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A Song Below Water

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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 secre 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.


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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 secre 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.

30 review for A Song Below Water

  1. 4 out of 5

    Regan

    3.75 really really enjoyed this!

  2. 5 out of 5

    chai ♡

    Black sirens in a story about misogynoir set in an alternate Portland with an extremely pretty cover? [smashes my head into that want-to-read button]

  3. 5 out of 5

    Nilufer Ozmekik

    Fantasy dances with racism, social justice, current politics: Yes this is volatile and vivid combination and The author perfectly worked with this concoction and created a fast reading, powerful, captivating, one of the most interesting stories with well-crafted and realistic characterization and thought-provoking story-telling. Two friends: Tavia and Effie supports each other to survive at the metaphorical, wild jungle, dealing with too many things in their young age, family issues, past dramas, Fantasy dances with racism, social justice, current politics: Yes this is volatile and vivid combination and The author perfectly worked with this concoction and created a fast reading, powerful, captivating, one of the most interesting stories with well-crafted and realistic characterization and thought-provoking story-telling. Two friends: Tavia and Effie supports each other to survive at the metaphorical, wild jungle, dealing with too many things in their young age, family issues, past dramas, secrets, boiling anger against the unfairness and injustice. They two black girls lives in Portland, attends the high school at the area. It’s already challenging to survive in the territory. And Tavia has a big secret to keep: she has powers growing inside her. She shouldn’t tell anyone but also restrain herself not to attract any attention because the woman who magical powers and let’s add to be “black” into the equation could be one of the most dangerous things at the world she’s living. (Unfortunately it could be said the same for the shameful world we’re living at, too.) But when a famous internet fashion icon is killed, everything gets out of control like Tavia’s uncontrollable magical voice during a police stop! Yes, nothing will be same for her from now on. This is so unique, original, dazzling, surprising, one of my fastest reading. I never say no to a well written fantasy with “The hate U give” vibes. Writing, pacing, characterization and conclusion worked so well for me. I think I have to say: we truly have a WINNER! I’m giving my five in the name of sirens and magical powers’ love stars! I really impressed Bethany C. Morrow’s writing skills and looking forward to read more of her works. Special thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan/Tom Doherty Associates/ Tor Teen to send this fantastic ARC to me in exchange my honest review.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Chloe

    "i hear the water. i hear its song, the way it sings to itself and anybody who comes below to hear it. i love the way it never changes, and the way i'm always different when i'm here." i really loved this book!! it definitely reads more contemporary than fantasy but i loved the blend of the two. it explores important contemporary issues like racism, police brutality and fighting for justice and also has some really cool fantasy elements. it was raw, painful, hopeful, funny & powerful. i also "i hear the water. i hear its song, the way it sings to itself and anybody who comes below to hear it. i love the way it never changes, and the way i'm always different when i'm here." i really loved this book!! it definitely reads more contemporary than fantasy but i loved the blend of the two. it explores important contemporary issues like racism, police brutality and fighting for justice and also has some really cool fantasy elements. it was raw, painful, hopeful, funny & powerful. i also adored the sister relationship in this book. just so good!!! ✧my patreon buddy read book for july✧

  5. 5 out of 5

    myo (myonna reads)

    this book is not about black girls who are sirens. this is about being black whilst being sirens. it doesn’t focus on being siren as much as it does being black. i started off this book really enjoying it, especially because of the talk about black hair. i know it’s a silly thing to be happy about but seeing characters with black hair and then talk about box braids or twist outs even in the smallest context made me so happy. but i think as the story went on the pacing of the book was very slow a this book is not about black girls who are sirens. this is about being black whilst being sirens. it doesn’t focus on being siren as much as it does being black. i started off this book really enjoying it, especially because of the talk about black hair. i know it’s a silly thing to be happy about but seeing characters with black hair and then talk about box braids or twist outs even in the smallest context made me so happy. but i think as the story went on the pacing of the book was very slow and it felt like when i was in high school and i used to bullshit and drag out my papers so that i could reach the page count. i do still think that this book touches on important topics and you should definitely check out the audiobook. it was such a good experience and i still do recommend this book to anyone but especially black readers of course.

  6. 5 out of 5

    C.G. Drews

    This was such an ethereal and fresh magical realism story. Like all I really need to say is it's about two sisters (not by birth, but by heart) who are absolutely everything to each other. One is a siren. One is...something else. They're Black, they're hurting, they're longing to be themselves and not have to hide. The story is so beautiful, and also raw with pain. It was sobering reading the scene where they go to the protest because I read this as the June 2020 Black Live Matter protests were This was such an ethereal and fresh magical realism story. Like all I really need to say is it's about two sisters (not by birth, but by heart) who are absolutely everything to each other. One is a siren. One is...something else. They're Black, they're hurting, they're longing to be themselves and not have to hide. The story is so beautiful, and also raw with pain. It was sobering reading the scene where they go to the protest because I read this as the June 2020 Black Live Matter protests were happening and the descriptions of what is happening right now were right on page in this book. Things have not changed. Justice has not been given. And this adds in magic and secrets and the yearing to live without harassment?? It 😭is here to make you think. My absolute favourite thing was Effie and Octavia's friendship. They are so close, they love each other so much, they'd protect each other from anything. My heart is for them!! There's also an entrancing spin on different mythos in here. I loved that! The world is ours, except magic is "expected" (although sirens are absolutely hated) and it has a lot of legendary creatures I haven't thought about/read about before. Gargoyles! And then Effie's reveal blew my mind and I LOVED IT. Also made so much sense. And if you're thinking of trying the audiobook? Do. It's gorgeous. Each sister has a different narrator and their voices were such a pleasure to listen to. The writing is definitely whimsical, on the slower paced side, and often the girls got lost in introspective thought spirals, so I did chaff at the communication fails. But the book would've been 100pgs shorter if people talked to each other so 😂I get it. Whimsical and fresh, full of twists and magical creatures! It also will make your heart hurt, and it didn't hesitate to dive in with a fresh hot knife to talk about the racism and abuse of the world. These sisters though 😭💛 I loved them.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Bookishrealm

    Okay so this book is definitely more like a 3.75 and I think that the purpose behind the book is the only thing that is keeping it that high. I have some complicated feelings towards this book because it presents some important themes, but attempts to do it in too short of a period of time. A Song Below Water has been pitched a tale in which only black women can be sirens who are also forced to refrain from using their voices (do you see where this is going?) It highlights the differences betwee Okay so this book is definitely more like a 3.75 and I think that the purpose behind the book is the only thing that is keeping it that high. I have some complicated feelings towards this book because it presents some important themes, but attempts to do it in too short of a period of time. A Song Below Water has been pitched a tale in which only black women can be sirens who are also forced to refrain from using their voices (do you see where this is going?) It highlights the differences between the experiences of Black people as whole to that of Black women. Sirens are considered dangerous and bad influences when they use their voices to stand up for what they determine is right. Ultimately, this novel is the perfect allegory for misogynoir. While I enjoyed this connection, it may feel "too real" for some individuals especially with the connection it has to everything that is currently going on with the Black Lives Matter movement. I thought it was brilliant of Morrow to illustrate how drastically different Black women are even perceived and treated in terms of the Black Lives Matter movement. She hits the nail on the head with the development of her characters and their experiences in context of real life situations. One thing that is definitely a problem in this book is the pacing. Granted it is a book that takes place in our world that has magical elements that are normalized, I found parts of it to be slow and boring (particularly in the beginning). Marrow includes these amazing mythological elements, but falls short on explaining them and even after researching them, I still remained a little confused on how they fit into the entire context of the novel. It really came down to the fact that Marrow tried to pack too many elements and meanings into the novel. In order to truly capture what she wanted her audience to understand, I think that this novel definitely could have afforded to be a bit longer. Marrow also has a distinct way of writing that I think people will either hate or love. I think I enjoyed her writing overall; however, I noticed that she had a hard time distinguishing between the voices of Effie and Tavia. I listened to it on audio and while the audiobook did state whose perspective I was listening to in the moment, I still felt lost in some parts and I had to remind myself who was actually speaking because the voices of characters came across as so similar. There were two parts of this novel that I truly loved. One was definitely the relationship between Effie and Tavia. It was so BEAUTIFUL. I love reading novels where Black women lift each other up and show this love and compassion for each other. There was more than enough of this to go around between these two characters. They stood by each other through all of their crazy experiences and they truly exhibited empathy towards each other in ways I couldn't even begin to imagine. The second part of this novel that I loved was the fact that we see Black girls/women that get a happy ending. I don't know how many times we're forced to read about the trauma of Black people, specifically women who don't get the opportunity to have their happy ending. This novel is nothing of the sort and I truly appreciated that. I definitely would recommend giving this novel a try. It's literally Black Girl Magic and that's definitely one of the elements that makes it so special. I know that Marrow has written another book so I'm looking forward to seeing what else she has to offer as a writer.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    First of all this cover is GORGEOUS! Also any siren/ mermaid story I am immediately drawn to so I was very excited for this read! I did really enjoy this book & how it weaved fantastical elements, social commentary and friendship all in one. This book talks a lot about the Black Lives Matter movement which was amazing. What lost me in this book were the fantastical elements, I was confused for the better portion of this book with keeping up with the many different mythos creatures. The friendshi First of all this cover is GORGEOUS! Also any siren/ mermaid story I am immediately drawn to so I was very excited for this read! I did really enjoy this book & how it weaved fantastical elements, social commentary and friendship all in one. This book talks a lot about the Black Lives Matter movement which was amazing. What lost me in this book were the fantastical elements, I was confused for the better portion of this book with keeping up with the many different mythos creatures. The friendship/ sisterhood of Effie & Tavia was so amazing and what I loved most about this book. How they were always there for one another and protected each other at all costs, gah those two girls were everything. Overall I would recommend this book. It’s got amazing social commentary that I think we all need to read and learn and the sisterhood bond in this book is like no other.

  9. 5 out of 5

    destiny ♡⚔♡ [howling libraries]

    A Black siren living in Portland. Holy shit. Want.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Mel

    "A Song Below Water" is basically the fantasy version of "The Hate U Give" and I love it. This book has diversity, racism, protests basically, most of the things "The Hate U Give" has, but make it a fantasy book with sirens. In "A Song Below Water" sirens are feared, due to their voice/singing. Sirens are in hiding, pretending to be humans, and they don't want to be caught as sirens. Why? Because if they are caught, they will be collared, meaning they can't sing anymore. "A Song Below Water" has "A Song Below Water" is basically the fantasy version of "The Hate U Give" and I love it. This book has diversity, racism, protests basically, most of the things "The Hate U Give" has, but make it a fantasy book with sirens. In "A Song Below Water" sirens are feared, due to their voice/singing. Sirens are in hiding, pretending to be humans, and they don't want to be caught as sirens. Why? Because if they are caught, they will be collared, meaning they can't sing anymore. "A Song Below Water" has two main characters, Effie and Tavi, and it alternates between both of these characters. I got confused between both main characters now and then, and I would also think they were the same person at times. But I still liked both characters well enough! I love the writing in this book. I loved the way it flowed, and I feel like it was written really well. Especially, since it deals with things like racism. And I wasn't confused at all (which happens sometimes when I read fantasy), so yay me! Overall, I loved this book! If you liked "The Hate U Give", and fantasy, then definitely I recommend this book. I don't think I have anything to complain about. I can't wait to read the sequel! "Black Lives Matter. Everybody knows that."

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lilith Black Bee

    BLOG *** TWITTER *** WHISHLIST *** Get 2 months of free books HERE E-ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My opinions are my own and are not affected in any way. Actual rating: 2.5 ⭐ PROS: • Extremely relevant to our times. Talking about racism and how black women are treated and seen by our society, it is so relevant to our days! We have a place in the front row and we can see how certain things are intentionally mishandled against BLOG *** TWITTER *** WHISHLIST *** Get 2 months of free books HERE E-ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My opinions are my own and are not affected in any way. Actual rating: 2.5 ⭐ PROS: • Extremely relevant to our times. Talking about racism and how black women are treated and seen by our society, it is so relevant to our days! We have a place in the front row and we can see how certain things are intentionally mishandled against them. • Mythical creatures! I mean, who doesn't love mythical creatures?! Sirens, gargoyles, elokos (whatever these really are, because the author never really tried to explain them) and some more! CONS: • Slow pacing. And when I say slow, I mean SLOW! The thing is, I do know to appreciate a slow paced book, but this when the subject requires it. Here it didn't had it's place. • Poor worldbuilding. Something about this world felt a little bit off. It missed something to help keeping all the pieces together. As one of the next point will say, it was all over the place. • Try too hard writing style. From the between parentheses explained jokes, to trying to combine huge social problems with mythical creatures, it takes a lot of effort. And you can almost feel this effort grabbing you by your cheeks and starring into your eyes while franticly trying to explain you what it tried to do. Kinda how I try to explain it now :) • A semi spoiler in the synopsis. I absolutely hate when this happens! You have something important happening at the middle of the book, exposed in the middle of the synopsis! But I have to say, what I see as semi spoiler, for others might not be at all one. And when I say semi spoiler, I am referring to this: quote "the girls’ favorite Internet fashion icon reveals she's also a siren" unquote. • All over the place. Needs no more explanation. See the next point. • Unexplained things and references. As I have already said, and will say again, the elokos are not explained. We know just a few things about them and that's all. Also, when you write a book about black women and you use specific cultural things that the most of the readers don't understand because they do not live with a black woman or they may not know one, please consider to put a short explanation in the page or chapter foot note. I am pretty sure that most of us would be genuinely curious to know what you, as an author, are talking about, even if it's a very little thing in your book. OVERALL THOUGHTS: The execution of this book is very poor. The topics are important and needs to be more prezent in our current days, but the way the author tried to fit them in the story, is not the best one. The number of pages is way too small for the number of subjects that the author wanted to touch and to discuss, and all is made in a weird slow pacing. And the fact that there are some things left unexplained, does not help either, and the best example to support this, is the fact that the elokos are not at all explained. We know very few things about them. Mythos, assome of them are presented. However, this all over the place book is trying to make some light in how black women are treated by the society and how they can find ways to be strong and fight even when the odds seem to be against them. This and the presence of mythical creatures made me give this book 2.5 stars. Otherwise would have been probably a 1.5 - 2 stars, and that's a bummer because the idea of the book was so good!!!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Toya (the reading chemist)

    DNF at 35%. It severely pains me to have to DNF this one since a story about black sirens sounded like a dream come true. This book doesn’t read like a fantasy. Rather, the story reads like a contemporary novel because the author tackles a myriad of issues including racism and social injustice. Normally, I welcome this, but it felt like the story was merely a platform to highlight the oppression of black women without compelling characters and a cohesive plot. Additionally, if someone is not used DNF at 35%. It severely pains me to have to DNF this one since a story about black sirens sounded like a dream come true. This book doesn’t read like a fantasy. Rather, the story reads like a contemporary novel because the author tackles a myriad of issues including racism and social injustice. Normally, I welcome this, but it felt like the story was merely a platform to highlight the oppression of black women without compelling characters and a cohesive plot. Additionally, if someone is not used to cultural nuances within the black community when it comes to natural hair care, the references will be completely lost on them because the author never defines anything or gives a point of reference. For example, Tavia briefly mentions learning the L.O.C. method from a natural hair care regimen, but this is never explained. I understand that this is a moment for us black girls to rejoice in seeing our culture represented, but it needs to be defined for those who lack that knowledge if we are to educate others on its normalcy. The author also introduces several magical creatures such as sprites and sirens with their own unique twist, which I appreciated. However, elokos are never defined. I’m not familiar with their mythology, so I had no point of reference and was left confused. Overall, I think this story has good intentions, but the execution was poor. This is the prime example of trying to tackle too many topics in too few pages, so rather than leaving the reader with a compelling and engrossing tale, I’m left confused and frustrated that I wasted my time. Edit: if you want a great fantasy that combines social issues such as racism and oppression that also has rich culture and world building, pick up The Deep by Rivers Solomon. I think that’s the story the author was going for but missed the mark. Thank you to TorTeen for my gifted review copy.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Grace

    A Song Below Water is a beautifully imaginative novel that touches on so many issues, but focuses on what it's like to be Black in the United States. Tavia and Effie are sisters, but not by blood. They live together, go to the same school, and are the closest of friends. Effie has never met her father, and her mother died when she was young. After an incident where she was the sole survivor of an accident at a park, Effie knows what it's like to be thrust into the spotlight. Tavia is a siren. Sh A Song Below Water is a beautifully imaginative novel that touches on so many issues, but focuses on what it's like to be Black in the United States. Tavia and Effie are sisters, but not by blood. They live together, go to the same school, and are the closest of friends. Effie has never met her father, and her mother died when she was young. After an incident where she was the sole survivor of an accident at a park, Effie knows what it's like to be thrust into the spotlight. Tavia is a siren. She inherited it from her grandmother, who she was never able to meet prior to her death, and her parents live in constant fear of the consequences if the news of Tavia's identity gets out. Tavia and Effie both struggle with coming to grips with who they really are while facing a society that sees them only as a spectacle or a danger. I never really got bored with this book. At 288 pages, it's pretty short, and I think that might have something to do with it. Regardless, I was never bored with it. This book was a little outside of my usual style. To be honest, I picked it up because I saw it being promoted on Instagram on #blackouttuesday and thought it looked cool, and I wanted to support Black authors and representation in novels, so I bought it. One thing I absolutely despise is contemporary YA, but I adore YA fantasy. Although A Song Below Water seemed to be toeing the line between the two, it sounded interesting so I got it anyway, and I was not disappointed. One thing you should know about this book is that sirens aren't the only magical creatures or races within it. There are also elokos, gargoyles, oracles, and sprites. I thought Morrow did a really good job creating a modern magical world, although I would have liked to have seen a little more of the results of how such creatures would have impacted our society. It’s pretty decent magical realism. My only real complaint with this book was the writing style itself. I will say that I might be biased because one of my biggest pet peeves in writing is when an author uses slang, text speech, or interesting punctuation in an effort to make their writing more appealing for teen audiences. I don't really think that's what Morrow was doing, because the writing honestly felt so genuine, but it irked me occasionally anyway. But, as someone who really dislikes that kind of writing, I didn't notice it too much. So, I really can't complain, since I was evidently too absorbed in the story for it to bother me. I feel like there's more I need to say that just isn't coming to mind right now, but let me assure you that this book is good. Whether you read contemporary or fantasy, I think A Song Below Water is probably a good choice for you.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ms. Woc Reader

    This cover made this book one of my most anticipated reads this year so of course I did whatever I could to get my hands on an early copy. Thanks, Tor Teen. I really thought I would breeze through this book in like 3/4 days. I played myself with that line of thinking because between the slow pace of this story and the humidity of the holiday weekend that definitely didn't happen. Don't let the blurb fool ya this is not a story about Black mermaids. And sirens and mermaids are very different in th This cover made this book one of my most anticipated reads this year so of course I did whatever I could to get my hands on an early copy. Thanks, Tor Teen. I really thought I would breeze through this book in like 3/4 days. I played myself with that line of thinking because between the slow pace of this story and the humidity of the holiday weekend that definitely didn't happen. Don't let the blurb fool ya this is not a story about Black mermaids. And sirens and mermaids are very different in this story. Although one girl plays a mermaid at the Ren Faire. It's a story about sirens who are young Black women finding their voice and navigating being Black in America. Like I mentioned before this book was very slow and in the first half I really felt like the message this book was trying to tell often took over the plot. At several points I was wondering where this was going. When they got into the mythological stuff the book was interesting. Who doesn't want to fly with gargoyles? I know it was supposed to be magical realism but I need a little bit more magic. See full review on my blog http://womenofcolorreadtoo.blogspot.c...

  15. 5 out of 5

    April (Aprilius Maximus)

    “I'm not a monster because I live in a world that gives me impossible choices.” representation: own voices Black MC's, Latinx side character, use of sign language. [trigger warnings are listed at the bottom of this review and may contain spoilers] ★★★★ Wow, it was quite eerie reading this because even though it's a fantastical story, it's so deeply rooted in what's happening in the world re the Black Lives Matter movement. I loved the themes of sisterhood and that, at the core of the story, it “I'm not a monster because I live in a world that gives me impossible choices.” representation: own voices Black MC's, Latinx side character, use of sign language. [trigger warnings are listed at the bottom of this review and may contain spoilers] ★★★★ Wow, it was quite eerie reading this because even though it's a fantastical story, it's so deeply rooted in what's happening in the world re the Black Lives Matter movement. I loved the themes of sisterhood and that, at the core of the story, it wasn't a romance. It was about so much more than that. The only issue I had with the book is the lack of world building around these magical creatures, but other than that, it was excellent! trigger warnings: loss of loved ones (in the past), death of black women, shitty teachers, racism, police brutality, self-harm, violent protests.

  16. 4 out of 5

    rachel ☾

    quick thoughts: of all the books to be disappointed by, i really didn't think this would be the one. PROS: • the sisterhood. i'm a sucker for family in books, and Effie & Tavia's sisterly relationship was a big focus of this story. also, the emphasis on bond > blood was perfect. • the premise & themes. the idea of using mythological creatures as a metaphor for misogynoir worked so well, especially how siren powers were used to justify Black women being silenced. it did a good job of exploring sexism quick thoughts: of all the books to be disappointed by, i really didn't think this would be the one. PROS: • the sisterhood. i'm a sucker for family in books, and Effie & Tavia's sisterly relationship was a big focus of this story. also, the emphasis on bond > blood was perfect. • the premise & themes. the idea of using mythological creatures as a metaphor for misogynoir worked so well, especially how siren powers were used to justify Black women being silenced. it did a good job of exploring sexism & racism, including a really powerful protest scene. • urban fantasy elements. as much as i adore a good werewolf, fae & vampire urban fantasy, the fact we had gargoyles, elokos & sirens instead added a different layer. CONS: • the plot. the clunky, disjointed way scenes jumped around made the dozens of subplots knot in an impossible tangle. i could barely follow what the hell was happening at any given point. i read the last 50 pages twice and i still couldn't explain the ending. • the world-building. while i adored the bare bones of the premise, the execution was lacking. i don't usually mind being thrown into a world and slowly piecing the world together from context, but when there is no context or any background, it makes it a little difficult to follow. • the writing. my personal preference for writing styles sways more toward the lush, descriptive side. the pacing was so rapid, there was no time to build the landscapes or develop the characters in the way i personally prefer. i live for those slower moments so the fact i couldn't picture anything pulled me out of the story. i also hated how the characters explained their jokes in parenthesis. • the characters. if the chapters weren't labelled, i don't think i could have told effie & tavia apart. their voices weren't distinctive. - the secondary characters. i can't lie, i liked wallace but i don't know why. we know nothing about him! or any of the characters really. the cast fell flat. there is no denying this is an important read however, so i recommend reading some #ownvoices reviews. you can check out leelynn @ sometimes leelynn reads's review here and sammie @ the bookwyrm's den's review here. ➸ Trigger warnings for (view spoiler)[racism & racist microaggressions, police violence & racial profiling, misogynoir (central theme), parental abandonment, child abuse, anxiety attacks, self-harm, suicide attempt recounted (on-page & mildly detailed), scars, death of a mother by cancer recounted, death of a child (implied), the disappearance of a friend, kidnapping & confinement, and bullying (hide spoiler)] . ▷ Representation: Tavia (mc) & Effie (mc) Black; Wallace (li) Latinx; Black & BIPOC scs. Blog • Trigger Warning Database • Twitter • Instagram

  17. 4 out of 5

    S.A. Chakraborty

    Beautiful. The audio book version was entrancing and I loved, loved LOVED the focus on sisterhood and family. And the ending! I was trying to guess what someone might "be" the entire time and the answer was so much neater than I could have imagined. Beautiful. The audio book version was entrancing and I loved, loved LOVED the focus on sisterhood and family. And the ending! I was trying to guess what someone might "be" the entire time and the answer was so much neater than I could have imagined.

  18. 4 out of 5

    may ➹

    why does this sound SO GOOD

  19. 5 out of 5

    MissBecka Gee

    This book is so f*cked up. It's a story about friendship with are all kinds of cool mythical creatures. I did the audio and I think this would be even better in print. This book is so f*cked up. It's a story about friendship with are all kinds of cool mythical creatures. I did the audio and I think this would be even better in print.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Andy’s Vengeance

    I'm down for anything with sirens, so here I am, adding this to my never ending TBR. I'm down for anything with sirens, so here I am, adding this to my never ending TBR.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    I genuinely didn’t know what to expect going into this, I’m not going to lie I thought it was a lot more fantasy based but it’s more Magical Realism (still great though!) Picking this up as of right now with what’s going on in the world I found it SO important with different aspects (excluding the “magical elements”). It really made me think, and I felt so much sadness and anger at certain parts. I also have so much cover love for this. I mean just look at it!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lea (drumsofautumn)

    A Song Below Water is a very interesting look at misogynoir and presents its themes in an incredibly powerful way but sadly lacks any sort of world building for the fantastic elements within this book. “I'm not a monster because I live in a world that gives me impossible choices.” I feel like there is this impulse to say “this book is very timely” but really, this book only shows that it is something that is ALWAYS timely, outside from the “trends” and whose death by police brutality i A Song Below Water is a very interesting look at misogynoir and presents its themes in an incredibly powerful way but sadly lacks any sort of world building for the fantastic elements within this book. “I'm not a monster because I live in a world that gives me impossible choices.” I feel like there is this impulse to say “this book is very timely” but really, this book only shows that it is something that is ALWAYS timely, outside from the “trends” and whose death by police brutality is currently making news. Black Lives ALWAYS matter. Black women's lives ALWAYS matter. And reading this book over a month after its release, is quite frankly an interesting experience. When it came out, social media was full of #blacklivesmatter... a month later you'll find the odd post or two on most people's timelines. This story is always timely and it will always be relevant until something seriously changes. And seeing this book come out at the time that it did and then reading it a month later, all seen in the context of this world and its happenings, is definitely an experience. But this novel specifically shines a light on misogynoir and the treatment of Black women in the Black Lives Matter moment, how they are often excluded from the movement as a whole and their stories are not shared as loudly or create the noise that the stories about Black men do. “All the things I’ve ever wanted to say, I want to say now, even though there’s very real opposition. Even though I don’t know how it will end. Even though the cops are wearing siren-canceling ear plugs. Because they’re wearing body armor, too, like every protest before. They’re always dressed for battle against us; now they just customized their gear.” I really enjoyed both Tavia and Effie as characters but their friendship is what especially stood out to me. It is such a wonderful story on found family and the bond between the two characters is incredibly strong. I think that apart from the main theme, this is truly the most powerful element of this story. The characters occasionally use ASL to communicate with each other and it was great to see this represented in the novel, even if neither of the characters is hard of hearing. I will say that sometimes I had an issue distinguishing between the voices of the two main characters. I had started reading this as an ebook but found myself having issues getting into it, so I ended up listening to the audiobook. I very much enjoyed the narration and it was helpful that the two characters were voiced by two different narrators but I still had issues telling them apart in parts because their inner monologue basically read the same. The biggest issue I had with this book was that there was no explaining of any of the fantastical/mythological elements. This is a book that takes place in our world but it has sirens, gargoyles, sprites and what not and these elements just never really get explained nor does the connection between them and how they fit into this world. We are thrust into this magical world, that is definitely fun, but it kinda felt like this elements were just randomly put in place, more than actually inserted within the story. The sirens were an amazing allegory for the misogynoir but I just had an issue understanding all these different elements, how they exist in this world but especially how all of them are connected. From the story it was very clear that they WERE in some way but the novel just lacked in giving me any context. “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 to be afraid. It isn't because the uncertainty is gone. It's because we did it anyway. Because we cannot be exterminated.” Overall I definitely think that A Song Below Water is a powerful and important story. I feel like it totally could've benefited from being a little bit longer and taking more time on explaining the mythological elements, but the themes of this book are still loud and clear. Trigger and Content Warnings for police brutality and racism. Instagram | Blog | Booktube Channel | Twitter I received an ARC through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review!

  23. 4 out of 5

    solanne

    can we all please acknowledge just how relevant this book is? we need more literature out there that empowers black women and centres around sisterhood. please, please give this a try. I cannot recommend it enough. review to come

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mariah

    ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley. Finished on Audiobook loaned from my local library. November 3rd, 2020: Can you tell I was pulling my hair out on election night? Can ya? My library finally got the audio for this and I decided to strike this DNF off my record. Unfortunately, it didn't really change my mind. While I think the matters addressed in this book are so important, so deserving of the spotlight, and I often found myself wishing I could hug Tav and Effie out of pure frustration and ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley. Finished on Audiobook loaned from my local library. November 3rd, 2020: Can you tell I was pulling my hair out on election night? Can ya? My library finally got the audio for this and I decided to strike this DNF off my record. Unfortunately, it didn't really change my mind. While I think the matters addressed in this book are so important, so deserving of the spotlight, and I often found myself wishing I could hug Tav and Effie out of pure frustration and rage at this world we live in - I can't help wishing the story had done more for them. While there were a few surprises at the end (another point for my hatred of DNFs - you can't judge a story until you see it through to the end), I just couldn't get around the lackluster world building, and with the diminutive page count, another 100 pages of WB, character development and just more of a plot, would've done this book wonders. Overall I'm pretty happy to have seen this story through to the end, but I will not be coming back for Book 2. June 2nd, 2020: DNF @ 27%. I have never in my life DNFed a book before but I was physically unable to keep torturing myself. I'll probably try again once it comes out on audiobook but I just don't have the head space to keep trying right now. I won't mark it as read and give it a rating because I did not finish it, but here are my thoughts: 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.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kathryn Speckels (Metaphors and Miscellanea)

    3.5/5 stars, rounded up because this is really a socially relevant book and is thematically important. Were it not for that element, I would definitely have rounded down or rated it lower altogether. First, I want to make something abundantly clear: this is a tremendously important book. It deals with lots of major issues that the Black community is currently facing, and has been facing for a long time, and it uses a highly unique premise (some very literal Black Girl Magic) to convey those ideas 3.5/5 stars, rounded up because this is really a socially relevant book and is thematically important. Were it not for that element, I would definitely have rounded down or rated it lower altogether. First, I want to make something abundantly clear: this is a tremendously important book. It deals with lots of major issues that the Black community is currently facing, and has been facing for a long time, and it uses a highly unique premise (some very literal Black Girl Magic) to convey those ideas. I feel like I need to stress that part because this was one of those books that I loved in theory, just not in execution. I don’t want this review to be taken as, “This book isn’t important.” I think it is a book that is very, very much worth reading. However, it would be disingenuous for me to rate it higher, because it faltered in its actual writing, on technical elements like worldbuilding and pacing. So, quick summary--and don't read the official blurb, if you haven't yet, because it has at least one fairly large spoiler in it! In an alternate version of America, humans live side by side with mythical creatures, including sprites (invisible mischief-makers), elokos (tbh still not quite sure what they are, but more on that later), and most importantly, sirens (Black women with the ability to use magical calls on people with their voices). Sirens are strongly condemned by society, from a combination of fear, racism, and misogyny, and so Tavia, a high school girl, keeps the fact that she is a siren secret from most people. Her best friend and adoptive sister, Effie, plays a mermaid at the Renaissance faire, but lately has been struggling with constantly shedding dry skin, mysterious blackouts, and guilt over a childhood accident she may have caused. When a murdered woman is revealed to have possibly been a siren, and shortly thereafter Tavia’s favorite YouTube star also comes out as a siren, Tavia and Effie both find their lives taking a chaotic turn. Suddenly, the gargoyle that has taken up residence on their roof is actually talking to them. Public outcry and Black Lives Matter protests are escalating. Effie wants to find who her father is, and Tavia doesn’t know how much longer she can keep her siren call a secret. Amidst all this, the two strive to support each other and their communities…while also, of course, dealing with the regular pressures of high school, dating, and family drama. So, we’ll start with the good. This is an amazing premise for a book. I loved the concept, the magic of the sirens, and the way it seamlessly interwove major social issues, minor personal problems, and the way both of those are amplified by magic. The juxtaposition of the fake magic in a Renaissance faire and the real magic present in their world was an interesting duality to observe, and I think that in that regard, Morrow more than succeeded. In a particularly poignant moment, we even learn that the hatred directed toward sirens once led an eleven-year-old Tavia to try and destroy her vocal cords so she couldn’t sing or speak anymore–and if that isn’t a striking depiction of the way Black voices, especially Black women, are often coerced into believing they must be silent, I don’t know what is. The problem was, it was sometimes hard to appreciate how clever this design was, because the writing itself did not do enough to flesh out this world. Many elements of the worldbuilding were very confusingly executed. I’ve read the entire book, and I still don’t quite understand what elokos are, even though they’re a prominent type of magical person mentioned throughout the book. They have a magical charm and can put a trill in their voice that makes people like them or something, I guess? And somehow their voices can mask siren calls? Nothing was really explained about them, which made it hard to tell what was going on at times. Similarly, very little was established early on about things like the role of sirens, the extent of their abilities, or why Tavia was so determined to find her siren grandmother “in the water.” It felt like this book was a continuation of something and the readers were expected to know these things already–which, of course, is not the case. Another positive element: Tavia and Effie were both very likable and believable protagonists, with emotions that ran deep and personalities that made them easy to root for. The strong sisterhood between them was enjoyable to read (what can I say, I’m a sucker for wholesome sister relationships), and I loved their constant loyalty to each other and refusal to back down from any challenge. Honestly, in addition to simply enjoying the premise, I’m pretty sure that my investment in these two as characters is a large part of what kept me reading. Again, though, we had a case where the writing undermined some of this. The book was told in two perspectives, alternating between Tavia and Effie, but the written voices of the two were virtually indistinguishable, to the point that sometimes I would forget which girl’s point of view I was reading from until I encountered a plot detail that made it clear. The two girls have very different personalities and goals, and yet those didn’t manifest in their narration at all. That’s not to say that the voice wasn’t good–I enjoyed the writing style in general, but it didn’t make sense that it didn’t change at all when perspective changed. And then there is the final issue this book faced: pacing. For a book that is under 300 pages, it took me a weirdly long time to finish. It was like it skipped out on providing some necessary background but then used that space to dwell on things that didn’t move the plot forward, instead stalling and meandering, especially for the first 50% or so. As the book got closer to its conclusion, it picked up as it really started to lean into the magic and the plot, but it took too long to get there. Though the slower parts did work hard on the thematic messages of the book, I think those themes could have hit a lot harder if they were just played up more in the action rather than stretched out in between, if that makes sense. As a final note: for OwnVoices readers, this book may resonate more in a way that compensates for its technical shortcomings, and I highly suggest looking at OwnVoices reviews like Leelynn’s for more on that front. Similarly, for a reader who is going into this book with the intention of just gaining a deeper understanding of or a new perspective on themes like misogynoir, this book will be perfect. The lack of cohesion is the part that dampened the enjoyment for me–but don’t take this as meaning you should not read it. By all means, do give this one a try–you’ll be supporting a Black woman author and simultaneously experiencing a very unique story. Thank you to Tor Teen for providing me with an eARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Elle (ellexamines)

    this is a contemporary fantasy about misogynoir, and though I'd like to know more, I recently read a book by this author, MEM, and loved it so much. I am totally excited to see more.  this is a contemporary fantasy about misogynoir, and though I'd like to know more, I recently read a book by this author, MEM, and loved it so much. I am totally excited to see more. 

  27. 4 out of 5

    Heidi Heilig

    A rich, intricate dive into mythology, misogynoir, and the way the world makes black girls out to be monsters. Like the siren's song, A SONG BELOW WATER is irresistibly compelling. A rich, intricate dive into mythology, misogynoir, and the way the world makes black girls out to be monsters. Like the siren's song, A SONG BELOW WATER is irresistibly compelling.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jeann (Happy Indulgence)

    Set in an alternate Portland filled with sirens, mermaids and other mystical creatures, A Song Below Water tackles a lot when it comes to being a young Black girl - who is secretly hiding her identity as a siren, a group that is persecuted due to their dangerous power. Tavia has tried to keep her siren voice under wraps for her whole life, for fear of what may happen if people find out - but she's finding it increasingly hard during racial tensions following the death of yet another Black girl. T Set in an alternate Portland filled with sirens, mermaids and other mystical creatures, A Song Below Water tackles a lot when it comes to being a young Black girl - who is secretly hiding her identity as a siren, a group that is persecuted due to their dangerous power. Tavia has tried to keep her siren voice under wraps for her whole life, for fear of what may happen if people find out - but she's finding it increasingly hard during racial tensions following the death of yet another Black girl. The one person who she can rely on as she navigates high school life on top of her secret power, is her adoptive sister and best friend, Effie. I loved their supportive friendship, and Effie also had an interesting back story, given her increasing insecurities with eczema and something that happened in her childhood. Although sirens, mermaids, gargoyles and other mystical creatures appear in the world, A Song Below Water doesn't attempt to delve deeper into how they exist and why they are integrated into the world that we live in. The world building is shaky at best, and I wasn't quite sure what eloko was even though it appeared in a book quite a few times. It's definitely light on the fantasy elements, and focuses more on the real world problems happening at the moment between Tavia and Effie. Reading this at the time of the Black Lives Matter protests currently happening is kind of eerie, given the relevancy of what the girls face on the page. It describes marginalization at a social and political level, but also how the media and society portray sirens as well as Black people. You can really feel the emotion when the author describes the pain of injustice, and it really comes through. If you're looking for a magical realism with a strong sisterhood at its core, with social commentary about racism, police brutality, and about finding your place in the world, A Song Below Water definitely ticks all the boxes. It does cover a lot of ground, which I really enjoyed, despite the lack of world-building or a strong plot. This is a book that hits hard, given the parallels to the real world at present. Check out Happy Indulgence Books for more reviews!

  29. 5 out of 5

    ˗ˏˋ aphrodite ˊˎ˗

    2.5/5 stars I’m so sad about this one. the major thing about this book was I never really understood the world & the mythos. I feel like it’s an awkward middle point between fabulism & fantasy where the mythical creatures were there to symbolize the fight for equal freedoms/liberties by minorities in our world but it was never fully explained how this society functioned with these different creatures. this is a main critique I have with urban fantasy in general but this book especially suffered f 2.5/5 stars I’m so sad about this one. the major thing about this book was I never really understood the world & the mythos. I feel like it’s an awkward middle point between fabulism & fantasy where the mythical creatures were there to symbolize the fight for equal freedoms/liberties by minorities in our world but it was never fully explained how this society functioned with these different creatures. this is a main critique I have with urban fantasy in general but this book especially suffered for it. with that being said I don’t think the author was trying to write a detailed urban fantasy with all the inner workings of a society that has sirens, gargoyles, sprites, etc; rather, again, use it as an allegory for BLM and the continued oppression of Black people in the U.S. and I 𝑟𝑒𝑎𝑙𝑙𝑦 enjoyed that part of the story. I thought the discussions about oppression, discrimination, & fear through our MC siren abilities was fresh and extremely poignant at this time. but I was continually confused by the fantastical elements of the story. nothing was explained properly, different creatures would be introduced randomly, I never knew exactly ℎ𝑜𝑤 many non-human creatures there were nor what their place in society was. I never knew the rules or the general state of the world aside from the lack of freedoms sirens had. this got even more confusing when we started to learn more about effie (our other MC). overall, I think I would have really enjoyed this story if the author explained the fantasy elements more OR took a more symbolic route and went full fabulism/magical realism route. I think it was just the awkward tone of the story that never really resonated with me.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Camryn

    WHY WAS RHIS SO GOOD???? most of the time I can’t even get into fantasy but this sucked me in from the beginning. Not only is it super Black, but super Black girl gaze. I felt so seen and it’s about sirens???? Idk I didn’t find the world building ridiculous and I loved that it made statements about misogynoir and the lives of Black women. And it’s so readable — I’m half asleep but had to stay up to finish this. It’s amazing.

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