throwing in French and Spanish expressions to reflect the characters' origins. Every chapter opened with a common saying in either French or Spanish and its English translation, which I personally thought was an awesome idea, since I always like seeing what popular sayings are in other languages. I really liked Anna-Marie McLemore's writing style, as she somehow managed to merge a deeply evocative, almost magical tone, with incredibly realistic descriptions and down-to-earth expressions.
This book definitely wasn't plot heavy, as the storyline is actually quite simple and it did remind me of a modern-day, travelling-performers Romeo and Juliet quite often. The star-crossed lovers theme is definitely very prevalent in the novel BUT if you're not a fan of YA romance don't run off just yet! This book also tackles really important themes and issues, like prejudice, superstitions and diversity. And there is also some serious family abuse going on, so it's definitely not a light read. The premise is actually quite simple. The Palomas and the Corbeaus have been at war for years, reaching such a level of hatred that even touching a member of the other family accidentally is considered forbidden, and is considered a means of spreading that family's evil.
So, when Cluck Corbeau saves Lace Paloma from a terrible accident in the town both families are performing in, she is shunned from her family and starts to believe he has cursed her. So she disguises herself as a local girl and joins the rival family in order to get Cluck to lift his curse. But this forces her to actually get to know the Corbeaus and their lifestyle, and learn the difference between fear and prejudice and reality.
I loved the characters! The book is narrated in third person, alternating Lace and Cluck's POVs, and I actually thought this worked really well. We got to see their deepest fears and wildest dreams and I came to care deeply for both of them. But even the secondary characters were really well-done. Even though they lacked the depth of the main characters, they were still interesting to read about, especially in contrast with Lace and Cluck. While the latter two developed enormously throughout the book, the other characters didn't change one bit, but not through any fault of the author. They are static, blocked in their prejudice and traditions and in their role as guardians of the family secrets. They don't grow because, quite simply, they don't want to, and it works wonderfully within the book.
Overall, this was a very good read and definitely an awesome debut! A wonderfully written book tackling very serious issues through a simple storyline and gorgeous characters, The Weight of Feathers is the one YA book you won't want to miss this year! And Anna-Marie McLemore is definitely one author whose new books I won't miss.