Orpheus Girl

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 15 Oct 2019

Member Reviews

Copy of this book provided to me through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

CW: homophobia, transphobia, misgendering, suicide, attempted suicide, shock therapy, violence, abandonment, & potentially more

2.5 stars
I was SO excited to receive a copy of this book! A f/f romance with Greek mythology sounded SO interesting to me.

This book follows our teen main character, Raya, and her long time best friend and love interest, Stacy. They live in a small town in Texas where the idea of homosexuality is the worst sin imaginable. When they are outed they are sent to a conversion therapy camp and Raya is set on getting them out.

Before I get into my review, to all my followers, please know that as a Christian, I stand by you and SEE you. I love you. I accept you for who you are and love you endlessly. This book does not reflect the ideals of Christianity where we are taught to love and cherish all. And to those who have experienced homophobia or mistreatment in the name of religion, please know I am sorry and that these views do not reflect true, loving Christians. I love you endlessly and support you.

That being said, let's get into my thoughts. 

This book was well written but I didn't find it to be what I had perceived it to be, and looking at my fellow readers, I realized I was not alone. The beginning of the story was tough but it still had cute moments where I was rooting for our characters. We don't get a lot of character development, but I expected that from a novel thats less than 175 pages.

My true issue with this was around the time of conversion therapy. This book displayed the (what I perceive to be) the harsh reality of these CRUEL places. The violence was terrifying and heart breaking and made me feel uncomfortable at times. I wouldn't recommend this to any of my queer friends just because of the severe weight and language used in this book. My heart hurt so much while reading and it sucked SO much to know things like this happen. I knew that would be a part of this book because of the whole idea of conversion therapy in the book, but there also seemed to be some sort of triumph to go along with it in regards to them getting to leave.. I never found that to be the case until the very end.

I also expected more greek mythology. For a main character who loved greek mythology, I wanted more. I wanted to see her reading or studying it or just incorporating it into her life more.

Overall, this book was good. the writing was great but I think the teen target market is a bit too young for this. As a young adult, I felt uncomfortable at times, and though I know that's the point of the novel, I don't want a young teen picking this up, expecting to somehow be represented, and this is what they get. All I can picture is a young girl who may identify with this character and FINALLY be excited to see someone like herself in a novel, only for that character to be abused, mistreated, and unloved by family and almost everyone around her.
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If I could give this a million stars I would. This book broke my heart in so many different ways and I loved every second of it. Everything horrible that could have possibly happened to Raya and her girlfriend did, and I was anxiously turning the pages right up until the end.

I loved the name choices and the guide at the end that helped connect the characters to their mythological influences.
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This book was beautifully terrifying. I haven't cried so much over a book in a very long time. 

The main setting of this story is a "pray the gay away" type conversion camp. It was brutal  just to read about this, and it breaks my heart that there are people this is happening to right now, in the name of religion, hate, whatever other excuse people use to torment teens this way.

The cast all had such interesting backstories, and i would like to read more about all of them. I'm having a hard time formulating clear thoughts on this book because it is so emotional and raw. I finished it a few weeks ago and still can't find a way to discuss it coherently. 

TW- homophobia, transphobia, misgendering, deadnaming, suicide attempt
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I cannot express how much I loved this book.  Raya is such an incredible protagonist and her story is one that has stuck with me long after finishing the book.  This is one that I'll not only be buying and recommending but will probably use as a book club pick as well.  So good.
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A heart breaking queer novel of self discovery. Raya knows she’s different and has to hide her queer identify out of fear of being sent away.
This book spoke to me on so many levels. I loved the connection to the main characters I felt and how I could relate to them on so many levels. The message of non conformity and finding a family that may not be blood, redemption and acceptance are all messages a queer teen reading this book can relate to. 
 I feel like this could be the next YA queer novel.
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I think this book will be a cathartic and meaningful read for LGBTQ teens looking for representation of their own experiences in literature. Even though I  found myself wishing for more complex characters and more than one storyline, this was a moving and poetic book, and I appreciated the poignant, lyrical prose.
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Books like this make me so sad. Why is loving someone of the same gender something that is wrong and needs to be 'fixed'? I was really hoping that the storyline with grandma would go in a different direction but it did not. Just wanted to give these two girls such a big hug. Love is love.
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I received an e-book copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Raya is very good at hiding who she is. There may have been times where she slipped up, but she was able to pass it off as something else. That is, until her best friend Sarah starting liking her back. It's dangerous for queer teens in Texas. There are other queers that were caught only to never be seen again. Raya and Sarah try to be careful, but they are caught and are soon sent to a camp to be "fixed." Now Raya is willing to anything to get her and Sarah out, but is she willing to lose herself in the process?

This story broke my heart. Just reading the horrible things that are being done to queer teens is unspeakable. I'm not sure if it's because the story was written like the Orpheus story, but I felt that the memories and some of the paragraphs to be confusing. I had to read them several times to understand that it was a flashback and not currently happening. The characters were interesting to read about, and I did like that Raya used Michael's correct pronouns throughout the book.
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This book is an emotional read for anyone and highlights some of the horrors of conversion camps. It gave me goosebumps and made me cry multiple times by the end.
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Loved this book. Beautifully, lyrically written. Full of passages that I highlighted because they struck a chord in me. I look forward to more from this writer.
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One of the issues i have with short books is that I feel like I can't connect fully with the characters within such a short amount of time and this one was no different, unfortunately. I did enjoy it enough to give it 3 stars though.
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This book is emotionally draining in the best way. The characters go through terrible things and it can be a lot to handle just reading it. Since the book isn't very long, you'd think it would be a quick read. But the author pulled me in and made me feel very attached to these characters, which meant sometimes I'd have to put it down for a minute because Rebele-Henry's writing affected me so much. I can't wait to see what this author has in store for us in the future.
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Thank you to NetGalley, Brynne Rebele-Henry, and the publishers for the free E-ARC I received of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

I have to say, I was super stoked to read this book. Let's be real: the subject matter is really hot right now. right? With both The Miseducation of Cameron Post and Boy, Erased being adapted for film, as well as a Vice President of The US who is in favor of them, Conversion therapy centers are a big part of the conversation going on. And, let's be real, it's a conversation that should've been happening at much louder decibels much sooner: these places are basically torture chambers for LGBT kids.

Brynne Rebele-Henry does a really nice job of showing that in her book. With the story of two lesbian teens, Raya and Sarah,  in love, she paints a picture of just how dangerous life can still be for LGBT youth in America, especially in the rural South. With her depiction of Conversion Camps, she doesn't turn away from the pain that these kids undergo, but she also doesn't relish in exploiting that pain. I feel like Rebele-Henry does a really nice job of walking right up to the line between authentic and honest and a bit gratuitous and landing on the right side. 

That said, there are a lot of things about this book that read like a first novel (which it is). It's short and feels exceptionally rushed all throughout the middle. The build up in the conversion camp is non-existent: it goes from 1-100 in a day. I'm not saying that's inaccurate: I honestly don't know what the schedule of tortures looks like at one of those places. either way, though, for a story, the pacing doesn't work. 

Another issue I had with the book was that it was hyper repetitive in some places. To the point that I think some passages almost entirely repeat. I wasn't sure if that was intentional--maybe to show the slowing of thoughts due to some of the torment Raya goes through--but if it was, it could be made to read as more intentional.

Finally, I had very little sense of setting here.  I know that Raya and Sarah are from a small town and I'm guessing it's a Southern one, but when are we? The fashion of the "popular girls" (frosty blue eyeliner, especially), made me think we are in the early aughts, but then a girl at the camp said that in most places, being gay was considered normal, so I thought maybe closer to present? Given that gay marriage was only legalized in the US four years ago, it makes a pretty big difference in terms of the context of the book.

All that said, the flaws are totally forgivable issues that might make an avid reader pause, but that don't take anything away from the importance of the work. So often, I hear kids talk about how it's no big deal to be gay anymore, that there's no risk to LGBT youth, but these torture chambers are only illegal in 15 out of 50 states. That means (ignoring the increased risk of homelessness, assault, etc) if nothing else, in 35 states, they face this risk. This is a must read for people who need to know what being gay can mean, even today.

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This isn't the type of book you enjoy necessarily, but I'm glad I read it and will be sure to recommend it to patrons.

Brynne Rebele-Henry's LGBT Orpheus retelling in a Texas conversion camp is haunting. The author's poetry roots stand out here. The writing is lyrical and dips into stream-of-consciousness.  

Raya's character arc stood out the most. In the face of extreme circumstances, she's more than just a lovestruck Orpheus. She's methodical and introspective. She's brave and compassionate. She's a hero you root for.
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While I understand the Teen/YA rating its writing style is so simplistic it reads like a children's fiction. The lyrical sytle was beautiful but there were times that it was overly descriptive so much that it pulled me out of the story instead of contributing to it. On the other hand there were times when it was wonderful to read, especially towards the end when the feelings of pain and longing seeped into my skin down to my soul. 
I think that it was an interesting take on the LGBTQ+ community but since a lot of Raya accepting, and later turning away, her identity is when she's in a conversion camp it was hard to get through at some points. This isn't your average coming of age coming out story.
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As a newly minted queer kid, I read a lot of books about coming out and the trials and tribulations that could ensue. I'm glad this is not a book I read then. That being said, this is a hauntingly painful book that does a more than adequate job of showcasing just how devastating and ruinous the impact of familial rejection and homophobia can be on a young queer person. In this book, we watch Raya and Sarah fall in love through passages that read like poetry, only to be ripped away from that tenderness to be sent to a conversion camp where the pages start to feel more like reading a horror story or shocking page in the newspaper than the poetry of new love. And through it all, you only hope that eventually they find their way back into their poem.
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Hemingway always used to say, "Write what you know." It is clear that the author of this book writes from her own experiences. It is short but powerful, and when you are reading it, you feel as though you are in the young girl's shoes. But it also reads more like a blog post or a diary entry, and I find that many things are consistently repeated by the narrator. There are a lot of moments where I said to myself, "Yeah, you've said that already." or, "Haven't I read this part already?" or, "Okay, we get it." 
And the author doesn't need to mention Orpheus' story a million times - we get it - that's the name of your novel, we understand the reference after the first time, that's enough now (even so much as calling part three 'Entering Into Hell' -- insert eyeroll emojii here). I also find that the plot lacks consistency and ideas jump around with no linear plan. It happens a lot with "stream of consciousness" style writing, but I wouldn't even call it that. I think it's just bad editing. Or when a student hands in an essay without re-reading it.
Despite all that, it was a pretty captivating read, and the young author does write with a skill beyond her years.
I would love this to be a book I recommend to my students, but I could get some flack for it from parents. Some of the sexual content, while making the story so much more real, may not be received too well. 
As a queer individual, this is the kind of book I wish I had when I was a teen. It's like 'Go Ask Alice' but for the gays.
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cw: homophobia, transphobia, torture

i never knew i needed a lesbian orpheus retelling until i read this book. 

i was browsing netgalley and this cover caught my attention and blew my mind. the colours are gorgeous and the two girls holding hands is everything. once i saw the title i was sold. i love greek mythology, i love lgbt content, i love retellings, so this was pretty much up my alley.

the writing was beautiful, it was so illustrative i could picture everything perfectly and the emotions it evoked were so raw and real i had trouble reading some parts because my heart was hurting so much.

i really liked how the underworld was depicted as a conversion therapy camp because that has always been my idea of hell. but my god the therapy (torture) got so much more graphic and intense than i was expecting. its not like i was expecting something quirky like from But I'm a Cheerleader but i didn't think it would get so dark, so watch out if you're sensitive to that.

the main reason this is 3 stars instead of 4 stars is because there's a trans character whose trauma is used as a plot device and im so over that. like we never even know if he'll be okay or not, the story just moves on. its not cute.

overall though i enjoyed the book. i listened to sufjan stevens while reading this so i got the full gay experience.
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