A Song Below Water by Bethany Morrow (Mini-Review)


“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.”

-Synopsis from Goodreads


I am so torn about this book. When I first heard about it earlier this year, it sounded amazing. I knew I wanted to read it, assumed I would request a copy at the library, but ended up buying it in early June. The cover alone is incredible. I mean, I think that was half of what drew me into the story.

Sadly, from the very first page I sensed that this writing style wasn’t for me. At another time in my life I would have been very enamored by this style of long sentences and heavy descriptions but it is no longer something that I crave in a story.

These clunky sentences were juxtaposed with very short sentences and curt dialogue. When the pacing is that convoluted, I just don’t know how to make sense of the storytelling. It’s like it’s trying to be too many things all at once.

The main thing that I struggled with is that this book started with a lot of assumptions about the reader, the first of which was that I would somehow already know about mythical creatures such as mermaids and sprites and something called eklos.

Maybe the intention was that if I didn’t already have this background knowledge, then I would be willing to go along with it and hope that things would be explained later on. Unfortunately, if I’m feeling left out from the very first page there is a small chance I’m going to be willing to do that.

A few other confusing things…

  • The mention of Ren Faire which means renaissance faire (yep, I wasn’t familiar with that) at which one of the characters, Effie, plays a mermaid (?) but she isn’t sure if she actually is a mermaid but there’s a pretty good chance she is and both girls aren’t acknowledging it. What? This information was treated like I should have already known it and how to make sense of it. In reality, I felt like I’d missed the first half of a conversation I wasn’t sure was important or not
  • There is a mention of “IB” in relation to high school. I am tangentially familiar with the International Baccaleaurate program that exists in some high schools in this country. But I really, highly doubt that the majority of readers know what this is; simply because, well, I really don’t think you should assume anything about your readers. Mentioning this and knowing that not everyone will know what it means seemed like an odd choice to me

Those are just some of the very specific things included in this book that felt out of place and made it hard to follow the story.

I was really disappointed by all of this because I had such high hopes for this book. Ultimately the pacing, the confusing sense of “you should already know all the things about this fantasy world” and the overall writing style made it not an enjoyable read, which is why I chose to not finish it.

I’m hopeful that someone out there loves this book because I know that they will! I just wasn’t that reader.

Goodreads review: DNF, no rating

3 thoughts on “A Song Below Water by Bethany Morrow (Mini-Review)

  1. Great review! I actually felt the same, I was so excited for this one, but I just could not conenct with the writing.. And I also got qute confused by the mytical creatures!


    Liked by 1 person

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