Books, Uncategorized

Review: A Song Below Water by Bethany C Morrow

Thank you to NetGalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Tavia is already at odds with the world, forced to keep her siren identity under wraps in a society that wants to keep her kind under lock and key. Never mind she’s also stuck in Portland, Oregon, a city with only a handful of black folk and even fewer of those with magical powers. At least she has her bestie Effie by her side as they tackle high school drama, family secrets, and unrequited crushes.

But everything changes in the aftermath of a siren murder trial that rocks the nation; the girls’ favorite Internet fashion icon reveals she’s also a siren, and the news rips through their community. Tensions escalate when Effie starts being haunted by demons from her past, and Tavia accidentally lets out her magical voice during a police stop. No secret seems safe anymore—soon Portland won’t be either.

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The beautiful cover of this book drew me in, the blurb got me to request it, and the sheer power that this book has will make me suggest it to anyone looking for a new book to read!

Everyone who knows me will know my love of mythology, so I lapped this book up. Whilst you are told from the beginning what Tavia is, the mystery of Effie and her past is kept quiet until the last quarter, leaving me guessing and excited to find out the answer. I loved how even though they had individual storylines, the girls are both incredibly supportive of what each other are going through. The twist at the end was amazing too!

There are incredibly important discussions that can be had around this book regarding racism and social justice. Throughout the story, there is a sense of dread as tensions build for Tavia and Effie, as well as in the world around them. The way Bethany uses the Sirens as a mirror for the treatment of Black girls/women in society is masterful and heartbreaking all at once. This story is as much about Black living in America as it is a magical realism story about Sirens and other mythical creatures.

Tavia is pulled over by a police officer during this story. As a white woman, I cannot comment on how terrifying this is for a Black person, but this book does a wonderful (awful?) job at portraying it so I can at least begin to understand the danger faced. The protest scene is especially poignant at the moment and highlights the use of protests by some people to act woke, but are deeply personal and key to the Black Lives Matter movement for Black people. This book tackles a lot of current issues head on and allows non-Black people to see just a fraction of the constant pain and worry faced when dealing with these issues in real life. This book does an excellent job as an Own Voices book, of expressing issues Black people face clearly, without explicitly explaining how horrific they are, but instead showing it through the eyes of two Black girls and letting the actions of others speak for themselves.

I really loved how Bethany mentioned things like hair care regimens without explaining them further. The story is for and about Black girls, letting readers research further if they wish to.

The only minor issue I had with this book is that Tavia and Effie’s point of views largely sounded the same, so remembering who is talking was a little difficult at some points.

Otherwise this book was an incredible piece of Black Girl Magic and social commentary which I recommend to everyone, especially at the moment. I gave it 4 stars.

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