"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 they breathed together, one scaled and dark-feathered thing..."
The Weight of Feathers is very similar to Romeo and Juliet. It’s a story of two star-crossed lovers from rival families. Thankfully, the ending isn’t such a bummer, not to spoil it or anything.
The Palomas and Corbeaus both travel the country and put on shows to entertain tourists. They mostly stay out of each other’s way, except when it comes to the yearly show at Almendro. In spite of the bad history in that town- it was where each family lost a member, and where the Corbeau’s grandfather was fired from his job at the local adhesive plant because of the Palomas- both families return every year for the Blackberry Festival and the ticket sales it provides.
The reasons behind the feud are various, spread over years and generations. There were the deaths; a flood caused a Paloma uncle to drown, but also caused a Corbeau in-law to fall to her death. Both families believe that the other performs black magic. They also agree that one should not touch a member of the rival family. The only exception to that is hitting and fighting, which is not only okay, but encouraged.
The Corbeaus are identified by the feathers that grow on their necks, feathers that the Palomas burn to keep from being cursed. Palomas are identified by their escalas, birth marks that shimmer like scales. Fittingly, the Corbeaus’ show involves men and women wearing feathery wings and performing tricks high up in tree branches. The Palomas’ young women wear mermaid tails and put on a swimming show. Sometimes the rivalry bleeds over into the show, with the Corbeaus slipping on greased branches and Palomas nearly drowning because of nylon nets.
Our protagonists and narrators are Lace Paloma and Cluck Corbeau. Lace is one of the mermaids, but is relegated to the background because she isn’t as skinny as the others. She knows that her grandmother favors her male cousins, in spite of Lace’s unfailing loyalty. Cluck is the black sheep of his family. His mother hates him and his brother abuses him. He is called names, such as little demon and bastard, even his feathers are different, black tinted with red. Thankfully, he is very close with his grandfather, who teaches him to sew the wings and encourages him to use his left hand even though it is taboo and it has three fingers that broke and never healed properly.
The kids meet at a convenience store. Lace saves Cluck from being beaten by her cousins. She assumes that he is a local, and Cluck assumes the same about her. The next time that they meet is after an accident at the plant. Without Cluck’s grandfather there to push for safety measures, disaster struck. A toxic cloud of chemicals was released upon the town. Lace just finished her first show as a featured mermaid, but when she exited the lake she was caught in a net, a net. The net made it so she was out in the open when the burning rain falls. Cluck goes towards the Paloma’s side of the lake to find his missing cousin. He also finds poor Lace, huddled under a bare tree and burning in her cotton dress. Cluck gets her out of the dress (Cotton burns faster when exposed to the chemicals) and takes her to the hospital.
The next time she wakes up, Lace has a large heart-shaped scar on her face, as well as a feather-shaped scar on her arm, among other burns and scars. She finds out that her savior is a Corbeau and kicks him out. Her family sees the scar and knows that a Corbeau saved her. They believe she is now cursed so they banish her. Lace decides that the feather means she is being punished for being rude to Cluck after he saved her life. In order to earn his forgiveness and get rid of the scar, she takes a job doing makeup for the Corbeaus.
The more time that Lace spends around Cluck, the more she starts to care for him. Cluck cares for her back, there's just one problem. He still has no idea she is a Paloma. Will he still feel the same when he finds out who she is?
I found The Weight of Feathers to be charming and magical. It was easy for me to fall in love with the characters, even with that whole silly teenage romance factor. The book just clicked with me, and it gave me the whole spectrum of emotions, what kids these days refer to as "the feels." It's swoon-worthy and dreamy, and it made me heave a big sigh during the happy moments, as corny as that makes me sound. There are some difficult parts, abuse and meanness, but the good parts made up for it.
I received my copy of The Weight of Feathers from Edelweiss, courtesy of Thomas Dunne. It's available for purchase now.