A Song Below Water

Tor Teen. Jun. 2020. 288p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250315328.
Gr 8 Up–Tavia Philips and Effie Calhoun Freeman, Black high school teens, have been raised like sisters. Tavia is sickened by the knowledge of what could happen to her if she ever affirms her siren identity in a society where sirens are persecuted and silenced—but wants to proclaim who she is, much to the dismay of her father. Tavia draws her strength from Camilla Fox, a natural hair YouTube personality who turns out to be a siren, too. Effie, not a siren but a powerful swimmer, cosplays as a mermaid at a Renaissance fair, and is attracted to Elric, her cosplay partner who cannot see her beyond their fictional roles. Effie is burdened by an inferiority complex, the result of her grandmother hiding major family secrets. When another siren is murdered, Tavia and Effie’s sisterhood has to weather many storms. Morrow has deftly woven a contemporary tale with mythical elements to take on the invisibility and marginalization of Black women, touching on issues such as misogynoir, body image, social justice, and generational trauma.
VERDICT Empowering and innovative. Morrow elevates mermaids and sirens to legitimate and compelling vanguards for social change. For contemporary YA collections and fantasy shelves, too.

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