All I knew going into A Song Below Water was sirens. What I ended up with was a fabulous and nuanced book about the fear of being silenced, racism, and discovering secrets. I fell in love more with each page. Reading A Song Below Water felt like a transformative experience. Keep reading my book review of A Song Below Water to find out all the things I loved.
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.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
CW: past suicide attempt, self-harm, anxiety
A Song Below Water is one of those books where you finish it and are just so awestruck. It’s a story about sirens, black women who are silenced, and safety. And still it’s so much more. Stories of mermaids swimming, myths and legends coming to life, and sisterhood. A Song Below Water is one of is able to discuss issues of racism and sexism all wrapped up with sirens and police cars. The way black bodies aren’t seen as victims, how certain marginalizations are categorized as all the things they could do, not what they do. It’s a book I loved thematically from the beginning, fell in love with the characters along the way, and couldn’t get enough of the story.
Fear of Discovery
One of the things A Song Below Water captures is this fear of being discovered. For Tavia, it’s a matter of safety if people discover she’s a siren, not for what she may have done, but because of people’s fear for what she could do. What she might be possible of and the danger people have of that unknowing. In A Song Below Water, not all black women are sirens, but all sirens are black women. Even when they have been murdered, when they’re the ones lying on the slab, the world and media still finds ways to justify their deaths. What they could have done.
Everybody wants to be a siren, but nobody wants to be a siren
So Tavia’s life revolves around keeping her identity a secret. To hide pieces of herself because the world is already wary of her in the name of her safety. That feeling, of being terrified of discovery is present from the beginning and while it’s heart breaking, it is a reality that I think has the potential to resonate with many readers. And A Song Below Water only continues with its examination of racism, sexism, and fear. I can’t get into all the ways Morrow uses fantasy and certain poignant scenes, but it’s all gorgeous and emotional writing. Scenes that speak a thousand words all at once
A Song Below Water is gorgeous. Like those songs that are heartbreaking, emotional, and inspiring all at once. The emotions of all the characters, Tavia and Effie specifically, are raw on the pages. A Song Below Water is a story of sisterhood and family. What will we do to protect the ones we love? Our community, neighbors, classmates. I loved every moment from my heart breaking at the scenes in which black women are silenced or it uplifting in the pockets of joy and crushes.
A Song Below Water builds momentum as the book progresses. Beginning with detailed and endearing characters, ramping up to a steady sense of suspense mixed with gripping scenes introducing touches of real life racism and violence. Find A Song Below Water on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, Bookshop.org & The Book Depository.
2 thoughts on “Review: A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow”
Wow, I don’t think I’ve heard of any other YA like this. Thanks for your review.
OMG YES PLEASE READ! I love it so much and especially now