A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow


Content/Trigger Warnings: Racism, misogynoir, death, murder, trauma/PTSD, loss of a loved one/parent, anxiety, bullying, police brutality, public humiliations

Fellow readers, this was on my anticipated releases for 2020 and I’m happy to say that for the most part, I enjoyed this book. You know me, if someone were to say the floor is mythical creatures, I’m diving into that immediately. Plus, there’s found sisterly love!

A Song Below Water follows Tavia and Effie, two Black teenage girls who are best friends, but considers each other to be more like sisters. Throughout this book we see both girls trying to navigate the waters of family issues, past hardships, secrets, and unwavering anger against injustice and unfairness. In Portland, Oregon, they attend the local school, trying to survive the ever constant drama brewing and come face to face with the struggles for the mythical creatures attending.

“I’m not a monster because I live in a world that gives me impossible choices.”

As I mentioned, this book is very relevant to a lot of the things that have been happening in the media, but also have always been happening. It addresses a lot about police brutality, racism towards the black community, and how this is always happening outside of the “trends” you see so often on social media. Honestly, reading this a month after it’s release, and it’s been an interesting experience. This book released during the time where everyone was talking about the Black Lives Matter movement, everyone from all corners of the world were talking about, if you went to any social media you would see something about the Black Lives Matter movement. So reading it a month later, mid-July and seeing how no one is talking about it anymore has been an experience. However, this book specially shines a light on misogynoir and the treatment of Black women in the Black Lives Matter moment, how Black women who are wronged by actions of police brutality don’t get the same amount of attention or shared as loudly the way a story of a Black man will, and how Black women are often treated in social settings such as school.

I say this all the time, but I adore different family dynamics. For starters, I love the relationship between Tavia and Effie. The way they connect, how they’re protective of one another, how they care and worry for one another, and just how they look after one another is absolutely everything. And even though they’re best friends, the way they constantly consider each other as sisters just warms my heart. Now, I love found family and I love seeing different family dynamics. So the found sisterly love filled my heart so much. They also use ASL from time to time as a means of communicating with one another and it was fantastic to see that representation, even though neither of the characters suffer from hearing loss. I really appreciated how we learn about Effie’s family dynamic and how she came to living with Tavia and her family. I loved that and I loved seeing all the references to Effie’s grandparents. I love seeing the grandparents family dynamic in the book.

Despite how much I loved the things I loved, my biggest issues with this book has made me reevaluate how I really felt about this book and reexamine my own notes. This book is very strong and powerful in the contemporary genre, but it’s very weak in the fantastical and mythological elements. This book takes place in our own world, only with mythical creatures like gargoyles, sprites, mermaids, etc… yet we never receive any rules, any connection between the two worlds, or their place in our world. One of the opening statements is ‘myths are not to be trusted’ but then the author goes on not to explain any further context of that statement. We are thrust into this magical world, which can be fun, but it felt like these magical elements were just scattered throughout the book and never given the time they deserved. One of my biggest reasons of why I was excited for this book was many readers and the author stating there were gargoyles in the book. Gargoyles are one of my favorite mythical creatures, like top five mythical creatures. So when the gargoyle (singular, not plural) was introduced, it was underwhelming and a part of my excitement had died down. This character alone didn’t get the detail attention I was looking for. You also have an element with the sirens in this book. They have an incredible allegory throughout this whole book for the misogynoir, but also get a lot of different elements like how they’re all connected, how they exist in our world, and it never felt like like we were given enough context to connect everything together to form the bigger picture.

“The danger is as much a part of home as community is. The fear gets quiet, but it doesn’t disappear, and that might be what sets us apart. When we smile, or we dance, or we march, or we win, it isn’t because we didn’t have a reason we didn’t have a reason to be afraid. It isn’t because the uncertainty is gone. It’s because we did it anyway. Because we cannot be exterminated.”

My other issue with this book was the ending of the book. It felt very rushed and I wasn’t amused with how things were handled with Effie’s father. What really frustrated me was how after everything was addressed with him about his actions, Effie somehow trusted him and we as the readers were expected to trust him, and respect Effie’s choice. It didn’t sit right with me especially since Effie never knew this man until literally the end of the book. I wish we had seen more build up about him or had a scene with Effie and her grandparents actually sitting down to talk about things. I think that little detail would have made a big difference with that ending.

Overall, I really liked this story and it’s so, so powerful, important. I think many readers will appreciate the things this book addresses and sheds light on. However, I truly think this book would have benefited from being a bit longer, having that extra time taken on the mythological elements, and just adding some extra details to build that bigger picture. And give me more gargoyles dangit! But the theme is very loud and clear. And I want to put a soft reminder here to all my Black friends and fellow readers to please practice self-care while reading this book. Your mental health is important and you are allowed to rest.

Buddy Read with Kayla from Books and Blends 💜

Below I’m including some reviews by Black book reviewers that you should also read and support as well! Make sure you lift their voices up!

🧜🏽‍♀️ Myonna

🧜🏽‍♀️ Ashley

🧜🏽‍♀️ Ms. Woc

🧜🏽‍♀️ Camryn

🧜🏽‍♀️ Lucie


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