Cover Image: A Song Below Water

A Song Below Water

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Member Reviews

Stunning cover, amazing concept, lovely writing, and two main characters I fell in love with!

Things I felt a bit lukewarm about: the little-explained world building (what the hell are elokos?), and the kind-of-meandering plot line (this book tried to include a lot, there wasn’t a clear objective right from the beginning, and I felt like that caused some loose ends).

This wasn’t exactly what I expected, but it was a very enjoyable read nonetheless! The sisterhood in this book is just *chef’s kiss* and I was living for Gargy! I am definitely interested in reading more from this author!
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The YA fantasy genre crosses with themes of racism, misogyny, and social justice in this novel about two best friends, one a siren, the other just discovering who she is. Tavia and Effie are closer than sisters and their fierce love and protectiveness of each other was one of my favorite things about this book. The incorporation of prejudice, oppression, and the Black Lives Matter movement into a fantasy context was really well-done. 
My only complaint is that the story progressed a little too slowly for my taste. I was so interested in the themes but the story itself never quite grabbed me the way I hoped. I give it 3.5 stars but rounding it up to 4 because I so loved Tavia and Effie and their stories were so incredibly relevant. 
Thank you NetGalley, author, and publishers for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher Macmillan-Tor/Forge for providing me with the digital ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I’ll admit it, the first thing that drawn me to this book was its cover. I mean, how beautiful is it? Stunning for sure! Then I read the plot and I found it to be really interesting and promising. A book about sirens and misogynoir? It sounded extremely interesting and I so wanted to love it! Unfortunately, this book didn’t convince me.
A thing that I really liked in this novel was the friendship between Tavia and Effie, our two main leads. They really care deeply about each other and we can see that all the time. 
Another thing was definitely the representation of our own society in this magical context. The characters here are dealing with racism not only because of the colour of their skin, but also because they are women and they have some kind of magical powers. I think this was an original and good topic. However, this social commentary was pretty much the only thing that kept me going with this book. 
Here, there were no world-building and almost no character-building. Since the beginning of this book a lot of specific terms were thrown at us without a single explanation or description, such as sprites and ekolos. I had no idea what they were, so I didn’t know how these creatures looked or acted like. I felt very disoriented and I had to google them in order to find out something. 
Going through the first 30% of the story was kind of difficult for me, I was constantly confused about what was really going on and what/who the characters actually were: it seemed all a bit of a mess. I felt like I’d been thrown into the story without any kind of introduction or acknowledgement about what I was going to read about. Fortunately, then it started to become a little more interesting, but the pacing was very slow and for me it was still hard to keep going on with this read. And that’s something that surprised me, because it rarely happens to me.
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Morrow has weaved a tale that questions racism in society and the fear and injustice that people experience. This book reads like hard-hitting contemporary with a magical realism twist and comments on racism and how society other people who are not white. Although the novel itself discusses humans and sirens, humans fear sirens and their voices, because their voices are powerful. They fear the power and change that sirens have with their voice. The humans don’t want change and are hanging onto their way of life. The novel begins when a siren is murdered, and protesters want justice for her. Sirens are unknown to society, and they can’t understand them and don’t make an effort to. Since sirens are different, they don’t relate to them and see them as less than.
	This novel focuses on racial tensions and the racial profiling that Black people and other minorities face daily. There was a particular scene where an officer pulls one of the characters over, and the tension permeated the page. The officer pulls her over for no reason, and she has to sit there, hoping that nothing terrible happens to her. This book was fast-paced and a very enjoyable read. As to the writing itself, the author relied a lot on telling rather than showing how characters feel or showing what is happening in the scenes. But the plot was strong and kept me reading until the very last page.
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I was so excited to read about sirens, black mermaids and gargoyles,  but so disappointed that the story fell flat. It surrounds two teenage sisters-by choice living with the challenges of teenage years, complicated further by identity issues.  Tania is frightened by the consequences of the world finding out she is a Siren, and Effie struggles with her complicated family history. This contemporary fantasy, set in Portland, Oregon, a city that is challenging for those with brown skin, is told in alternating first-person narration.  I found the plot to be confusing, and the first part of the story to plod along so slowly, that when it did pick up, I was no longer engaged.  I would still recommend it to those who like YA contemporary fantasy, with a Black Girl Magic spin.
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Social and race issues meet mythology in such an incredible way.

Two sisters (well “play sisters” as they refer to themselves) are struggling to deal with romance, school and most importantly identity. Effie and Tavia navigate their way through their junior year all while dealing with Tavia keeping a dangerous secret that put the lives of black women in further danger, she’s a siren. Effie is struggling with finding her own identity, where does she come from, what is being kept from her?

This novel was amazing. It was full of twists, turns and powerful moments. I found this book easy to understand. I really appreciated the author’s writing style, I loved her character development and I genuinely felt the love between Effie and Tavia. I really enjoyed reading this, I never wanted to put it down and I think it would be a really good book to include in English classes. It tackles race issues, misogynoir, the current political climate, family dynamics, and so much more in ways that feel really approachable and easy for anyone to understand. 

I found some of the situations a bit confusing, primarily with Effie’s perspective. I found the conclusion to come slightly out of nowhere, it is explained but the ending felt a bit rushed. The pacing seemed a bit off as a result. It may have been intended, but it felt a little lost on me.

I cannot express enough how much I enjoyed this book. I understand that I am coming from a different perspective, but I was really grateful to be allowed to read this ARC. I think everyone should check this out, it’s a wonderful bridge between fantasy and contemporary.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of the eBook.
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this book just didn't work for me. like nope. i might have given it like 2 stars but i ended up giving it 3 stars for the gorgeous cover and for creating such an amazing world. my main problem with the book is the narration. its told from two povs and I for the life of me couldn't differentiate between the two. i even hid the names and asked me sister to read two chapters and when I told her that these are two different persons, she didnt believe me until i showed her the name tags. 

I don't DNF books and I literally forced myself to finish this and its took me a whole week to finish this book which is HUGE for me! I was sold at the description but this just ain't it and I am so disappointed rn. 

Another thing that really irked was that I felt like the author was trying to cover too many issues in a single book and ended up doing nothing!

ARC was provided by netgalley in exchange of an honest review.
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The topics explored in this book, as well as the wonderful bond between the two protagonists make this a worthwhile read. However, the pacing and straight-up uneventfulness made it very difficult to go through.

For a debut fantasy novel, I would say this was decent. I don't regret reading it at all but I hope that the author's future fantasy novels are a bit more exciting and eventful!
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I adore the cover for A Song Below Water!  however I definitely have mixed feelings about the book. I loved that the author is trying to make a point about social issues, racism, etc. However mixing fantasy in with that theme just felt like too much clashing to me. I really loved the mythology and the fantasy in this book but would have loved to see it by itself! There's a gargoyle and a siren and a gorgon that are all incredibly exciting! I just definitely would have loved to see more of this fantasy explained and focused on!
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Welcome to alternate universe Portland OR, where myth meets reality with great consequence. Morrow weaves the real and the fantastic with great skill, incorporating horrors from our current reality alongside the coming of age stories of two supernatural teenagers.

Tavia and Effie are growing up with regular teenage problems, but are also coming to terms with their growing and changing powers. Tavia is a siren in a world where people are afraid of what they don't understand, so she must keep her identity (mostly) hidden. She lives with her overprotective family and her best friend Effie, who is struggling with trauma in her past and missing her deceased mother. Together, they attend high school, see each other through some romantic drama (not with each other), and get involved in a public demonstration that takes a frightening turn.

Underlying all of this jam-packed plot is the parallel between how this alternate universe is treating people like Tavia and Effie, and how our actual reality is treating Black girls/women. The comparison is beautifully illustrated - Morrow isn't exactly light-handed about it, but it comes across succinctly and with great impact. 

Although the story meanders a bit (there is a LOT happening, all the time), I think it's wonderfully told and so unique, while also being very relevant and impactful. I'd recommend this to anyone reading YA - there's something for almost everyone here.
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'A Song Below Water' is the story of Effie and Tavia, two best friends-slash-something-like-adoptive-sisters and live in a version of Portland, Oregon, where sirens, elokos, gargoyles, and other mythical creatures are a thing. Actually, Tavia is a siren. And Effie is something special, she just doesn't know what. 

The two girls have to face struggles common in our non-magical version of the world (misogynoir, unrequited love, unsupportive family, fear of being exposed, identity issues) as well as ones rooting in the supernatural (sirens are persecuted, people get turned to stone statues in Portland). What seemed like private struggles at first escalate quickly into larger-scale problems that get completely out of hand, and both girl have to make choices, decide what they stand for, and if and how to come out as themselves.

This is a complex, heavy, dark book that I wouldn't know how to review in the standard way, so here is a pro-and-cons inspired by 'A Song Below Water'.

✺ Oh, yes!

- The story made me come back. It kept me reading until late at night. Even if it is complicated and feels like the literary version of an octopus (subplots going all the ways and just being attached to each other by the resolution), it was a compelling read (once you get used to the pace and writing style).
- The sister bond is amazing. I'd read the book again only to appreciate how much Effie and Tavia take care of each other. The fact that they have their own special way to communicate makes it even better. The fact that they still hide secrets from each other makes the sisterhood real.
- Ahhh, the inclusion of a fair + cosplay + fanfiction. It's so realistic to read about teens reading fanfiction, even if it's just briefly mentioned.
- I wanted to hug Talia and Effie so much -- maybe Effie a little more than Tavia. They fought their battles like they could, trying not to come undone at the seams. It feels good to read about teen development this way. 
- Even if, on the surface, the struggles were about the paranormal, they weren't some petty tantrum or overly-impossible, world-menacing tragedy (that YA books usually feature). I cannot give a Black #ownvoice point of view, but the issues the girls faced hit me square in the nose. It's that kind of injustices you wish were just magnified for the sake of the novel but you know are real. And it's sad in a way I can't write. 
- Effie not knowing who or what she is... It's a beautiful and creative way to illustrate identity issues that surface during the coming-of-age period.
- There was humor to lighten the heavy topics and the complexity of the story, which made it all even more worth it. Plus, the voices really were teenager voices.
- Can we have a fanclub for Gargy?

✺ Um... No?

- The reader is a bit in the dark at the beginning. We're thrown into the story with no background knowledge and no understanding of the fantasy elements, which raises a lot of question marks and made me squint and reread passages many times.
- You eventually become used to the snail pace and the even slower revelations, but you're dragged for most of the first part. You have to stick around for a long time for stuff to start making sense (mythological concepts are not clear at first, even more so because the author spun them her own way).
- Once, I stopped reading mid-chapter and when I came back I couldn't remember who was narrating. Both narrators' voices are very similar.
- The adults are the worse. All of them. There isn't one to save the other (well, perhaps Mrs. Gennie and Paw Paw, but that's about it). I think it's sad that there isn't a healthy adult figure (unless you count Gramma, but... It's not like she was really around). It's an aspect of YA books that makes teens think they face the whole world completely on their own, and it doesn't have to be like that.

     ~ Love for Words
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Ultimately, I didn't get very far into this book before I realized I wouldn't enjoy it. The story wasn't compelling to me, very much a case of "it's not you, it's me." The concept seems really interesting and I'm sure it's something a lot of people will enjoy, but unfortunately, I can tell it won't end up working for me, mostly because every time I try to pick it up, I struggle to continue with it. One of the other issues I was noticing was that I had trouble distinguishing between the two narrating characters to the point where it was distracting me. As well, I found the writing style a little odd for me, perhaps using too much slang in places that didn't make sense. 

Part of me thinks this is a book I would rather enjoy in a physical copy, so maybe down the road I'll check this one out from my local library, but at the moment, it's a no from me.

Incredibly grateful for the publishing company for allowing me an arc, though, and I hope that this book will be wonderful for other readers, especially black readers! 

-Book Hugger
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A mix of contemporary and fantasy centred around the relationship between two strong female characters is an absorbing read.
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DNF @ 50%

I thought this was supposed to be a fantasy yet it didn't read like one. It read more like a contemporary. I was confused majority of the time and I can not differentiate the two sisters point of view even though the chapter would say who they are. I did like how he author incorporated natural hair vocabulary such as LOC but did not explain what it was. It was a lot of information thrown around that did not get explained and the plot I felt like was all over the place and I could not handle that. I liked how the author weaved in discussions of how Black people are treated by being sirens. This was not grabbing my attention like I wanted it to.
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This was a Contemporary Fantasy, with several social topics and themes woven throughout. I really enjoyed the intersectionalism of both Effie and Tavia. They had to lay low and assimilate to their environment while not only being black women, but also sirens which were also heavily discriminated against and target by police enforcement and the media. The experience of being a women of color as well as sirens were evaluated and described throughout this book.

I did enjoy the magical world in this book, but I felt very confused and had little to no context about the characters, the creatures mentioned (Gargoyles, sirens, elokos) as they weren't explained. Both the magical world and characters weren't setup nor explained well so I felt like I really couldn't connect with the story or its characters and I often felt confused/lost throughout.

I also felt like the two sisters voices/narrations weren't distinguished enough and I had to re-read sections to figure out who was narrating. I wish they both had more distinguishable identities and personalities as a whole.

The concept and activism/social justice in this book were great, but I felt that it lacked depth in both the story and character development and I couldn't really connect with it.
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I could not for the life of me focus on this story. Every time I picked it up, I suddenly became exhausted and my eyes wouldn't focus on the page. But I do think the story was very compelling so far. I liked the mythology and the openness with the magic and beings. I thought Tavia and Effie's POV's were strong and distinct, this was just not the right time for me to read this story, but I will be picking it up in the future.

I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher and netgalley. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: A Song Below Water

Author: Bethany C. Morrow

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 3/5

Diversity: Black main character and side characters!

Recommended For...: mermaid lovers, people who want commentary on racism and discrimination

Publication Date: June 2, 2020

Genre: YA Fantasy

Recommended Age: can’t recommend, dnf-ed

Publisher: TorTeen

Pages: 288

Synopsis: 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. Never mind 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.

Review: I had to DNF this one. I was really confused in the beginning and that progressed throughout the book until I put it down at 32%. The writing didn’t connect me to the characters and the voice of the characters were just monotone and indistinguishable. The book also used a lot of terminology that wasn’t explained well. I did like that the book wanted to tackle discrimination and racism, but the way she went about it was a bit too disjointed to me. I really wanted to love this book though and I will definitely try to read this again!  

Verdict: I think it’s a good book, just didn’t connect with me.
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This is a book everyone needs to read. Set in a world where sirens, gargoyles, and magic are real, this story focuses on two black teenage girls struggling to find their voices. They may not be sisters by blood, but they've adopted each other and navigate through a world of racism and prejudice side-by-side. 

One the surface, this book is about Tavia, a siren struggling to stay hidden in an anti-siren society, and Effie who is on the cusp of discovering a dark family secret. But A Song Below Water is so much more than a YA fantasy novel. It's a story about the repression of black women and how their voices are the last to be heard in a screaming crowd. It's a story of fighting to be seen and validated and accepted in a world that is inherently designed to keep you down. This is a story about empowerment and finding the inner strength and pride to stand against the forces surrounding you that want to see you fail. It's timely. There's a scene where Tavia gets pulled over while driving without just cause. There's a protest where a black woman is targeted. This story tackles fear and pain, but it also shines with hope and liberation. I found Effie and Tavia engaging and their bond was well developed and cultivated throughout the novel. It's refreshing to read a story with a strong female bond, and I think these two characters will connect with young readers. The fantasy elements of the story weave nicely with the modern setting which immediately anchors the reader into the world Morrow has created. I had to look up what an eloko was, but that was the only point of confusion in the story.
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Tavia and Effie are two black girls living in Portland, Oregon, which — according to them — is whiter than the rest of America. They’re sisters by choice who began living together around the beginning of high school, and they’re facing their junior year of high school when everything in this book takes place.

Tavia is a siren and has the power to control people to an extent with her voice. Because she has that power, people fear it and she has to keep the fact that she is a siren a secret. The only people who know are her parents, Effie, and a few select people who are called her “network” — people who work to keep sirens safe. I equated it to something like an underground railroad of sorts for sirens within a city.

While Tavia is focused on keeping her secret and voice under control, Effie is facing her own set of problems. She struggles with impossibly dry skin, a dry and itchy scalp, and general social anxiety and insecurities (the last one is just conjecture on my part), but instead of focusing on that, she focuses on the upcoming Renaissance Faire. Effie plays Euphemia the Mermaid at the faire and looks forward to it every year.

Things start to go sideways when Tavia realizes her voice has more power than she thought and Effie realizes that all signs are pointing to her being more than just a human girl. The girls rely on each other and themselves as they try to figure out how to face a future that’s becoming more uncertain every day.

I can honestly say that this book is not what I was expecting at all.

I don’t know if that’s on my part because I had expectations when I shouldn’t have or what, but this book is definitely much more than a YA novel about a siren and her sister. It touches on topics of race and discrimination while showing that even well-meaning people can be part of the problem. It shows how families can be divided, how the effects ripple through communities, how seemingly “insignificant” people can feel the emotional blows.

To be completely honest, this book is heavy — it’s not for the light of heart to pick up blindly, but it’s worth the read if you have the time.

But, that’s my two cents on this book — spend it how you like!
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The cover for this is stunning and the description drew me in. I was so excited for sirens, magical realism and misogynoir and no one is more disappointed than I am.

There's virtually no world building and you're left squandering with all these notions and left to make connections that are not really all that intuitive.
I liked Tav and Effie well enough but I failed to make a true a meaningful connection while trying to figure out what the hell is going on.

I was so excited for all the issues I could imagine being tackled with this storyline but I got overwhelmed by gargoyles, sprites and elokos that were never fully introduced and I felt like I had picked up a course 5 weeks after it had started.
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