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A Song Below Water Review

Updated: Sep 1, 2020

A Song Below Water
A Song Below Water

A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow

Tavia is a siren, a group that is feared by society for their magical voices. She must keep her identity a secret while navigating normal high school life. But things become even more complicated when an event from her sister Effie’s past comes back to haunt them.


Contemporary, urban fantasy, social justice, antiracism, young adult


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.


This is an alternate reality world where magical beings such as sirens, eloko, and gargoyles exist. It explores intersectionality, as only Black women become sirens, which makes them targeted when other groups such as eloko are revered. When sirens are killed, it is justified due to the assumption that they manipulated the person who did it.

It’s more reminiscent of a contemporary novel than a fantasy, as most of it deals with “real-life” issues blended lightly with fantasy elements, as seen with the siren parallel to misogynoir.

Both Effie and Tavia narrate the book, which could be confusing at times as I would forget who was speaking, but it was easy to figure out from context. It’s narrated in a modern, casual style, which some readers may dislike, but I thought it fit with the tone of the book and captured the main characters’ voices.

It’s got an intriguing mystery which genuinely hooked me, and made me eager to find out the truth. I was always lead to keep reading to find out what happened next, as the different subplots came together and the need to see the resolution intensified.

The ending was rather fast, and I would have liked to see more time spent on it, as it felt rushed and more should have been explained.

The best part of the book was the bond between Effie and Tavia. The main focus is on the way they support and love each other, something that is often overlooked in YA. Nothing against romance, but it’s refreshing to see a story focus on the power of familial bonding and the strength we gain from each other.

Overall the book was a fun adventure, with a unique metaphor for misogynoir, as well as a heartwarming bond between two sisters.

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