Cover Image: Orpheus Girl

Orpheus Girl

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Member Reviews

I thought I would be prepared to go into the book, but it turns out I was very very wrong. This book was a tough read but it was so worth it. However I did feel like at times it was going to deep to make the reader feel emotions just for the sake of queer pain when at some parts it was unnecessary.
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The tale of Orpheus and Eurydice is one that has always interested me. It's thick with emotion and bittersweet energy and this re imagining is no different. It brings the tale to the 21st century for modern audience with heavy topics, heartbreaking scenes, and a whirlwind romance. I enjoyed how this book didn't stick to the formula, as so much other retelling often rely back to.
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Overall I think the author does a great job of showing how a queer girl in the late 90's/early millennia lived in fear of her peers and family finding out about her sexuality and the consequences of such. That said, the tone of the book didn't work for me. I thought it was a bit monotone and lacked range.
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It was ok. If you want a better retelling of the myth of Orpheus, Sarah McCarry’s Metamorphos trilogy is a much better written version of these myths. If you want a story where a lesbian is sent to conversion therapy in the 90s, The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a much more realistic depiction of conversion therapy. I could tell before reading her bio that the author had not in fact been alive on the 90s. While this book was supposedly set in the nineties (were told about the fashion and technology) several things the main character does or thinks was not consistent with test time period. A teenager from small town Texas in the 90#s wouldn’t have known what transgender was. While yay, inclusivity, this wasn’t consistent with the time period, I mean, the MC has only even heard of lesbians on two occasions, once on the Jews, and once from a magazine page hidden in a book at the library. The inconsistencies really took me out of the story
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This book was a miss for me. The writing had a weird style to it that sort of annoyed me; the characters, despite being in terrible situations, didn’t make me love them or feel deeply for them; the plot was bleak and monotonous, especially for so short a myth; and the Orpheus myth was muddled and repetitive.
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I think I liked the concept of this book more than the execution.  The Orpheus myth is one of my favorites and I was fascinated by the idea of a queer re-telling.  That said - continuously identifying oneself as Orpheus doesn't necessarily make this a re-telling and it was difficult for me to find parallels between this story and the source material.  I will say this though - the structure of the story does feel mythic - just cresting over 170 pages with writing that has a staccato like feel and is both poetic and devastating.  I think where the execution failed me was that this style/structure didn't translate well with some of the plot points and subject matter.  Aspects of the story that demanded more, were glossed over and the story itself lacked character development or even characters that felt completely fleshed out.  It almost feels like the author wasn't sure if this should be a poem or a story - so it ended up somewhere in the middle.  Overall, do I think this is worthy of a library collections purchase?  I do – if anything else it is a great discussion piece and an opportunity for teen exploration into poetry and the classics.
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As someone who grew up in a small, backward-minded town, there's much in Orpheus Girl that I could relate to. Fortunately, I was never sent to a conversion camp. Unfortunately, the level of homophobia within this book was much more than most LGBTQ+ individuals will want to read. We've been through it in the real world, and it's absolutely horrific. Simply being able to relate to characters doesn't make reading their story enjoyable or healthy.

On the plus side, the prose is very beautiful at times, making it clear a poet wrote this book. On the downside, the characters never felt as fleshed out as I would have liked. Also, some of the decisions that were made were a bit nonsensical. For instance, why would you send two girls who were caught kissing to the same conversion camp? That kind of defeats the point of separating them, doesn't it?

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing a copy.
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Orpheus Girl by Brynne Rebele-Henry wasn’t what I expected, although honestly I did not read the summary before reading it. Like most, I expected Nina LaCour-like queer stories and got something completely different instead. I expected queer happiness; not a conversation camp, but I would still recommend it so long as they’re okay with the trigger warnings. 

It was beautifully written. I’ve never read anything by Rebele-Henry, but it definitely made me want to pick up one of her poetry collections in the future. Her lyrical prose made it that much more heartbreaking, and at times I wondered if I could even finish it because it was almost too much pain. I would not necessarily recommend this to teens; there’s so much queer pain out there already, I’m hesitant to recommend something this painful to a young kid. But as a twenty-something who grew up in a liberal city, reading this felt like being transported to another world in the worst way possible (written in the best way possible).

I’m wavering on my rating, again because it felt like queer pain for pain’s sake. But it was just so beautifully written, and Raya pulled at my heartstrings, I can’t disregard it. It's more like a 3.5 stars for me, because again reading queer pain is not my idea of a good time, but the writing.  I'll definitely read more by her in the future.

content warnings: homophobia (by family + students, slurs, telling them they're disgusting/going to hell), conversion therapy (aversion therapy with freezing water, electroshock), transphobia, off-page suicide attempt, absent mother, starvation, misgendering, self-harm
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Raya has grown up in her conservative Texas town hiding a part of herself, but when she’s discovered kissing another girl, she can’t hide anymore. She and said girl, her best friend Sarah, are sent to a conversion camp, where Raya hopes that she, like Orpheus, can lead the girl she loves to safety.

So…first of all, this is marketed as a retelling of the Orpheus myth from Greek mythology and it’s not. The “Orpheus” angle is used more for heavy-handed metaphors in an attempt to add depth to what is otherwise an unremarkable book.

There wasn’t much I enjoyed about reading this. The writing isn’t terrible, but it also wasn’t fantastic; the characters felt like flat paper dolls that the author moved around for the story’s convenience; the pacing was all kinds of weird. Worst of all, though, was the fact that this book deals with an incredibly painful and serious topic with little sensitivity. It blatantly shows the literal torture that the characters endure. While I think it’s important to face the reality of the horror behind conversion therapy, there are better ways to address it without harming the reader as well.

That said, I do want to mention that this topic is incredibly relevant, since conversion therapy is still legal in 33 US states.
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This cover and the fact that this book is f/f gave me major Nina Lacour vibes, so I’m sad I didn’t enjoy this as much as I wish I would’ve. I’ll be first to admit that I’m not hugely well versed on Greek mythology, so I had to Google the myth of Orpheus and go from there. The character guide in the back was also really helpful to see how the story correlated to the myth. But other than having a cool plot structure and a strong bond between the two main characters, this book left a lot to be desired.

For starters, it’s barely even 175 pages for an entire book about coming out, going to conversion therapy camp, falling in love, and more. Even though the size of this book was a huge inspiration in my motivation to read it, this book did itself a major disservice by rushing through a lot of the plot. Furthermore, a lot of the elements were really convenient and cookie cutter, and I never felt shocked or touched by what was happening because it all occurred so quickly. It almost feels like this is a book someone wrote for Nanowrimo where they rushed through everything just to get a complete story in 50,000 words, but it reads like a first draft where the author still has to go back in and add a lot of detail and plot description. 

Other than that, there’s not a lot to be said. Again, I liked the characters and the conflict and the setting of small town Texas (side note: I think this book is set in the 90s? It very much had that vibe and I loved it). The writing did have some lovely lines toward the beginning, but once this book picked up speed, it just progressed very mechanically with no character development and several elements thrown in as shock value without a lot of substance. I’m sure this book will be meaningful to some people, but it lacked enough spark to make me connect to it and I thought it was somewhat unrealistically and conveniently resolved, as much as I was cheering the girls on.
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As a huge fan of Greek mythology, I really wanted to like this book.  And as someone who enjoys Sonya Sones and Ellen Hopkins, when the blurb touted this book by an "award winning poet," I thought I would be reading something in that vein.

Sadly, that wasn't the case.  

Though I am a huge fan of LGBQT+ stories, this story of Raya and Sarah didn't work for me.  I first wondered why, if Raya and Sarah were caught kissing, they would be sent to the SAME conversion camp?  Wouldn't the goal be to separate them?

Every once in a while the author would throw in an Orpheus myth reference, but I really didn't see a tight enough connection to the myth in the characters.  I almost put the book down many times because it just didn't ring true for me.
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This book had so much potential. I was honestly ecstatic to see a novel written by a poet, as I'm an avid fan of purple-prose. I was thinking Tahereh Mafi, Roshani Chokshi, or even something akin to Twilight's many references to Wuthering Heights. But alas, this fell very very far from the mark I thought it would reach. Maybe I started with higher expectations than I should have? 

What I'm sure the author though was poetic prose came off more as a writing project by a middle schooler. Someone who knows the basic form of a sentence and will occasionally throw in thesaurus words to make their language not so simple. I honestly felt like I was reading a middle-grade book half of the time, and found the told-not-shown storytelling very boring. 

While I can understand why the story was told in such a way, the Myth of Orpheus and the comparison to some modern day LGBT+ romances, the end product just didn't fit. The characters were taken at face value and pushed into these molds to fit the character from the myth. The shock value didn't even cause shock or empathy - just frustration. I struggled to get through the book, when I was wanting to love it. 

2/5 Stars
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Orpheus Girl is an emotional read that is informative and well written. The subject matter of it can also be triggering and uncomfortable at times, but it's also such an important read. It talks about choosing your family and how you aren't obligated to forgive your blood family for putting you in an abusive situation or abusing you which I feel is important when talking about the LGBTQ+ community. I really love this book and how emotional it was. I do recommend looking at the trigger warning from the author, though, because the subject matter within can be heavy at times.
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Disclaimer: I was given an advance reading copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to Soho Press and Soho Teen for the opportunity. 

I rarely read f/f representation on books, so it always intrigues and excites me whenever I see one. I'm thankful I was approved for this because this book deals with heavy themes no one is comfortable and brave enough to talk about. And the cover? I love it!

I would say that Brynne Rebele-Henry wrote one good debut novel. Orpheus Girl is honest and brave. There might be a few parts where I really didn't connect but it sort of pulls me back again.

I'm giving this 3.5 stars (rounded off to a 4). Maybe it's just me, so please do give this book a chance.
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Haunting and needed, ORPHEUS GIRL dives deep into the heartbreak, devastation and resilience teenage lesbian Raya feels when she is sent by her bigoted Christian grandmother to a "conversion camp" after being caught with her girlfriend. 

This book is a short but compelling and emotional retelling of the Orpheus myth with a queer lens. The ache and hope I felt while reading this book reduced me to sobs at the end. This book is so important for allowing readers who are not queer to experience first hand the terror of homophobia, especially when that homophobia is "well-intentioned".  

Sometimes your family isn't your blood and that's perfectly okay. ORPHEUS GIRL nails that and I haven't stopped thinking about this book for hours. I highly recommend it. 

Heavy trigger warning for homophobia, slurs, attempted suicide, self-harm, and physical and emotional torture. 

"She's gripping red flowers in her left hand, so tightly they start to fall apart. She stands up, and then there's a door hanging over our heads and she turns to me. 'You go first. But don't look back.' But I do look back. I do."
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Well, friends, I am happy to report that my reading slump is over. At least for the moment. I am back on track with my reading goals, due in large part to Orpheus Girl by Brynne Rebele-Henry and a few other ARCs that have kickstarted my “fall” reading. Trust and believe it is still every bit of 90 degrees here, though.

Raya knows she’s always been different. Her mother abandoned her to a grandmother who only saw her as redemption for her perceived failure with Raya’s mother. Raya is obsessed with myths, and she always thought she could love her best friend Sarah, and when Sarah returns her kisses, she knows she’s too far gone. When the girls are caught in a compromising position, Raya follows Sarah to straight camp, just as Orpheus descended to Hades to retrieve his love from the clutches of death. As much as Raya loves myths, however, she’s not Orpheus, and her life is not mythology and she’ll have to move heaven and Hades to get her girl and get out unscathed.

I flew through this book in under 24 hours. I started it before bed and was done by the next afternoon. It’s a quick read that packs a punch. If you’re a fan of mythology, you’ll notice some obvious parallels, but Rebele-Henry has taken great care with even minor characters to reflect characters from myth. I loved the budding romance between Raya and Sarah and was heartbroken as not only their love, but their bodies and spirits were tested as well.

If you’re looking for a quick read that will stay with you long after it’s done, make sure to add Orpheus Girl to your Fall Reading. It’s out on Tuesday, so the wait is nearly over!
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Thanks to NetGalley and Soho Teen for sending me a copy of this to review! Let's start with the cover: isn't it gorgeous? It's a bit reminiscent of We Are Okay by Nina LaCour, I think. Similar subject matter, too! Well, sort of similar. There isn't a conversion camp in that one.

At first, I was really excited to read this book. After all, it's in my wheel house, and I'd been hearing good things about it. Plus, it's loosely based on the Greek Orpheus myth, which is intriguing! Though, I admittedly don't know much about it. Maybe a bit of context would have helped me to connect to the story a bit more, as I felt a bit lost for a good part of the book.

This is an overall short read, but there are good moments to it. Rebele-Henry writes some beautiful sentences. In fact, I highlight a few of them while I was reading because they stood out to me. However, I didn't feel like I learned enough about Raya. Even though she's the narrator, her personality didn't shine. Her actions from the second half of the book didn't necessarily fit with the first half of the book. By the end, I wished she was a more concrete character, which would have made the book easier for me to get lost in.

Despite that, this is an important topic to explore in YA because there are a lot of these conversion camps that still exist. Which is absolutely heartbreaking. Fair warning, there is a lot of homophobia present in this book. It's important to show, but it's also difficult to read at times. 

All in all, there are a lot of small moments in this book that are good, and it shines a light on an important topic. I just wish the characters were a bit stronger.

2.5/5 stars
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I am torn. I love Greek mythology and can see the myth woven into Rebele-Henry's story beautifully. At the sentence level, this book is gorgeous writing, cover to cover. However, because this book deals with the painful subject of conversion "camp" and mixes the futility of Orpheus' love, I'd have to be extremely careful about which students I would recommend read this. This heavy, haunting read is a little like a horcrux in that it steals a part of your soul.
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Raya and Sarah just want to be together. However, because they live in a small town in Texas and are both girls it is completely unacceptable. When the girls are caught together they are shipped away to a reeducation camp to "fix" them. They go through forced hard labour and convertion therapy. What makes this story difficult to read is knowing people have actually gone through this. 

There was a lot I didn't like about this book. One of the main things I didn't like was how rushed it was. Everything escalated very quickly and I found more could have been added to have more depth to the story. What I absolutely hated was the character Char. She was the meanest worker in the camp, enforcing most of the punishments on Raya and Sarah and then all of a sudden she's the good guy letting them escape cause she suddenly felt bad and missed her old girlfriend? Ummm... no. I feel like if the author wanted to give Char redemption she should if had to work towards it and not just flip a switch. This actually ruined the book for me.
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DNF @27%
TW: homophobia
I read all of Part 1 and I have decided to mark this book as DNF. I think this story could mean so much to people but I just can't get into the story. The writing isn't working for me because I kept drifting off and finding myself needing to reread. Usually that's a bad sign. There's also a part of the story where Raya's mom isn't in the picture and that is personally triggering for me and every time I read a story where a parent left their kid for selfish reasons, I get in a bad place mentally.
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