cover image A Song Below Water

A Song Below Water

Bethany C. Morrow. Tor Teen, $17.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-250-31532-8

Play-sisters Tavia and Effie are both black Portland, Ore., teens with secrets. Tavia, who is selectively nonverbal, is a siren in a world that persecutes sirens and seeks to silence their mythic voices. Effie, who plays a mermaid at Renaissance fairs, doesn’t know what brand of mythical creature she is, only that she’s changing day by day. When the murder of a recently slain black girl is tacitly justified by rumor that she may have been a siren, Tavia’s heavily insulated world is turned upside down, with Effie as her only constant. And as Effie’s inexplicable abilities grow, the world outside becomes increasingly dangerous for the girls, whose secrets cannot remain so forever. In this thought-provoking YA debut, Morrow (Mem, for adults) excels at grounding her fantastical reimagining of the modern world through depictions of marginalized experiences: social justice takes on fantastic proportions in a society occupied by gargoyles, sirens, sprites, and elokos, all occupying differing public statuses of reverence and fear. Though uneven pacing and an excess of dropped subplots congest the book’s first half, this triumph of black sisterhood and female resilience is sure to draw readers. Ages 13–up. Agent: Victoria Marini, Irene Goodman Agency. (June)