Hiya! Today I will be reviewing the contemporary fantasy YA novel; A Song Below Water By Bethany C Morrow. Enjoy!
(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. 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.
Let’s talk about the plot! The original premise sounded so incredibly bone rattling and revolutionary! The execution however, let me down. The whole story was very confusing, and many of the magical creatures weren’t explained beforehand. As someone who doesn’t know much about magical realism and fantasy, I was extremely confused. I also longed for more social commentary. I felt like there was barely any, which is such a shame as it could have made this book 10 times more enjoyable.
Fortunately though, I liked the main characters. Effy and Tavia had the best relationship! It was just the sweetest. I absolutely loved the talk about black hair! I actually learnt quite a bit about black hair through A Song Below Water. Wallace was another great character. He was kind, charismatic, and charming. At times I felt as though Effy was cold towards Wallace for absolutely no reason whatsoever. For example, he’d try to help her, and she’d snap at him. The fluctuation from I-love-Wallace to I-hate-Wallace was a bit off, and didn’t transition smoothly.
“We should all speak like sirens. Use our voices to make a difference, because all of them matter.”
― Bethany C. Morrow, A Song Below Water
Tavia’s parents were dislikeable, and their actions where discriminatory towards sirens. (Tavia is a siren by the way.) Fortunately, I was very intrigued to see the father-daughter dynamic play out, so that was cool! Moreover, the other side characters such as Naema and Priam were flat out mean. I won’t talk much about the actual actions some characters made as I don’t want to give spoilers. However, it seemed that a lot of their actions were done ‘just because,’ and didn’t have any meaning behind doing so.
The dialogue between Effy and Tavia was the best thing ever! I absolutely adored their late night talks! If you’re looking for a story about sisters, do check out A Song Below Water. I also loved how Tavia and Effy used sign language to communicate when Tavia was not able to speak. Sign language is something hard to find in YA novels, let alone fictional novels! As mentioned previously, I was hoping for more talk about the discrimination that sirens, let alone African Americans, face.
“What we need isn’t dissuading, or discouragement, or consoling. We don’t need to be told we’re all helpless. What we need is action.”
― Bethany C. Morrow, A Song Below Water
For the most part, the writing style felt choppy and hard to follow. I did however, like how I was able to distinguish between Effy and Tavia’s point of views. In many books, it’s hard to tell which character’s head the readers are in, but with A Song Below Water, I was able to distinguished perfectly between the two! They each had their own unique way of thinking, and I’m so glad the author delved into that vigorously! The best thing about the book though, was that there was barely any swearing or cursing! Isn’t that amazing? I don’t know about you, but it left me feeling very happy.
I’m sad to say that the overall enjoyment level of A Song Below Water wasn’t very high. I was way too confused to feel completely immersed in the story. It took me over 200 pages to get into the storyline. Fortunately, the plot was whimsical perfection, so that added to the overall enjoyment of the book!
A Song Below Water was an enlightening read that I recommend to whimsical fiction lovers!
Age Rating: 12 and up
TW: Police brutality, forced outing, colorism, racism, talk of murder, bullying, cyber bullying
Final Rating: 6/10 or 3 stars
Have you read A Song Below Water? If so, let me know what you thought of it in the comments below! Have a wonderful day!
(PS: If anyone’s curious, I posted a pic of this novel on my bookstagram)