Song Below Water

A hyped up book about black mermaids but set in a contemporary world? I was intrigued, but I wasn’t clamoring for it. But I finally sat down and read Song Below Water and it just…wasn’t for me. The writing is fine, the ideas are somewhat interesting, I like the message it’s trying to convey, but it just didn’t click for me.

In this modern Portland, there are two sisters who aren’t related but are sisters all the same: Tavia, a secret Siren who works hard to hide her voice and hides behind a disability she uses to explain why sometimes she cannot speak. Then there’s her sister of at least three years Effie, who loves to swim and plays a mermaid at the Ren Faire in the area. Their lives become a bit more difficult when Effie gets a new role at the Ren Faire, a gargoyle comes to roost on their show, the murder trial for a black woman (the victim) gets turned on its head when it’s revealed she was a siren, and protestors take to the streets for a variety of causes but especially racial injustice. As the story progresses, the sisters learn about each other, themselves, and find their voices.

Sounds nice, right? Sure…but something was off for me. Maybe it’s that the back of the ARC explicitly calls them black mermaids but neither girl was a real mermaid…and the “siren” never gets in the water really, so don’t get me with that one. I won’t disclose what Effie is or isn’t, because that’s a big plot point, but even that comes really late in the story. The mythos is interesting but not always well explained or incorporated into the actual plot–which is about a murder trial? and then a police shooting? and then Effie telling the police the truth? and then who Effie really is?–it kind of goes off the rails. Lots of things happen along the way, but it’s hard to tell what was really driving the final moments of the plot because they kind of came out of nowhere for me–if you’ve read it, you know I mean the Hidden stuff.

So…yeah. I can see why some people liked this book. It’s not BAD. It just didn’t click for me, and that sucks, because the praise was really high. I’m hoping that I like Morrow’s Little Women retelling next year a lot more.

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