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‘A Song Below Water’ is a Fantastic YA Fantasy That Tells an Untold Tale of Black Mermaids – Book Review

In A Song Below Water, Tavia spends much of her time hiding a part of herself that she cannot let others find out about – she is a siren; a mermaid. All the while, her best friend, Effie is going through struggles of her own. While the two best friends do their best to navigate their personal troubles, something shakes Portland, Oregon to its core. 

When a murder trial of a siren happens in their city, Tavia reveals her true voice at the most inopportune time. In an instant, nothing in Portland seems safe. The only source of security that Tavia and Effie feel is amongst themselves. With their friendship being the strongest bond of all, the pair must rely on each other to keep themselves afloat.

Bethany C. Morrow’s A Song Below Water is a tale of sisterhood and friendship, but more importantly, it shines a light on just how the voices of Black girls and women are consistently silenced. While the story is told in the form of a fantasy book with sirens/mermaids, it’s clear that the metaphor is something very relevant that people should acknowledge. While Tavia struggles with this the most due to the fact that she’s hiding her siren identity from others, there is no mistaking the message of this book.

A Song Below Water cover
Cover for A Song Below Water written by Bethany C. Morrison (Courtesy of Tor Teen)

Morrow’s writing easily created a cast of characters that were relatable and easy to love, specifically in relation to our two protagonists. The sisterhood between Tavia and Effie is something that you want to have with your own friends. While their bond is clear, they are unafraid to push one another and offer support to one another at all times. Despite the misogynoir that they face, Tavia and Effie do what they can to fix a system that is broken. What I enjoyed most about this was that despite their strength and courage, we still saw how vulnerable Tavia and Effie could be.

While we go through the Tavia’s and Effie’s journeys, Morrow does not mince words when it comes to depicting the racism and prejudice found throughout the book. Some readers will know exactly what Morrow describes having felt the same racism themselves and for others (mainly white readers), this might be shocking. But this was absolutely necessary to show the struggles that Black people, specifically Black girls and women, have dealt with for hundreds of years.

In terms of world building, where I feel some readers may be conflicted is that while this book falls under the fantasy category as it deals with sirens, it reads more like a contemporary novel. So, for readers who were looking strictly for something solely fantasy-based, you may be left wanting more. However, for those who enjoy contemporary books and might want a stepping stone into the fantasy world, A Song Below Water is certainly a great way to dip your toes into those fantasy waters.

Utterly timely, A Song Below Water is a beautiful display of friendship, fantasy, and fighting for what’s right at all costs. This novel should be on everyone’s TBR lists right now!

You can purchase A Song Below Water from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indigo and your local independent book stores right now.

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