Review: Black Iris by Leah Raeder

Black Iris - Leah Raeder

Initial reaction: I'm still trying to decide how to do the review for this book. Should I do a standard discussion review to kind of vet out all of my feels on this book, or should I do "Black Iris: The Musical" - which would be all in verse? (ROGERS AND HAMMERSTEIN HAVE NOTHING ON YOU - you may say, but I don't have that kind of confidence. >.<;;;) Maybe I might do both? I honestly have no idea yet.

In any case, "Black Iris" was a read I really liked and appreciated for the journey collectively speaking. There were parts I wasn't so thrilled about but I figure that's a discussion I can leave for the full review. I'll have to meditate on it more so may be a little bit before I post the full review, whatever form it takes on.

Although I should say: "Burn Away" by the Birthday Massacre is definitely the song this book made my head come back to. ("There's a fire in the city of pictures/leaving nothing but ashes below/it's only forever for a day/Tomorrow is burning away.")


Edit #2: This book is dark as heck. And I feel like I could talk about it for days, which is going to make this review a challenge.

Full review:

Screw it, bumping this up to 4.5 stars. I do have some issues with the narrative that I'll point out towards the end of this review, but I just noted in my Top Ten Tuesday (and I wholeheartedly believe) this was one of my favorite reads of 2015. I won't end up breaking the character limit for this review, but I will expound a bit on what I enjoyed about this novel (though it's always difficult to try to explain the ways in which you love what you read/gained from the experience of what you read.)

I thought of about ten billion ways of writing this review, and I decided the best way for me to do that is just lay it out in general. Looking back on it, I think "Black Iris" was my favorite New Adult read of 2015 for the sheer amount of ways it cans so many of the tropes in NA, creates a vivid and flawed protagonist that feels realistic but not too over the top considering what her character goes through, AND has beautifully sensual and lyrical writing.

Laney is a complex and complicated character rolled into one. I yearn for dimensional (even flawed) characters and this narrative provided such an intimate perspective of her experience. Her thirst for revenge was something that repelled the everloving heck out of me, while at the same time drawing me in to read more. This book explores Laney's bisexuality, her struggle with mental illness (bipolar disorder), and instances where she's bullied and belittled to the point where you can put a finger on her anguish and pain. But it's also bent on her quest for revenge against those who wronged her.

"Black Iris" is a dark and lyrical narrative in and of its own consideration, and reading about Laney's relationships with both Armin and Blythe are intense, dreamy, and sensual. The whole time I read this book, I had the music of The Birthday Massacre playing on repeat in my head (well, that and CHVRCHES, but I blame the flawless music references in here - which actually set the mood of the novel quite well without being overbearing.) I almost thought the fourth wall breaking would be something that deterred me, but honestly - in Laney's favor and her respective voicing, I think it worked (and it gives the proverbial finger to those who overdo the NA cliches to death).

If I had to speak on something that detracted from my enjoyment of the novel on an overarching note, it would be that towards the end of the novel, I felt like the momentum of the plot struggled a bit marching towards its conclusion. The beginning and middle parts of the novel had me at hello and I didn't want to put the novel down unless I had to. But when I hit probably the last fourth of the novel and when the reveal came in that respect, I remember thinking that the way it tied things together wasn't as smooth as the rest of the novel had been, and part of that might've been narrative pacing and trying to tie the loose ends of the revenge plot while at the same time maintaining Laney's voice and mindset.

When I put the book down, I'll admit it left me with a lot to think about, and usually the books that leave me with that feeling end up being ones that remain with me for a long time. (So much I bought my own copy of the novel after reading my digital galley.) So I was considering rating it at 4 stars, but said screw it and bumped it up by half a star because it was one of the reading experiences that resonated with me from the past year. I'm glad I had the opportunity to read this, and can't wait to read more from Leah Raeder in the near future.

Overall score: 4.5/5 stars.

Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Atria.