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A Song Below Water

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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 secre 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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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 secre 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.

30 review for A Song Below Water

  1. 5 out of 5

    Regan

    3.75 really really enjoyed this!

  2. 4 out of 5

    chai ♡

    Black sirens in a story about misogynoir set in an alternate Portland with an extremely pretty cover? [smashes my head into that want-to-read button]

  3. 5 out of 5

    Nilufer Ozmekik

    Fantasy dances with racism, social justice, current politics: Yes this is volatile and vivid combination and The author perfectly worked with this concoction and created a fast reading, powerful, captivating, one of the most interesting stories with well-crafted and realistic characterization and thought-provoking story-telling. Two friends: Tavia and Effie supports each other to survive at the metaphorical, wild jungle, dealing with too many things in their young age, family issues, past dramas, Fantasy dances with racism, social justice, current politics: Yes this is volatile and vivid combination and The author perfectly worked with this concoction and created a fast reading, powerful, captivating, one of the most interesting stories with well-crafted and realistic characterization and thought-provoking story-telling. Two friends: Tavia and Effie supports each other to survive at the metaphorical, wild jungle, dealing with too many things in their young age, family issues, past dramas, secrets, boiling anger against the unfairness and injustice. They two black girls lives in Portland, attends the high school at the area. It’s already challenging to survive in the territory. And Tavia has a big secret to keep: she has powers growing inside her. She shouldn’t tell anyone but also restrain herself not to attract any attention because the woman who magical powers and let’s add to be “black” into the equation could be one of the most dangerous things at the world she’s living. (Unfortunately it could be said the same for the shameful world we’re living at, too.) But when a famous internet fashion icon is killed, everything gets out of control like Tavia’s uncontrollable magical voice during a police stop! Yes, nothing will be same for her from now on. This is so unique, original, dazzling, surprising, one of my fastest reading. I never say no to a well written fantasy with “The hate U give” vibes. Writing, pacing, characterization and conclusion worked so well for me. I think I have to say: we truly have a WINNER! I’m giving my five in the name of sirens and magical powers’ love stars! I really impressed Bethany C. Morrow’s writing skills and looking forward to read more of her works. Special thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan/Tom Doherty Associates/ Tor Teen to send this fantastic ARC to me in exchange my honest review.

  4. 5 out of 5

    C.G. Drews

    This was such an ethereal and fresh magical realism story. Like all I really need to say is it's about two sisters (not by birth, but by heart) who are absolutely everything to each other. One is a siren. One is...something else. They're Black, they're hurting, they're longing to be themselves and not have to hide. The story is so beautiful, and also raw with pain. It was sobering reading the scene where they go to the protest because I read this as the June 2020 Black Live Matter protests were This was such an ethereal and fresh magical realism story. Like all I really need to say is it's about two sisters (not by birth, but by heart) who are absolutely everything to each other. One is a siren. One is...something else. They're Black, they're hurting, they're longing to be themselves and not have to hide. The story is so beautiful, and also raw with pain. It was sobering reading the scene where they go to the protest because I read this as the June 2020 Black Live Matter protests were happening and the descriptions of what is happening right now were right on page in this book. Things have not changed. Justice has not been given. And this adds in magic and secrets and the yearing to live without harassment?? It 😭is here to make you think. My absolute favourite thing was Effie and Octavia's friendship. They are so close, they love each other so much, they'd protect each other from anything. My heart is for them!! There's also an entrancing spin on different mythos in here. I loved that! The world is ours, except magic is "expected" (although sirens are absolutely hated) and it has a lot of legendary creatures I haven't thought about/read about before. Gargoyles! And then Effie's reveal blew my mind and I LOVED IT. Also made so much sense. And if you're thinking of trying the audiobook? Do. It's gorgeous. Each sister has a different narrator and their voices were such a pleasure to listen to. The writing is definitely whimsical, on the slower paced side, and often the girls got lost in introspective thought spirals, so I did chaff at the communication fails. But the book would've been 100pgs shorter if people talked to each other so 😂I get it. Whimsical and fresh, full of twists and magical creatures! It also will make your heart hurt, and it didn't hesitate to dive in with a fresh hot knife to talk about the racism and abuse of the world. These sisters though 😭💛 I loved them.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    First of all this cover is GORGEOUS! Also any siren/ mermaid story I am immediately drawn to so I was very excited for this read! I did really enjoy this book & how it weaved fantastical elements, social commentary and friendship all in one. This book talks a lot about the Black Lives Matter movement which was amazing. What lost me in this book were the fantastical elements, I was confused for the better portion of this book with keeping up with the many different mythos creatures. The friendshi First of all this cover is GORGEOUS! Also any siren/ mermaid story I am immediately drawn to so I was very excited for this read! I did really enjoy this book & how it weaved fantastical elements, social commentary and friendship all in one. This book talks a lot about the Black Lives Matter movement which was amazing. What lost me in this book were the fantastical elements, I was confused for the better portion of this book with keeping up with the many different mythos creatures. The friendship/ sisterhood of Effie & Tavia was so amazing and what I loved most about this book. How they were always there for one another and protected each other at all costs, gah those two girls were everything. Overall I would recommend this book. It’s got amazing social commentary that I think we all need to read and learn and the sisterhood bond in this book is like no other.

  6. 4 out of 5

    destiny ♡⚔♡ [howling libraries]

    A Black siren living in Portland. Holy shit. Want.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lilith Black Bee

    BLOG *** TWITTER *** WHISHLIST *** Get 2 months of free books HERE E-ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My opinions are my own and are not affected in any way. Actual rating: 2.5 ⭐ PROS: • Extremely relevant to our times. Talking about racism and how black women are treated and seen by our society, it is so relevant to our days! We have a place in the front row and we can see how certain things are intentionally mishandled against BLOG *** TWITTER *** WHISHLIST *** Get 2 months of free books HERE E-ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My opinions are my own and are not affected in any way. Actual rating: 2.5 ⭐ PROS: • Extremely relevant to our times. Talking about racism and how black women are treated and seen by our society, it is so relevant to our days! We have a place in the front row and we can see how certain things are intentionally mishandled against them. • Mythical creatures! I mean, who doesn't love mythical creatures?! Sirens, gargoyles, elokos (whatever these really are, because the author never really tried to explain them) and some more! CONS: • Slow pacing. And when I say slow, I mean SLOW! The thing is, I do know to appreciate a slow paced book, but this when the subject requires it. Here it didn't had it's place. • Poor worldbuilding. Something about this world felt a little bit off. It missed something to help keeping all the pieces together. As one of the next point will say, it was all over the place. • Try too hard writing style. From the between parentheses explained jokes, to trying to combine huge social problems with mythical creatures, it takes a lot of effort. And you can almost feel this effort grabbing you by your cheeks and starring into your eyes while franticly trying to explain you what it tried to do. Kinda how I try to explain it now :) • A semi spoiler in the synopsis. I absolutely hate when this happens! You have something important happening at the middle of the book, exposed in the middle of the synopsis! But I have to say, what I see as semi spoiler, for others might not be at all one. And when I say semi spoiler, I am referring to this: quote "the girls’ favorite Internet fashion icon reveals she's also a siren" unquote. • All over the place. Needs no more explanation. See the next point. • Unexplained things and references. As I have already said, and will say again, the elokos are not explained. We know just a few things about them and that's all. Also, when you write a book about black women and you use specific cultural things that the most of the readers don't understand because they do not live with a black woman or they may not know one, please consider to put a short explanation in the page or chapter foot note. I am pretty sure that most of us would be genuinely curious to know what you, as an author, are talking about, even if it's a very little thing in your book. OVERALL THOUGHTS: The execution of this book is very poor. The topics are important and needs to be more prezent in our current days, but the way the author tried to fit them in the story, is not the best one. The number of pages is way too small for the number of subjects that the author wanted to touch and to discuss, and all is made in a weird slow pacing. And the fact that there are some things left unexplained, does not help either, and the best example to support this, is the fact that the elokos are not at all explained. We know very few things about them. Mythos, assome of them are presented. However, this all over the place book is trying to make some light in how black women are treated by the society and how they can find ways to be strong and fight even when the odds seem to be against them. This and the presence of mythical creatures made me give this book 2.5 stars. Otherwise would have been probably a 1.5 - 2 stars, and that's a bummer because the idea of the book was so good!!!

  8. 5 out of 5

    The Artisan Geek

    30/11/19 Holy cow whoever made this cover. OH MY GOSH! FIRE! You can find me on Youtube | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr | Website 30/11/19 Holy cow whoever made this cover. OH MY GOSH! FIRE! You can find me on Youtube | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr | Website

  9. 4 out of 5

    Bookishrealm

    Okay so this book is definitely more like a 3.75 and I think that the purpose behind the book is the only thing that is keeping it that high. I have some complicated feelings towards this book because it presents some important themes, but attempts to do it in too short of a period of time. A Song Below Water has been pitched a tale in which only black women can be sirens who are also forced to refrain from using their voices (do you see where this is going?) It highlights the differences betwee Okay so this book is definitely more like a 3.75 and I think that the purpose behind the book is the only thing that is keeping it that high. I have some complicated feelings towards this book because it presents some important themes, but attempts to do it in too short of a period of time. A Song Below Water has been pitched a tale in which only black women can be sirens who are also forced to refrain from using their voices (do you see where this is going?) It highlights the differences between the experiences of Black people as whole to that of Black women. Sirens are considered dangerous and bad influences when they use their voices to stand up for what they determine is right. Ultimately, this novel is the perfect allegory for misogynoir. While I enjoyed this connection, it may feel "too real" for some individuals especially with the connection it has to everything that is currently going on with the Black Lives Matter movement. I thought it was brilliant of Morrow to illustrate how drastically different Black women are even perceived and treated in terms of the Black Lives Matter movement. She hits the nail on the head with the development of her characters and their experiences in context of real life situations. One thing that is definitely a problem in this book is the pacing. Granted it is a book that takes place in our world that has magical elements that are normalized, I found parts of it to be slow and boring (particularly in the beginning). Marrow includes these amazing mythological elements, but falls short on explaining them and even after researching them, I still remained a little confused on how they fit into the entire context of the novel. It really came down to the fact that Marrow tried to pack too many elements and meanings into the novel. In order to truly capture what she wanted her audience to understand, I think that this novel definitely could have afforded to be a bit longer. Marrow also has a distinct way of writing that I think people will either hate or love. I think I enjoyed her writing overall; however, I noticed that she had a hard time distinguishing between the voices of Effie and Tavia. I listened to it on audio and while the audiobook did state whose perspective I was listening to in the moment, I still felt lost in some parts and I had to remind myself who was actually speaking because the voices of characters came across as so similar. There were two parts of this novel that I truly loved. One was definitely the relationship between Effie and Tavia. It was so BEAUTIFUL. I love reading novels where Black women lift each other up and show this love and compassion for each other. There was more than enough of this to go around between these two characters. They stood by each other through all of their crazy experiences and they truly exhibited empathy towards each other in ways I couldn't even begin to imagine. The second part of this novel that I loved was the fact that we see Black girls/women that get a happy ending. I don't know how many times we're forced to read about the trauma of Black people, specifically women who don't get the opportunity to have their happy ending. This novel is nothing of the sort and I truly appreciated that. I definitely would recommend giving this novel a try. It's literally Black Girl Magic and that's definitely one of the elements that makes it so special. I know that Marrow has written another book so I'm looking forward to seeing what else she has to offer as a writer.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Grace

    A Song Below Water is a beautifully imaginative novel that touches on so many issues, but focuses on what it's like to be Black in the United States. Tavia and Effie are sisters, but not by blood. They live together, go to the same school, and are the closest of friends. Effie has never met her father, and her mother died when she was young. After an incident where she was the sole survivor of an accident at a park, Effie knows what it's like to be thrust into the spotlight. Tavia is a siren. Sh A Song Below Water is a beautifully imaginative novel that touches on so many issues, but focuses on what it's like to be Black in the United States. Tavia and Effie are sisters, but not by blood. They live together, go to the same school, and are the closest of friends. Effie has never met her father, and her mother died when she was young. After an incident where she was the sole survivor of an accident at a park, Effie knows what it's like to be thrust into the spotlight. Tavia is a siren. She inherited it from her grandmother, who she was never able to meet prior to her death, and her parents live in constant fear of the consequences if the news of Tavia's identity gets out. Tavia and Effie both struggle with coming to grips with who they really are while facing a society that sees them only as a spectacle or a danger. I never really got bored with this book. At 288 pages, it's pretty short, and I think that might have something to do with it. Regardless, I was never bored with it. This book was a little outside of my usual style. To be honest, I picked it up because I saw it being promoted on Instagram on #blackouttuesday and thought it looked cool, and I wanted to support Black authors and representation in novels, so I bought it. One thing I absolutely despise is contemporary YA, but I adore YA fantasy. Although A Song Below Water seemed to be toeing the line between the two, it sounded interesting so I got it anyway, and I was not disappointed. One thing you should know about this book is that sirens aren't the only magical creatures or races within it. There are also elokos, gargoyles, oracles, and sprites. I thought Morrow did a really good job creating a modern magical world, although I would have liked to have seen a little more of the results of how such creatures would have impacted our society. It is, then, decent magical realism. My only real complaint with this book was the writing style itself. I will say that I might be biased because one of my biggest pet peeves in writing is when an author uses slang, text speech, or interesting punctuation in an effort to make their writing more appealing for teen audiences. I don't really think that's what Morrow was doing, because the writing honestly felt so genuine, but it irked me occasionally anyway. But, as someone who really dislikes that kind of writing, I didn't notice it too much. So, I really can't complain, since I was evidently too absorbed in the story for it to bother me. I feel like there's more I need to say that just isn't coming to mind right now, but let me assure you that this book is good. Whether you read contemporary or fantasy, I think A Song Below Water is probably a good choice for you.

  11. 4 out of 5

    may ➹

    why does this sound SO GOOD

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ms. Woc Reader

    This cover made this book one of my most anticipated reads this year so of course I did whatever I could to get my hands on an early copy. Thanks, Tor Teen. I really thought I would breeze through this book in like 3/4 days. I played myself with that line of thinking because between the slow pace of this story and the humidity of the holiday weekend that definitely didn't happen. Don't let the blurb fool ya this is not a story about Black mermaids. And sirens and mermaids are very different in th This cover made this book one of my most anticipated reads this year so of course I did whatever I could to get my hands on an early copy. Thanks, Tor Teen. I really thought I would breeze through this book in like 3/4 days. I played myself with that line of thinking because between the slow pace of this story and the humidity of the holiday weekend that definitely didn't happen. Don't let the blurb fool ya this is not a story about Black mermaids. And sirens and mermaids are very different in this story. Although one girl plays a mermaid at the Ren Faire. It's a story about sirens who are young Black women finding their voice and navigating being Black in America. Like I mentioned before this book was very slow and in the first half I really felt like the message this book was trying to tell often took over the plot. At several points I was wondering where this was going. When they got into the mythological stuff the book was interesting. Who doesn't want to fly with gargoyles? I know it was supposed to be magical realism but I need a little bit more magic. See full review on my blog http://womenofcolorreadtoo.blogspot.c...

  13. 4 out of 5

    Elise (TheBookishActress)

    this is a contemporary fantasy about misogynoir, and though I'd like to know more, I recently read a book by this author, MEM, and loved it so much. I am totally excited to see more. 

  14. 4 out of 5

    Heidi Heilig

    A rich, intricate dive into mythology, misogynoir, and the way the world makes black girls out to be monsters. Like the siren's song, A SONG BELOW WATER is irresistibly compelling.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    I genuinely didn’t know what to expect going into this, I’m not going to lie I thought it was a lot more fantasy based but it’s more Magical Realism (still great though!) Picking this up as of right now with what’s going on in the world I found it SO important with different aspects (excluding the “magical elements”). It really made me think, and I felt so much sadness and anger at certain parts. I also have so much cover love for this. I mean just look at it!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Toya

    DNF at 35%. It severely pains me to have to DNF this one since a story about black sirens sounded like a dream come true. This book doesn’t read like a fantasy. Rather, the story reads like a contemporary novel because the author tackles a myriad of issues including racism and social injustice. Normally, I welcome this, but it felt like the story was merely a platform to highlight the oppression of black women without compelling characters and a cohesive plot. Additionally, if someone is not used DNF at 35%. It severely pains me to have to DNF this one since a story about black sirens sounded like a dream come true. This book doesn’t read like a fantasy. Rather, the story reads like a contemporary novel because the author tackles a myriad of issues including racism and social injustice. Normally, I welcome this, but it felt like the story was merely a platform to highlight the oppression of black women without compelling characters and a cohesive plot. Additionally, if someone is not used to cultural nuances within the black community when it comes to natural hair care, the references will be completely lost on them because the author never defines anything or gives a point of reference. For example, Tavia briefly mentions learning the L.O.C. method from a natural hair care regimen, but this is never explained. I understand that this is a moment for us black girls to rejoice in seeing our culture represented, but it needs to be defined for those who lack that knowledge if we are to educate others on its normalcy. The author also introduces several magical creatures such as sprites and sirens with their own unique twist, which I appreciated. However, elokos are never defined. I’m not familiar with their mythology, so I had no point of reference and was left confused. Overall, I think this story has good intentions, but the execution was poor. This is the prime example of trying to tackle too many topics in too few pages, so rather than leaving the reader with a compelling and engrossing tale, I’m left confused and frustrated that I wasted my time. Edit: if you want a great fantasy that combines social issues such as racism and oppression that also has rich culture and world building, pick up The Deep by Rivers Solomon. I think that’s the story the author was going for but missed the mark. Thank you to TorTeen for my gifted review copy.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn Speckels (Metaphors and Miscellanea)

    3.5/5 stars, rounded up because this is really a socially relevant book and is thematically important. Were it not for that element, I would definitely have rounded down or rated it lower altogether. First, I want to make something abundantly clear: this is a tremendously important book. It deals with lots of major issues that the Black community is currently facing, and has been facing for a long time, and it uses a highly unique premise (some very literal Black Girl Magic) to convey those ideas 3.5/5 stars, rounded up because this is really a socially relevant book and is thematically important. Were it not for that element, I would definitely have rounded down or rated it lower altogether. First, I want to make something abundantly clear: this is a tremendously important book. It deals with lots of major issues that the Black community is currently facing, and has been facing for a long time, and it uses a highly unique premise (some very literal Black Girl Magic) to convey those ideas. I feel like I need to stress that part because this was one of those books that I loved in theory, just not in execution. I don’t want this review to be taken as, “This book isn’t important.” I think it is a book that is very, very much worth reading. However, it would be disingenuous for me to rate it higher, because it faltered in its actual writing, on technical elements like worldbuilding and pacing. So, quick summary--and don't read the official blurb, if you haven't yet, because it has at least one fairly large spoiler in it! In an alternate version of America, humans live side by side with mythical creatures, including sprites (invisible mischief-makers), elokos (tbh still not quite sure what they are, but more on that later), and most importantly, sirens (Black women with the ability to use magical calls on people with their voices). Sirens are strongly condemned by society, from a combination of fear, racism, and misogyny, and so Tavia, a high school girl, keeps the fact that she is a siren secret from most people. Her best friend and adoptive sister, Effie, plays a mermaid at the Renaissance faire, but lately has been struggling with constantly shedding dry skin, mysterious blackouts, and guilt over a childhood accident she may have caused. When a murdered woman is revealed to have possibly been a siren, and shortly thereafter Tavia’s favorite YouTube star also comes out as a siren, Tavia and Effie both find their lives taking a chaotic turn. Suddenly, the gargoyle that has taken up residence on their roof is actually talking to them. Public outcry and Black Lives Matter protests are escalating. Effie wants to find who her father is, and Tavia doesn’t know how much longer she can keep her siren call a secret. Amidst all this, the two strive to support each other and their communities…while also, of course, dealing with the regular pressures of high school, dating, and family drama. So, we’ll start with the good. This is an amazing premise for a book. I loved the concept, the magic of the sirens, and the way it seamlessly interwove major social issues, minor personal problems, and the way both of those are amplified by magic. The juxtaposition of the fake magic in a Renaissance faire and the real magic present in their world was an interesting duality to observe, and I think that in that regard, Morrow more than succeeded. In a particularly poignant moment, we even learn that the hatred directed toward sirens once led an eleven-year-old Tavia to try and destroy her vocal cords so she couldn’t sing or speak anymore–and if that isn’t a striking depiction of the way Black voices, especially Black women, are often coerced into believing they must be silent, I don’t know what is. The problem was, it was sometimes hard to appreciate how clever this design was, because the writing itself did not do enough to flesh out this world. Many elements of the worldbuilding were very confusingly executed. I’ve read the entire book, and I still don’t quite understand what elokos are, even though they’re a prominent type of magical person mentioned throughout the book. They have a magical charm and can put a trill in their voice that makes people like them or something, I guess? And somehow their voices can mask siren calls? Nothing was really explained about them, which made it hard to tell what was going on at times. Similarly, very little was established early on about things like the role of sirens, the extent of their abilities, or why Tavia was so determined to find her siren grandmother “in the water.” It felt like this book was a continuation of something and the readers were expected to know these things already–which, of course, is not the case. Another positive element: Tavia and Effie were both very likable and believable protagonists, with emotions that ran deep and personalities that made them easy to root for. The strong sisterhood between them was enjoyable to read (what can I say, I’m a sucker for wholesome sister relationships), and I loved their constant loyalty to each other and refusal to back down from any challenge. Honestly, in addition to simply enjoying the premise, I’m pretty sure that my investment in these two as characters is a large part of what kept me reading. Again, though, we had a case where the writing undermined some of this. The book was told in two perspectives, alternating between Tavia and Effie, but the written voices of the two were virtually indistinguishable, to the point that sometimes I would forget which girl’s point of view I was reading from until I encountered a plot detail that made it clear. The two girls have very different personalities and goals, and yet those didn’t manifest in their narration at all. That’s not to say that the voice wasn’t good–I enjoyed the writing style in general, but it didn’t make sense that it didn’t change at all when perspective changed. And then there is the final issue this book faced: pacing. For a book that is under 300 pages, it took me a weirdly long time to finish. It was like it skipped out on providing some necessary background but then used that space to dwell on things that didn’t move the plot forward, instead stalling and meandering, especially for the first 50% or so. As the book got closer to its conclusion, it picked up as it really started to lean into the magic and the plot, but it took too long to get there. Though the slower parts did work hard on the thematic messages of the book, I think those themes could have hit a lot harder if they were just played up more in the action rather than stretched out in between, if that makes sense. As a final note: for OwnVoices readers, this book may resonate more in a way that compensates for its technical shortcomings, and I highly suggest looking at OwnVoices reviews like Leelynn’s for more on that front. Similarly, for a reader who is going into this book with the intention of just gaining a deeper understanding of or a new perspective on themes like misogynoir, this book will be perfect. The lack of cohesion is the part that dampened the enjoyment for me–but don’t take this as meaning you should not read it. By all means, do give this one a try–you’ll be supporting a Black woman author and simultaneously experiencing a very unique story. Thank you to Tor Teen for providing me with an eARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    Although I am not one to judge a book by its cover, I must admit I fell in love with this one when I first saw it floating around Twitter. Then I read the synopsis and thought mermaids and sirens, black girl magic and Bethany C. Morrow, author of MEM -- Wow! Then I got scared. Usually when I get this hyped for a book it does not live up to my high expectations. I'm sure you've been there before too. But I can assure you this book is everything it promises to be and then some. Morrow speaks to th Although I am not one to judge a book by its cover, I must admit I fell in love with this one when I first saw it floating around Twitter. Then I read the synopsis and thought mermaids and sirens, black girl magic and Bethany C. Morrow, author of MEM -- Wow! Then I got scared. Usually when I get this hyped for a book it does not live up to my high expectations. I'm sure you've been there before too. But I can assure you this book is everything it promises to be and then some. Morrow speaks to the Black female experience in America in a way that not only speaks to the mature reader but is easy to process and appealing for young adults. Tavia and Effie come alive off of the pages. Just as real as any other teenaged girl navigating her way through adolescence. They are strong, powerful and their sister-love is so endearing. You will definitely remember them long after you close the pages of this book. Special thanks to NetGalley, Tor Teen, Tom Doherty Associates and Bethany C. Morrow for advanced access to this book.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    I AM READING THIS RIGHT NOW AND BETHANY MORROW IS A TREASURE

  20. 5 out of 5

    Camryn

    WHY WAS RHIS SO GOOD???? most of the time I can’t even get into fantasy but this sucked me in from the beginning. Not only is it super Black, but super Black girl gaze. I felt so seen and it’s about sirens???? Idk I didn’t find the world building ridiculous and I loved that it made statements about misogynoir and the lives of Black women. And it’s so readable — I’m half asleep but had to stay up to finish this. It’s amazing.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Fanna

    June 2, 2020: A very happy release day to this YA fantasy debut where two best friends discover magical abilities while facing challenges as young black girls. June 2, 2020: A very happy release day to this YA fantasy debut where two best friends discover magical abilities while facing challenges as young black girls.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Leah

    Do you have any idea how RELEVANT this book is in the crappy year of our lord 2020? Please allow me to start with saying Black Lives Matter, which I still can't believe has to be said as loud as it has been the last few weeks. Full review at Write, Read, Repeat This book starts with the murder of a Black woman named Rhoda Taylor. No one was saying her name until it was hinted at that she was a siren. One little word, just the tiniest seed of suspicion in the minds of folks who can bring down just Do you have any idea how RELEVANT this book is in the crappy year of our lord 2020? Please allow me to start with saying Black Lives Matter, which I still can't believe has to be said as loud as it has been the last few weeks. Full review at Write, Read, Repeat This book starts with the murder of a Black woman named Rhoda Taylor. No one was saying her name until it was hinted at that she was a siren. One little word, just the tiniest seed of suspicion in the minds of folks who can bring down justice, and she gets none because of who she is. Her murder is suddenly justified because she might be a little different from the people in charge.Sound familiar? I fell in love with this story so hard from the beginning. This is a world where sirens, sprites and gargoyles live. Sprites are left alone, even though they turn children to stone in parks--keep Portland weird, folks--and gargoyles are very rare stone guardians. Sirens, on the other hand, are ostracized from the moment they reveal themselves. This is why they keep to themselves and only share their identities within unique communities that protect them. People are scared of them because they can compel people with their voices, and try to contain them with collars that suppress their voices. Not all Black women are sirens, but allsirens are Black women. This brought in an interesting twist to what we're seeing now. All lives can't matter until Black lives matter, and this book adds in the addendum that Black lives can't matter until siren lives matter. This story is told from two points of view: Tavia and Effie. They are adopted sisters of a sort who are endearingly close and will protect each other, no matter the cost. Tavia is the siren of her family, but that knowledge stays within the family to protect her. She struggles with controlling her voice and keeping her siren call down, and compensates with using sign language to communicate as necessary. She has even adopted a disability that presents similar to what she deals with as an excuse. I felt so bad for Tavia because no one should ever have to hide who they are out of fear of what society will think. Still, she's strong, and finds ways to make it work like joining her school's choir. Effie is the adopted sister who is ... something. Much of her story is trying figure out what and who she is. She is a very self-conscious girl who hides behind her twists. Effie has what doctors think is severe eczema, and it embarrasses her. She feels her best when she's swimming and following in her mother's footsteps as part of the Renn Faire. I found her backstory to be the most interesting. Not only in the reveals that come at the end, but in her role with the park statues. When she was younger, her friends were playing Red Rover, but were turned to stone by the sprites living there at the time. Effie is famous because she's the only one of the children who didn't become a statue. As I said, this book was very timely. While I'm sure the author didn't want this book coming out during both a global pandemic and a time of major societal upheaval, it was beneficial to me in further shedding light on the importance of the Black Lives Matter protests. Even topics and subjects I had learned just the day before, like Devonte Hart, were brought up here. There is a scene with Tavia is pulled over by the police, despite doing nothing wrong. I had no choice but to give this scene my full attention because I was terrified it would turn into something it absolutely shouldn't. There is also Black Lives Matter protest that Tavia and Effie attend. It brings up the same questions about why this boy died. If he'd pulled his pants up or used the cross walk would he be graduating next month? There is only one part of this book that didn't quite click for me, and that was the Renn Faire/Hidden Scales. Perhaps I missed the explanation, but it was hard to figure out because of how the characters treated it. At first I thought it was a TV show, but its actually a yearly Rennaisance festival. At this faire, Effie plays a mermaid whose beloved is the blacksmith's son. However, there didn't seem to be a divide between this make-believe life and the real world. There is a lot of stock put into the stories that come out of a special tent. When Effie meets her 'beloved' for the first time outside of the faire, the boy doesn't once break character. I dunno, it's clearly important to the story, especially the ending, but I was more confused than intrigued. A final note: the dual audiobook narrators were excellent, and their voices were distinct enough to give both sisters clear personalities. Rating 4.5/5

  23. 4 out of 5

    yanitta☏

    I really wanted to like this book. Unfortunately, I DNFed it at 27%, around the 6th chapter. And I feel so guilty that I gave this book 2 stars. View this review on my blog! Why did I DNF this book? Well, I was so confused. I had no idea about what was going on, and I has no connection to the characters. Tavia and Effie were quite shallow, I didn’t feel anything for them at all which made me reluctant about whether I should bore myself with the rest of the book or just let my impatience take over. I I really wanted to like this book. Unfortunately, I DNFed it at 27%, around the 6th chapter. And I feel so guilty that I gave this book 2 stars. View this review on my blog! Why did I DNF this book? Well, I was so confused. I had no idea about what was going on, and I has no connection to the characters. Tavia and Effie were quite shallow, I didn’t feel anything for them at all which made me reluctant about whether I should bore myself with the rest of the book or just let my impatience take over. I made the decision to close this book, and DNFs usually make me really guilty. I really really wanted to like this book. Honestly! But there was no connection, there was no plot progression after a quarter of the book and I was confused about the author’s terminology. What I liked about this book 1) Pointing out problems in the society Well, there was something I liked, though I felt like the author was trying to tackled TOO MANY PROBLEMS in one tiny book. The theme of this story is obviously trying to point out racism and discrimination of sirens and people of color. I appreciate her effort to do that, but I guess the story didn’t lure me in. Disappointments 1) Character voice The character voice between Tavia and Effie, the two narrators, is indistinguishable. They sound exactly the same, and there was no connection to the characters. Why? The author TELLS the character’s emotions instead of SHOWING them. For example, Tavia says ‘I’m terrified.’ It feels shallow. I had no connection to them, and...I’m sorry. Again, I wanted to like this so much. 2) Terminology The author talks about sprites, gargoyles and ekolos. I had to google what they were (except for gargoyles) but the author had her own spin to these creatures. I am not condemning the fact that the author chose to have a unique spin on these creatures, but there was a very vague explanation that did not paint a picture for me. 3) High-school problems are not my type I guess this is more of an opinion than disappointment, but I am not so interested in high-school and IB things. Scenes about those felt shallow and had me skimming past them quickly. Conclusion Would I recommend this book? I would only recommend it if I can reread it when I am in a better state of mind. Why did I pick this book up? I saw this GORGEOUS cover on NetGalley, read the captivating description, and the point where I click ‘request’ was when I saw it was set in Portland, Oregon. Thank you NetGalley for providing me this ARC in exchange for an honest review

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mariam ☀️

    this was such a beautiful story revolving around sisterhood between two girls and facing obstacles that test the bond that they share, which in turn makes it even stronger. I really loved the mythos of sirens, mermaids & other mythical creatures that were included in this story, as well as the display of how regular humans historically treated them because of their differences — reflecting real life issues. racism, feminism, racial profiling by police and many other extremely relevant topics are this was such a beautiful story revolving around sisterhood between two girls and facing obstacles that test the bond that they share, which in turn makes it even stronger. I really loved the mythos of sirens, mermaids & other mythical creatures that were included in this story, as well as the display of how regular humans historically treated them because of their differences — reflecting real life issues. racism, feminism, racial profiling by police and many other extremely relevant topics are at the forefront and interweave perfectly with the fantastical elements of the story. I will say that listening to this on audiobook, some of the story seemed to go over my head at times, and I kind of still don’t completely understand everything about all of the different mythical beings in this book, but it didn’t taint my enjoyment of the story of Tav and Effie! Also a note: the two audiobook narrators are absolutely amazing, I could listen to them talk all day. All in all, highly recommend!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jeann (Happy Indulgence)

    This book couldn't have been released at a better time. It talks about racism, police brutality, and even protesting against the injustice of the death of a young Black person. Loved the strong sisterhood between Effie and Tavia, and the strong character voice as both of them navigate high school and their magical identities kept hidden. While it doesn't have strong world building, I would look at it more as a magical realism book, with a strong sisterhood at its heart and powerful social commen This book couldn't have been released at a better time. It talks about racism, police brutality, and even protesting against the injustice of the death of a young Black person. Loved the strong sisterhood between Effie and Tavia, and the strong character voice as both of them navigate high school and their magical identities kept hidden. While it doesn't have strong world building, I would look at it more as a magical realism book, with a strong sisterhood at its heart and powerful social commentary about the marginisations of Black people, and sirens. Full review to come.

  26. 5 out of 5

    kenzie

    i would like two copies of this please, one to frame because the cover is THAT PRETTY, and one to put on my shelf

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jocelyn

    Review Weaving mystical creatures and social justice together, this was a refreshing take on the YA fantasy genre. It is set in an alternative Portland where sprites, gargoyles, and mermaids are not creatures of lore, but actually exist. Two teenage girls, one a siren and the other her foster sister, are not only having to battle the normal trials of being teenage girls but are having to fight racial prejudices that extend beyond the color of their skin. It was a little difficult to get into t Review Weaving mystical creatures and social justice together, this was a refreshing take on the YA fantasy genre. It is set in an alternative Portland where sprites, gargoyles, and mermaids are not creatures of lore, but actually exist. Two teenage girls, one a siren and the other her foster sister, are not only having to battle the normal trials of being teenage girls but are having to fight racial prejudices that extend beyond the color of their skin. It was a little difficult to get into the story at first because the initial worldbuilding was somewhat lacking. I felt like I had been thrown into the middle of a story without any explanation and found myself wondering if I was missing something. Because of this, I was fairly confused for several chapters. Luckily the narrative soon found its stride and I began to fall in love with the setting and characters as it all breathtakingly came together. It was worth pushing through because as the story came alive, I felt fully swept away in the lives of these two impressive young women. And those final, utterly explosive chapters…omg. I hope that this isn’t the last time we will be seeing Tavia and Effie because I’m fully invested in them now and what comes next. A Song Below Water did end in a way that makes it holds up as a standalone, but there was just enough there at the end to leave it open for further books. Let’s hope this is the start to a much-needed addition to the YA fantasy world because I’m so here for it. Final Thoughts While any book about racial inequality in America would be relevant no matter when it was released, A Song Below Water's publication last week when the streets of America (including Portland) were erupting in frustration over the systemic racism in our country. I’ve seen some reviewers mention that this book should just pick a theme, fantasy or social justice, but I think those reviewers fail to understand that if you’re a POC in America you don’t get to choose a “theme.” Much like it is for real people, the color of their skin is not something these characters can choose to turn off. It’s simply impossible to separate the two and to expect that to happen in a book because it’s fiction is, in my opinion, definitely letting your privilege show. Read my full review on my blog! Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for a copy of this book in exchange for a review.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Claude's Bookzone

    I really wish this novel was not about mermaids and sirens and weird snakey creature things. The parts that look at racial and gender inequalities in society were really great. The rest felt...weird. I'm a seasoned reader and I had to work pretty hard to make sense of this world. This is largely because it was quite under developed. It was also because it just didn't hold my attention. There are also some really significant pacing issues. It is so slow and nothing much actually happens. I almost I really wish this novel was not about mermaids and sirens and weird snakey creature things. The parts that look at racial and gender inequalities in society were really great. The rest felt...weird. I'm a seasoned reader and I had to work pretty hard to make sense of this world. This is largely because it was quite under developed. It was also because it just didn't hold my attention. There are also some really significant pacing issues. It is so slow and nothing much actually happens. I almost dnf'd when one of them started calling the gargoyle "Gargy". It just got a bit ridiculous to be honest.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    4.5 stars, rounded up. There was a LOT going on in this book, which was both its greatest strength and its main flaw. The two main characters, both narrated in 3rd person limited POV in alternating chapters, have storylines that are largely independent, although their friendship and sisterhood obviously make them invested in each other's lives. And their struggles, while individual, are also closely inked, much as the struggles of any Black woman in this country are both her own and intimately con 4.5 stars, rounded up. There was a LOT going on in this book, which was both its greatest strength and its main flaw. The two main characters, both narrated in 3rd person limited POV in alternating chapters, have storylines that are largely independent, although their friendship and sisterhood obviously make them invested in each other's lives. And their struggles, while individual, are also closely inked, much as the struggles of any Black woman in this country are both her own and intimately connected to all other's. I found the girls' families to be SO FRUSTRATING, what with their secret keeping and operating out of fear rather than love. But I also admire Morrow's ability to let us still see that love, and even how the love is actually what drove the fear. As a parent, I had to reflect on ways I might do the same thing to my own kids. It was hard to read about the protests given the current state of the country. It was hard to read about police showing up ready to turn on the crowd, about a peaceful gathering descending into chaos and violence due to police actions, about non-Black people in the crowd turning their t-shirts inside out to avoid being connected with it, when no Black person there could alter their appearance to placate white authority. It was hard to read about the group of girls who drive up to the protest together, clueless and self-righteous, while Tavia and Effie know this is their life, not a feel-good field trip. Again, it pushed me to think harder about my own actions this past week, when I took my teenaged daughter to a small protest in the town I teach but never even considered attending one of the larger protests in the city, prioritizing my safety and comfort. A small detail that I love is that while one girl gets a sweet romance with a surprising twist, the other one...doesn't. She does get closure on a past romance, but these young woman have other concerns besides, "But does he LIKE me like me?" Don't get me wrong; I'm a fool for romance, but I'm also annoyed when it's treated as inevitable, or The Most Important Thing. I was a high schooler who was not battling evil in magical or societal form, and I STILL never had a date to the prom. From Morrow's biography on the book jacket, I don't know what her connection to Portland is, but I always love to read books set in my hometown. On the first page she describes the pool where my niece celebrated her 8th birthday, and I was immediately there. Sometimes that level of familiarity trips me up though, as I start wondering how on earth the busy community pool would allow a single swimmer in, or why girls who live near the SW Community Center would also be so familiar with the St. John's area on the other end of the city. But as a white woman who grew up in the whitest part of town in one of the whitest cities in America, I am always challenged and moved by books set in Portland that were written by Black writers. Renée Watson, Gabby Rivera, and Heidi W. Durrow have all opened my eyes. Morrow mentions a picture and story seared into my mind, that of a Black boy adopted by white mothers. The family shot into local fame when a photo of him hugging a police officer and sobbing his heart out made the papers, and then again shortly afterwards when the moms drove the entire vanful of kids they'd adopted off a cliff into the ocean. On purpose. I'd just seen the photo pop back up on Twitter last week as an attempted example of "This is the kind of love we need to see," and it was rightfully taken down soon after, once people gave the actual context. Also, this is not directly about the book, but one reviewer complained that the author didn't explain black hair care well enough to which I say HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, but only because I have neither the ability nor the temperament to reach through the screen and punch her on the nose. Get. Over. Yourself. There's a moment in the book in which one character's white acquaintances are SHOCKED she's never seen The Princess Diaries, but when she asks them if they've seen Drumline, they're all, "Huh?" Like, seriously, if we expect all Black and other POC people in the world to figure out everything white as a survival technique, maybe we can fucking google black hair terms if we feel our lack of background knowledge is interfering with our understanding of the story. Which it wasn't, for the record.

  30. 4 out of 5

    ℳacarena

    This book is amazing! I'm not very much into YA, with a few exceptions (The Hunger Games and Divergent), but that doesn't mean I won't choose a book because of its genre. I'm so happy that I requested it. It's quite original and so deep. It's not your average sirens story, it's so much more than that. I'll try to give you a brief summary. Tavia is a siren, but only her parents and sister know it, because been a siren means only bad things. Since many years there have been only black women sirens, This book is amazing! I'm not very much into YA, with a few exceptions (The Hunger Games and Divergent), but that doesn't mean I won't choose a book because of its genre. I'm so happy that I requested it. It's quite original and so deep. It's not your average sirens story, it's so much more than that. I'll try to give you a brief summary. Tavia is a siren, but only her parents and sister know it, because been a siren means only bad things. Since many years there have been only black women sirens, therefore they're always to blame. Being a woman is hard, being a black woman is harder, and being a black woman siren is even worse. Effie is Tavia's sister. She was adopted years ago. She's also supernatural, but she doesn't know what exactly she is. There are more supernatural, such as elokos, gargoyles and sprites. Effie fears she's an sprite. Tavia and Effie must face their fears and be outstandingly brave in order to do so. That's the only way to demonstrate society how wrong they have been. How remarkably wrong they have been acting. As you can see, the plot is really deep. There's so much meaning in Effie's journey to discover what she really is and the way Tavia starts to leave her fears (but mostly her father's fears) behind. One must be brave to demonstrate people that their prejudices are absolutely wrong. And it starts by accepting who you are and using your voice. I absolutely loved this book! Thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan-Tom Doherty Associates for providing me with an e-ARC in exchange for my honest review. And thanks to Bethany C. Morrow for this awesome book.

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