Orpheus Girl

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 15 Oct 2019

Member Reviews

I started this book with little idea of what it was about, apart from being influenced by the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. It's a beautiful and sad story about a man descending into the underworld to get his wife back, and being told that he can leave and his wife will follow but he must not look back or she will be lost forever. Obviously, he looks back.

Orpheus Girl is a lyrical, moving story about two girls who fall in love and descend into the 'underworld' of a conversion therapy camp. I love the way this story is written, and it's no surprise to me that the author is a poet, as there were lines in this book which were so good I reread them. 

There were some elements of this book which I really liked, such as the absence of Raya's mother and her characterisation as an actress playing Aphrodite on a crappy tv show. Sarah always felt like a bit of an enigma throughout the novel, which may be partially the point as it is from Raya's point of view, but I feel like we're not given quite enough information about her character to see her as more than the girl Raya loves. There are moments, when Raya remembers an intimate moment between them or recalls small details about something she said once etc, but I would have liked more of these.

I liked the emotional intensity of the book, and the evocation of the conversion therapy is very vivid, brutally  and viscerally so. I feel like there wasn't enough time spent with the other kids at the conversion therapy to view them as fully dimensional characters, which slightly lessened the impact of certain plot developments. I liked the portrayal of the woman who runs the camp, and the evolution of her morality throughout. 

Overall, I'm glad I read this book and enjoy it as a piece of writing, but as a novel it was slightly too languid/dreamy for my taste.
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3.5 Stars. 

The writing is absolutely beautiful. I'm interested to see where Rebele-Henry goes from here, as she's very clearly a promising new talent. The feel of the book -- especially the first half or so -- is just...extremely real. Raya's thoughts and emotions surrounding her coming out are ones that plagued by own teenage thoughts, and I'm sure that of other queer people as well. 

It was interesting that the book was set in the early 2000s -- references to the Britney/Madonna kiss and The L Word placing it solidly in my own teenage years. It was familiar but yet not quite, like looking at the era through a slightly clouded lens, though I don't think that detracts from the book at all. I'm curious as to why those were the years the author chose for her book to take place, but optimistically hope that it is because we as a society have grown more accepting in the years since. 

The Orpheus analogy feels clunky, like it either needs to be woven in more explicitly or pulled out entirely. The backmatter references the characters' counterparts within the Orpheus myth, which I found to be an odd choice, particularly since Raya explicitly mentions the myth numerous times in almost a 4th-wall breaking way. I'm not sure if that was the right route to go. 

The first third-to-half of the book is by far the strongest, and I think that the time in the conversion centre could have been explored more deeply -- the characters there don't come alive in the same way as Sarah, Raya, Grammy, et al. I was particularly interested in seeing more of Leon and Michael. 

Char's arc, too, could have been tightened up. Her motivation and transformation were hinted at, but could have been explored much more in depth. 

Overall, this is an important book for queer teens, who will see themselves represented in Raya's experiences. Furthermore, it explores the uncomfortable reality of "conversion" therapy and the horrors therein.
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The LGBT book I've been waiting to read my whole life. This is a powerful, moving book about two teens who are sent to a religious re-education camp, and about what happens when homophobia is left unchecked. It's absolutely incredible and a must-read.
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There is absolutely no reason for this book to be as awful as it is. If you're gonna write about queer pain, at least add some hope sprinkled in. This book hurt to read.
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I thought this book was very well written. I really enjoyed the romance between Sarah and Raya. The book was heartbreaking and beautifully written. The book was also unapologetically truthful to the horror of conversion therapy. So while I don't know if everyone would enjoy this book due to the graphic nature of this story, I do think that it was a well written and thought out tale. I also thought the greek mythology comparisons & connections were a nice touch. The only issues I had with it was that sometimes it was a little to text heavy or flashback heavy and not enough dialouge wise. I also really wanted to see what happens after they leave the conversion therapy camp. I have read a lot of books like this such as Cameron Post and The Summer I Wasn't Me. Both are good books, but I really hoped that they would explore more of what happens after someone escapes those camps rather than mostly focusing on the experience that they face in them. Not that those books shouldn't exist, I just wish more books discussed the aftermath and I was disappointed to see this book did not stray from that norm. However, I would love a sequel and how that the author will consider writing one. Overall, this was a pretty good book and would recommend it to anyone who feels they can handle the subject matter (if they can't for any reason it that is perfectly fine and understandable).
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I requested this book before the numerous content warnings appeared online based on the plot premise so going in, I was very wary.
And this book really hits you like a punch in the guts. However despite that, I thought this was a powerful story that I would recommend but only to suitable audiences.
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Content warnings: lesbophobia, homophobic slurs used, death of a trans person, injury detail, shock treatment, body dysmorphia, suicidal thoughts, dissociation, sexual scenes, emotional abuse, transphobia

This was a massive disappointment. I thought this was going to be more about the escape from conversion camps rather than a graphic depiction of the camps. As a queer person, I was naturally unsettled by the details of the abuse. Personally, I think the book was written in order to be distressing purely for the shock factor. Yes, LGBTQ+ people have endured so much abuse since forever, but do we REALLY need a book about it? Really?

And of course, the only trans person in the story fucking dies and is, in my opinion, abused psychologically and verbally more than the other characters. As a genderqueer person, I was upset by this focus on the transphobic actions of the abusers. And the trans character is just carted off without any real resolution? Like they were barely breathing then it goes back to the main characters as if it was nothing??? 

I think what this book does well with is showing how homophobia, lesbophobia, biphobia, transphobia etc isn’t always the public things that people say to you or do to you - for example, what happened to those lesbians on a London bus this year. It’s also the comments about how straight cis people don’t mind gay people, but don’t want to interact with them. Don’t want them to have the right to marry. Don’t want them in schools, universities, politician positions etc. 

In terms of the writing style, it was definitely poetic at times, but it was VERY repetitive. I felt like I was reading the same passages over again but in a different chapter. Also, the whole “Orpheus” thing - there is a vague connection to the myth through the character literally referring to herself as Orpheus but that’s it. I liked the wings motif, we could have had a bit more of a fantasy element at the end of the novel, but it just sorta ends on a quiet note.
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*3.5/5

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an arc of this novel. 

Trigger warnings for homophobia, transphobia. conversion therapy camp, electro shock therapy, forceable outing, deadnaming, and misogynistic dicks. 

Orpheus Girl holds the guarantee to rip you apart from the inside out and leave you like that to remind you that we're all human. To remind you what it feels like to be used and broken, and to make you use that knowledge for good. It reminds you that we must protect our fellow humans at all costs. 

This novel isn't a fluffy love story, it's one that will surely tear you apart, but in the best way possible. 

The only true complaint I have on this novel is that the pacing of the book was off -- for a book that's 176 pages, I felt like it was incredibly slow in some areas, and way too fast in others. Also, I wish I could have felt and learned more about the characters. Most of the seemed pretty one dimensional to me -- like their sole job was for me to either sympathize with them, or hate them, and that's it. 

All in all, I think this novel is incredibly important, but not for the faint of heart.
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This book is a very powerful read. I feel like there isn't a lot of literature that tackles conversion therapy, and it was very eye-opening to that.  There were some points, even early on in the book that Raya seemed sort of robotic. Though that could just be because Raya isn't a character that I relate to. That in itself was something that I sort of enjoyed about the book. I feel like this is one of the first times I felt like I had a character whose POV was 100% different from mine, and that was very refreshing.  I wish the book had been longer. I would have liked to see a more certain ending. There was a while where I thought that the book wasn't going to end in the way that it did, and it kept me on edge.
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I actually requested this before all the posts about the disturbing content went viral, and now I wish I'd done a bit of research before starting this. I'm not a fan of reading about heavy topics and "qu*er pain" - as it's been coined by a few other reviewers. Disregarding the content, the writing at the beginning was not my cup of tea. It was presented like a badly written diary entry and did a lot more telling instead of showing (even for the introduction to a book). I can see why people would like stories like this, but if I hate the writing at the beginning, then I'm not going to waste my time continuing.
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Brynne Rebele-Henry's Opheaus Girl is a heartbreaking retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth of two lesbian girls who end up getting sent to conversion therapy.  Let me tell you...this book gave me ALL the feels.  The anger I felt toward the people who mistreated them - people who are supposed to LOVE them but instead betray and abuse them - was long-lasting.  

This is an important book, and I'm glad I was able to read it during Pride Month.  I'm not fully ignorant of the difficulties LGBTQ+ people face, but I've never witnessed it first hand.  This is perhaps the closest I have ever come to understanding the risks and pain of being an LGBTQ+ person in a community that does not support you.  I think anyone who wants to be a better ally should read this.  Also, because the characters are so well-written and sympathetic, the reader is compelled to feel their pain so much stronger.

What I am familiar with and do know first hand, is familial abuse.  This book did an excellent job as far as driving the point home that you do not have to forgive those who abuse you and that you don't owe anything to your blood family just because you happened to have the misfortune to be born into it.  

Do not go into this book if you're not in a good head space, though.   There is violent abuse, homophobia, transphobia, suicidal ideation, and just simply depressing material.  This is not by any means a light book.  But know that the ending is satisfying and therapeutic.  

Thank you to Brynne Rebele-Henry, Soho Press, and NetGalley for allowing me to access this book to review.  As always, all opinions are my own.
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Orpheus Girl by Brynne Rebele-Henry is a book that will take readers on a terrifyingly raw journey of two girls, Raya and Sarah, who are forced into conversion therapy by their families when their relationship is outed.
     From the start of this book, I was intrigued by how the author would intertwine the Orpheus myth into this story, and I was surprised at how well it was done. Even though I had known about the myth prior I did not feel as though the story was predictable.
     I feel that the author was able to portray the emotions of the characters in a way that brought the reader into the situation with them.  
Orpheus Girl was a book that I could not put down. I read it in one sitting because I needed to know what was going to happen to all of the characters. It kept me gripped from beginning to end. 
     The one aspect of the book that wasn't my favorite was the writing style. I had to first get used to the way that the narrator explained events, but once I was immersed into the story it no longer mattered.
     Over all Orpheus Girl is a solid read that I would recommend to anyone who is interested in the synopsis, I just caution that the topics covered are quite dark and therefore could be triggering.
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This book is kind of the tragically beautiful you may expect from the summary and a book based on a Greek myth. It's a rare case of YA with an established relationship. 

The writing in this was very atmospheric. It fit the book really well. 

I also really loved the relationship. It was so soft and I wanted nothing but the best for these girls. 

It's definitely a heavy book, and I definitely recommend if you can handle heavy subjects.
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Overall I felt that the writing is good and that the story flows in a clear and intriguing way. By the end, I felt that the story had a clear beginning, middle, and end. I was also pleased with how the story ended and where we leave our characters. Orpheus Girl is set for October 8, 2019, when it comes out I highly recommend you give it a go. I have a feeling that a lot of people will connect to it.
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This book was good, but I think it could have benefited from being longer. I also had issues with choices the author made in regards to how to characterize/interpret certain characters from myth, especially Orion and Hades. It's unfortunate because I was really looking forward to this but unfortunately it just fell flat for me.
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I'm...not sure how to rate this book. I'm not sure if this is even the right rating for it. 

I'll have a more detailed review written once I have my thoughts sorted out, but for now, just a gentle reminder to queer readers: it's okay to not read or want to read heavy critically-acclaimed LGBTQ+ works if you think the experience will be too painful for you. It's important that these works are out in the world and reaching readers of all backgrounds and holding a megaphone to issues that need to be heard, however ugly. But your emotional well-being comes before any perceived duty you feel you have as a member of the community. We don't have to clutch queer pain by the blade and bleed ourselves on the altar to prove to ourselves and others that we belong. 

I think Orpheus Girl is important. I think its existence is necessary. But it was also a hard, emotionally-draining read for me (think watching/reading Holocaust stories). Definitely the hardest YA contemporary I've read in recent memory. And it's not just the horrific acts perpetuated by the conversion camp employees--the emotional abuse, the electroshock sessions--it's the sheer suffocation of it all. The story doesn't give you any room to breathe and it feels like you're trapped there right alongside the characters. 

And, well...that's kind of the point of the story. Making 176 pages feel like a lifetime. 

So in that sense, it's brilliantly, beautifully written. But god, did I hate reading it.
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This is a hard book to review. I was so desperate to love it. A wlw retelling of Orpheus and Eurydice sounded like the best thing ever. I wish it had lived up to my expectations. Maybe that's my fault for wanting too much from it.

In my view, simply having the protagonist state over and over again 'I'm like Orpheus because I'm going to rescue the girl I love' does not a retelling make. The idea behind this book is incredibly interesting, and I think it's absolutely within the author's remit. She's clearly very talented, and honestly, I think this book could have worked with a lot more editing. However, having the book segmented and titling each section after aspects of the myth doesn't make each section actually resemble the myth structurally. Towards the end, the retelling aspect finally came together for me with a very clever musing on what it actually means for Orpheus to look back, but it was too little too late for me. It was frustrating because it showed what the author was capable of, but the book didn't deliver.

Myth was used very oddly in this book. The protagonist constantly makes reference to really esoteric myths (e.g. Atalanta, who I would say is not the best known of mythic characters) but we never see her reading mythology, or studying it, or talking about it to someone else. We never get a sense that she actually knows or loves these myths for her to be referencing them. We never get any sense of depth at all from any of the characters. We randomly hear facts about people (e.g. we learn about halfway through that the narrator's grandmother presses and sells corsages) but just learning a fact about a person, apropros of nothing, doesn't give us any window into who they are as a person, especially when the fact comes from nowhere and is never mentioned again. The characters of Hyde and Char are particularly bad; Char flip-flops from one extreme to the other with no continuity and no reason. Even the main love interest, Sarah, has no personality. She drinks black coffee and prefers it when it's gritty because she likes the bitterness. OK, but what does that mean for her? How does this manifest?

There were some other things that made me uncomfortable, too. There's a Russian character who speaks like a parody of every Russian character ever (e.g. dropping 'the' a lot, getting American idioms wrong in a way that's portrayed as something to laugh at). The plot culminates in the attempted suicide of a trans character, who has barely any role in the novel before that point and whose fate we never hear about; his suicide attempt is just a vehicle for the cis characters to escape, and using trans suicide like that is really iffy to me. The majority of the second half of the book is just graphic (and inaccurate) depictions of electric shock treatment (it's administered without anaesthetic), which struck me as somewhat ableist for those who still undergo ECT. These are all things that we are past accepting, particularly in YA literature, and it was disappointing to see them here.

The actual writing is beautiful, and the author absolutely has a talent for words beyond her years, but it does not translate into a coherent or well-structured narrative. I believe that she's usually a poet, and I have to say that this book would have been so, so much better had she written it as a series of poems. Poetry is different from narrative fiction and the two require different things to work. This book needed characterisation and effective plot. Poetry needs beautiful language and imagery, amongst other things, which this book has in spades. I would have eaten this book up if it had been allowed to be the poetry that this author is clearly comfortable with.

I wanted to love this book. I really, really did. I can't recommend it in its current state, but I think the author is going to do very exciting things in the future. She's already written more than most people twice her age, and the quality of her writing is ridiculously advanced. I just don't think this novel is ready yet, not without a lot of editorial guidance.
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I went into Orpheus Girl thinking it was going to be a sweet summary f/f romance and boy was I wrong. 
This book delves into some pretty tough topics which initially caught me off guard. 
Although this isn't the best written book in the world I did come to really feel for the character, even the side characters, and it was a pretty emoitional read.
I can't say I enjoyed reading about this subject matter because how can anyone enjoy reading about something so horrible done by one human to another, but I did enjoy learning more about the topic. I've always read the cute fluffy lgbt books where everything turns out hunky dory and this was a completely different and darker side to what many go through.
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This book did all kinds of things to this sapphic heart of mine. It is both gut-wrenching and sensitive, brutal yet lyrical. It grabbed hold and refused to let go until I had borne witness. 

ORPHEUS GIRL is one of those books that only needs a few words to deliver. It's very short, but I think that adds to its impact. Through every word it is apparent that Henry is a poet. And this book, more than poetry, feels very personal. 

I really have no criticisms for this book except for this quote located in 697 on my Kindle edition: "There is a girl who is really a boy," when in reference to a trans boy who is at the same facility as the main character. When discussing trans people as a cis person you have to be really careful. Because the fact of the matter is saying that this boy is really a boy is canceled about by the fact that you called him a girl in the first place. 

Better, it should be quoted: There is a "girl" who is a really a boy, OR, something else that basically points out that he actually shouldn't be referenced that way. Otherwise it just seems like our main character is misgendering him. 

I think, because this book will be read by LGBT teens, this is an important change that should be made. 

Otherwise this is an amazing book, so important, so relevant, and I hope it gets all the attention and love it deserves. Conversion therapy still happens, and we can't ignore the disgusting realities of it.
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This book was heartbreaking, raw and so so moving. I had a background about gay conversion camps but this book showed the ugly truth of them and how they're human rights violations. Nobody should be able to tell you who you can and can't love; and especially not try to convince you that you committed the biggest sin by being who you are. The story progresses chronologically and shows the development of Raya and Sarah's relationship, getting caught, persevering through the camp and then "after". I don't want to spoil anything but there is an after that made me feel so happy for them. Raya and Sarah's story is a powerful one and I'm still reeling from finishing this book. It made me cry and made me angry. I think that shows how powerful words can be when they are written in a way such as this. The writing is so beautiful and poetic and I couldn't put the book down. I loved Raya and her passion for Sarah, and for staying true to herself. No matter through getting "caught" and getting sent to this camp, she knows who she is and knows that it isn't something you can change. I appreciated the ending of the book and how it resolves yet leaves the story open-ended. I was satisfied with it and I can't recommend it more.

I can't say I disliked anything about this book particularly. I disliked the fact that gay conversion camps exist and that some huge companies donate to them. As a counselor, I'm also pretty into social justice and LGBTQIAP+ wellness is one of my focuses and interests. I have heard stories from people first-hand that have broken my heart and it just makes me so angry because it isn't fair. While I'm not exactly part of the community myself, I feel for those who are persecuted and this shows that hey, it still happens in our country. This book is set in Texas and the deep south is a place where these camps and these views are very much real. Fighting for basic human rights needs to come to the forefront and books like this help raise awareness. Raya's grandmother really pissed me off and it made me sick to my stomach to read someone speaking to their granddaughter--let alone anyone--that way.
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