Cover Image: Orpheus Girl

Orpheus Girl

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Member Reviews

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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I'm putting this down for 2 reasons:

1) I'll be honest, I can't do a painful queer book right now. I'm not saying they don't need to exist, because they absolutely do. We need stories like this that tell people — especially cishet readers — how brutal the world's treatment of queer folks can be. But that doesn't mean that I, as a queer woman, am always going to be in the right mindset for reading it myself, and right now, I'm not in the right place for it. Things aren't bad yet, but I've been warned of specifics later in the book, and I know right now that the whole conversion therapy plot in general isn't jiving with my mental health, and there's nothing wrong with that!

2) I don't enjoy the narrative voice. This is the only reason this is going on my DNF shelf instead of my "finish-me-soon" shelf. If I liked the writing in this more, I would wholeheartedly snatch this story back up the moment I felt up to the subject matter, but unfortunately, the narration is lackluster and the characters are one-dimensional.

This was one of my most anticipated fall 2019 releases, so I'm pretty bummed out to put this one down.
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Was it painful? Yes. Was it beautiful? Also yes.

I sped through this book - I was hungry for it. The gorgeous words, the hard truths, and the engaging story. Every word felt purposeful, and I was completely immersed in the story.

If I have one complaint, it would be that I feel like I didn't get to know the side characters as well as I would have liked, including Sarah who is the MC's love interest (no spoilers, that's literally on the book's description).

Trigger warnings for homophobia, self-harm, torture.
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★★☆☆☆

CW: suicide attempt, homophobia, electro'therapy', conversion 'therapy',

This was... not as uplifting as I was expecting it to be. It wasn't really uplifting at all.

Alright so first off, I misled myself by thinking this was going to be poetry just because the author is an award-winning poet. The blurb says novel. I thought it was going to be a novel told through poetry, not prose, and that's my bad. The prose was pretty good though!

The book was fine, but it was absolutely full of heavy, dark, content. And while I believe that teens (this is marketed as YA) can absolutely handle heavy and dark topics, sometimes there's just a lot to handle in one book. So this review is going to be mostly about that.

While there's some earlier content detailing the many gay actions of Raya, the main focus of the story is set in the conversion camp that the two girls are sent to. There are graphic descriptions of physical and emotional abuse, as well as of the electric shock "therapy" that several characters are subject to. This is a reality for some people, but because of the feeling of inevitability pervasive through the book, the way we're shown pain seems almost voyeuristic. For example, the climax of the novel hinges on a trans character's suicide attempt.

This book is marketed as being similar to the myth of Orpheus. For those of you unfamiliar with Greek mythos, that's the story about the man who managed to charm the goddess of the Underworld and make a deal to get his dead wife back, only to fail on his end of the deal at the last second. Luckily, the book doesn't follow that plot at all. The main character does end up at the same conversion camp as her girlfriend, but that is basically the only similarity.


I'm just hoping that in published form, this book has content warnings clearly placed at the front of the book, because the topics it covers are very serious, and could be triggers for any number of people.


Thank you to Soho Teen and Netgalley for the chance to read and review this ARC.
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This is one of the books I was most excited about for this year, yet I couldn't keep reading.
I really tried but the writing style was so flat, the pacing was weird and the main character felt so detatched, as if what was happening was happening to someone else and not her. 
It wasn't for me.
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“The myth about Orpheus isn’t about losing your love: it is about learning how not to look back.” 

3.5⭐️ Orpheus Girl is a marvelous retelling of one of my favorite tales from Greek mythology—Orpheus, the one who bravely journeys to hell for love. 

Raya is a teenage girl who lived a difficult life full of sadness from missing her mom who abandoned her; and of fear of being found out that she is gay. It doesn’t help that she lives in an extremely religious and homophobic small town. The only thing that brightens her life is Sarah, her childhood best friend. They are bound to their love for each other and both will share the same tragic fate. 

By now I am sure you can imagine how hard it can be to read this book and you won’t be wrong. It is so full of hate, backward thinking, homophobia, and physical and emotional abuse disguised as therapy. The author successfully communicates the feeling of exclusion and ostracism suffered by queers. My heart really aches to know all this was allowed to happen in real life. Gayness is not a disease to be “fixed” or “cured”. Religion should not even be a factor on this, acceptance of another human being regardless of their gender, race or sexuality should be a default moral standard. 

I really hope this brave story gets its message across people who still needs to understand and I wish that someday this kind of hate no longer jumps from the pages of fiction and just stay as myth, a nightmare from a dark past of the human race.
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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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