e-ARC Review: A Song Below Water
Title: A Song Below Water
Author: Bethany C. Morrow
Format: e-ARC from Netgalley, read on Kindle
Published: 2 June 2020
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
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. Nevermind 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.
Hard-hitting, relevant to our world in 2020 (painfully so), and full of Black Girl Magic and the bonds of what sisterhood means, A Song Below Water is an important story about two Black girls living in a world that wants to silence them because of who they are and what they can be.
Effie and Tavia have an amazing relationship. They stick by each other and support one another through challenges they face together and as individuals, especially living in a majority white city where they face racism and injustice. Although they are not related by blood, they are truly sisters and their support and love for one another is written in such a beautiful way, especially when their families are not supportive of them because of the fear they are taught to live in with Tavia being a Siren and Effie being the only survivor of a childhood incident in a public park.
Morrow does a great job at writing for her audience, but adults should definitely read this book too because the view is that of teenagers who are experiencing and seeing the ugliest parts of the United States.
Magical realism is no easy genre to write, and overall, I think Morrow did something spectacular by bringing in so many magical elements. However, the mythology was never very well explained, which makes the first half of the book a bit challenging to read because things are just said, not shown. Readers unfamiliar with sirens, gargoyles, spirits, etc. will need to do their research while they read. The lack of showing also makes it difficult to imagine Morrow’s version of Portland.
Despite a slow first half, A Song Below Water picks up towards the middle with plenty of action and a few plot twists.
Whether or not magical realism is something you typically read, I recommend A Song Below Water. It is a timely story that goes into depth about racism, how Black people (especially women) are treated, what family is, and how it is difficult to be a Black teenager in a world like this.
Thanks for reading!
Black Lives Matter!