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.
I loved everything about this book. A Song Below Water follows Tavia and Effie, two girls that have adopted one another as sisters. I think that was my favorite part of this story. The relationship that Tavia and Effie have was so wonderful. They may not have been sisters by blood, but they were sisters in every way that counts. This was absolutely the highlight of the book. But there were so many other things I loved.
Tavia is a siren. This is something she really struggles with. It’s a part of her identity, just like being a black girl in America is. But her father has always drilled it into her head how dangerous it is to be both of those things. You see, the world knows about the mythological creatures that exist in the world. They know about sirens (and they do not treat them well), but the world also knows about pixies and gargoyles and other myths that we meet in the story. Most of these creatures are accepted, but sirens are not, at all. So, Tavia struggles every day keeping her identity as a siren a secret. She struggles to keep her siren voice inside. This sometimes means that she just can’t speak. She has learned sign language so that she can speak that way. She and Effie are a team, and Effie comes in to translate (with their parents and sometimes even in class). It was heartbreaking to see the anxiety and stress that being a siren causes Tavia, but I really loved all of the things she did to help herself. I loved how Tavia worked through these things and eventually made some really good progress with her family too.
Effie is dealing with different issues. She’s still dealing with the grief of losing her mother. She has moved in with Tavia and her family. But she has other issues. She can’t stop thinking about her dry skin and her head itching. She’s been to doctors and they have not been helpful. But things are getting worse for her. Her grandmother is acting weird and Effie just wants some answers. Faire season is coming up and it’s Effie’s favorite time of year. She plays a mermaid and this year she’s gotten a bigger part. But while Effie’s trying to figure out what secrets are being kept from her, her priorities start to change. Swimming is something she loves and always calms her, but it’s usually been related to the faire. This year is different. Effie is different. I thought the author did a great job keeping the reader guessing as to what exactly was going on with Effie.
Just real quick, also. I totally loved the gargoyle parts of this story. The mystery of why the gargoyle perched on Tavia’s roof every night was great and got even better when Tavia befriended him.
I loved both of these girls so much. They’re both dealing with their own really have shit, but they never fail to be there when the other needs support. They hold each other up and I loved every minute of their relationship. I just really loved this book. The writing was stunning and the story swept me away. I listened to the audiobook which had two narrators and I thought they did a wonderful job telling this story. I cannot wait for this series to continue.
“We should all speak like sirens. Use our voices to make a difference, because all of them matter.”
“What we need isn’t dissuading, or discouragement, or consoling. We don’t need to be told we’re all helpless. What we need is action.”
“I’m not a monster because I live in a world that gives me impossible choices.”
Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.