Fangirl Friday: The Paper Swan

Sometimes a book grabs hold of you, changes your heart, and never lets your mind go completely, even years after you read it the first time. There are several series that have done that in the past decade or so, but only one stand-alone novel has done that for me--The Paper Swan by Leylah Attar.

I first told you about The Paper Swan immediately after I read it in the summer of 2015, in my review here. In that review I didn't really tell you anything, except that I loved the book, that Ms. Attar's creative choice to switch POVs was a masterstroke, that life is all about points-of-view, that I didn't want to tell you more because I wanted you to experience the book for yourself, and that this book was still walking around with me, days after I finished it. Well, now it's been two-and-a-half years since I first read this book, I've since read it at least four more times including just a few weeks ago, it's still walking around with me, still breaking my heart and putting it back together, and now I want to tell you all the dirty details, all the tiny things that made me fall in love with this stunning book.

So, come with me through the jump as I tell you all about The Paper Swan, how this book manipulates my emotions, and why I can confidently call it my favorite stand-alone book, and a top five of all time. Super spoilery, of course. You've been warned.

There are four basic reasons that The Paper Swan rocked my world so completely: one, I was completely devastated by Esteban losing everything; two, the time that Skye and Damian spend together on the island is so stunningly beautiful that I've been wanting to get stranded on a deserted Mexican island ever since; three, the growth, resolution, redemption of our two main characters, while utterly unbelievable, is gorgeous and exactly the kind of happy ending I want in a romance novel; and four, Leylah Attar writes some of the most beautiful word pictures I've ever read. 

As Deeply As Your Sorrow Has Carved You

What would you do if someone took away every single thing in your life? The people you
love? The only home you've ever known? And they left you with no one and nothing? Worse, they didn't even do it intentionally or maliciously, but simply didn't give a single thought to the lives they were destroying just because someone got in the way. And I can never forget that Esteban was still a young boy when his mother, his best friend, and his home were taken from him, leaving him with nothing but the pajamas on his back. My heart broke for Esteban the entire time he was trying to make sense of his upside-down world and when he became Damian I understood completely. I think it takes a gifted author to make her readers relate to the indefensible, but, for me, Leylah Attar did exactly that. 

Skye learns who Damian is and immediately forgives him, for everything. She understood, too. While she was living a life a privilege her Estebandido was living a life of horror and loss and she knew she couldn't judge him for making terrible choices. I still love her for that. But it takes a long time for Damian to forgive himself. This powerful, brilliant man hadn't had love, hadn't been cared for since the day his world was ripped apart, and he didn't know what to do with Skye's instant acceptance of him. 

The Only Two People In The World Right Now

I don't know how to explain the pure beauty of the chapters Skye and Damian spend on his island. You just have to read it. Read about the vistas and the breezes, the mangoes and the clams, about swimming in the ocean and getting caught in the tropical rain. Both before Damian finally lets his guard down, finally lets Skye into the place in his heart that's always been hers, and after. It's like this perfect, gorgeous, azure bubble that I could get lost in again and again and again. I think those chapters are all the sweeter for me, knowing that it can't last, that the real world will invade and Damian's choices and actions will have to be atoned for. But for those chapters, it's pure bliss. 

This is Why We Read Romance

Now, I should have known that the little girl who shows up at Casa Paloma while Damian is
restoring it was his and Skye's daughter. I should have, but I didn't. I never catch these things, too caught up in the moment, distracted by the feelings in front of me and not thinking about what's happening off page. So I loved the moment in the cemetery when Damian realized what had happened, I loved our bold, brash, deep hero doing what he does best and finding out everything about Skye before confronting her. I loved when Skye came to yell at him about the money, claiming that he was using Sierra to get to her and our cocky bastard replied, "I don't need to use Sierra. I get to you just fine." Gah! I love when my heroes are brilliant and justifiably arrogant. Anyway, it takes time for Skye to accept that Damian won't hurt her again, to see that he's finally let go of his anger and quest for vengeance, but when they get there, it's so so good. 

Bottom Line

I love when books make me feel things, I love when an author takes me for a ride, not just through an adventure, but also through the wild emotions of her characters. I love when an author can show me something, then turn me around, show it to me again from a different angle and change everything. And I love when an author can paint pictures with words that are so vivid that I feel like I'm standing right there, so beautiful that I long to be there. But most of all I love when an author can make me understand a person who is nothing like me, can make me forgive the unforgivable, and can make her characters become a part of me. Leylah Attar did all of those things for me with The Paper Swan, and I know I'll never be the same. 


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