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(Disclosure: There are things that I don’t know and through literature I seek answers. Please educate me on things that I don’t know. As always I try to be inclusive. kind and respectful in my reviews. xoxo, Rina )
Legacies meets Nic Stone’s Dear Martin in Bethany C. Morrow’s debut YA, A Song Below Water, about two best friends discovering their magical identities against the challenges of today’s racism and sexism.
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. (Goodreads)
This was a surprising read. This was marketed to me as a mermaid tale. This intrigued me a lot because I had never before read a book that revolved around mermaids.
This book had social commentary that I feel is relevant in today’s times. The book revolved around black characters and police violence. I feel like police brutality in the black community has taken a rise, and representation of it is important in literature to begin the conversation of how we can change this. This novel acknowledged the right to protest and showed it in a way of being able to use your voice in order to demand social change. I liked that this novel also showed the use of media, such as Youtube as a means to educate the public on social issues. I valued that this novel portrayed a true representation of what a protest looks like, the precautions one takes when protesting and the risk that one puts themselves in when they are protesting.
I enjoyed that this book included people of color representation and it was written by a black author.
While the book dealt with difficult social issues and had mythical creatures in it, it also displayed teenage love and the innocent feelings of crushes. While it did have a serious undertone to the story, the teenagers still acted like teenagers with magical powers. While the reader is trying to figure out who and what our main characters are, the main character Tavia and Effie are on the same journey as the reader trying to learn about their abilities and what it means to have those abilities in there life.
” What is the status of that? Are we avoiding labels or is he officially your boyfriend?”
“Okay, what makes it official?”
“If he asks you to go steady. Doy.”
“I just don’t think guys literally ask that anymore.” (P.173, Bethany C. Marrow )
However, the plotline of having police conflict within the black community was a promising touch, because I thought this was a very important point that provided space to educate the reader. I feel like this giant event was lost among the storyline. This story seemed to not contain a plot other than two girls having to protect one another.
There were different characters that were introduced without any explanation of their mythical origin besides their mythical names. Throughout the entire book, the main characters spent running away from an invisible evil force without really knowing why. Tavia and Effie also spend the greater part of the book not knowing their true identities and the reader spends a lot of the time being confused who is who.
There is a society of mythical creatures that are created to protect the girls called eolokes but, their origin is not explained. It is hard to understand their place in society. All the supernatural creatures lacked a back story. The creatures were all new to me, they were ones that I have never read about before. Which at first gave me excitement for a new fantasy world but the story fell short due to lack of back story and too much trying to be fit in such a short novel.
The family lines were very confusing, as the reader early on find out that the “sisters” are not related by blood. It was hard to identify which sister belonged to which family because it seemed that there was no strong connection between the family. When the families got together it felt like it was one large family, until the reader was reminded that the girls had lived previously in different homes. I personally struggled with making strong connections to their family lines. It did seem that the book tried to make the two families an important aspect of the story but it lacked in creating the connections that helped the reader be able to easily identify which family went to which girl and what roles the family played.
This book was not exactly my cup of tea. I enjoyed parts of it as I read. There was not much in this book that was very memorable to me and I do not see myself revisiting this book in the future. While I enjoyed the “people of color” representation and I thought that the book gave an interesting and important overview of protesting. The fantasy elements were not for me. I felt that the book lacked a lot of back story, while it introduced numerous amounts of supernatural creatures. I think that just by adding back story and having the book be slightly longer the story could have had a much more lasting effect on me. This siren tale was just not for me.