Of Pens and Swords is an YA novel taking place in the last school year and it involves a love triangle, poetry, fencing and a lot of inner fight. The protagonists are 17 yo and probably this is the average target of the book, but I think that reading it by an apparently well accomplished adult is appealing too and can offer many food for thought.
Cyra is one-handed, big thights girl living with her mother and coping with various financial limitations. But she loves to read - being into a strong emotional relationship with her books - writes beautiful poetry and has good grades and wants to be part of the Fencing Olympic Team. Although she recognizes herself wisely that 'Not everyone can have the same opportunities', she is struggling to accomplish her dream. She also wants a date with the beautiful and talented Rochnan but she will cede this priviledge to the rich ballerina in the making Christine, whom she is tutoring in English. She also accepts to write beautiful love poems for her that will make Rochnan to fell in love with although her pain when she sees how the relationship evolves. The plan works out and Christine and Rochnan are in love, till Christine realizes it is about time for the moment of truth. Rochnan fell in love with the poetry written by Cyra. The moment when she leaves Cyra and Rochnan alone for confessions, on the way to buy icecream, she is hit by a car and dies shortly after. In the end, Cyra will be together with Rochnan and she works hard to make her dream of the Olympics true.
This end-of-childhood novel is telling various stories of resilience and accepting differences. Is that moment in life when you have all the possibilities open ahead and it is entirely up to you to succeed or fail. That moment can greatly define the rest of your life. And everyone is testing its destiny. Cyra, facing the coaches that recommend her to compete for the team of people with disabilities; Christine, trying to be a successful ballerina accomphishing the dream her mother couldn't because of chosing to have her; Rochnan, finding a solution to balance his family pressure towards becoming a lawyer at Berkeley and his passion for art.
All the protagonists are well aware of the differences and status inequalities and although their attitudes may look haughty and intolerant, this is part of the process of social adaptation.
Besides the good writing, I also loved the cover and elegant interior illustrations.
Rating: 4 stars
Disclaimer: The publisher offered me the book for review via NetGalley.com, but the opinions are, as usual, my own