A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The author uses existence and life paths of supernatural beings as a metaphor for racial marginalization.
Don't hide your light under a bushel. Your vulnerability may be your strength, and your voice is your power. Have as much compassion for yourself as you do for other people.
Positive Role Models
Main characters are Black teen girls living in Portland, Oregon. Explores complexity of their identities and experiences in that community. They are deeply engaged in swimming, the Renaissance Faire, natural hair, and honors studies in high school. One of them, Tavia, is secretly a siren. Sirens are exclusively Black women and are regarded as dangerous, evil. This status underscores all the reasons she feels silenced. Subtle promotion of value of psychological counseling, as Tavia occasionally calls on self-regulation tools she learned in psychotherapy.
Violence & Scariness
A boyfriend murders his girlfriend. Peaceful protesters are roughed up by police with military gear. Characters use supernatural powers for revenge and self-defense, including turning other people to stone.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A couple of instances of romantic kissing and talk of crushes.
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Products & Purchases
Being an influencer on YouTube is central to one of the main subplots.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Bethany C. Morrow's A Song Below Water is the story of two African American teen girls, Tavia and Effie, friends who live as sisters in Tavia's family home in Portland, Oregon. Each of them has suffered a trauma that haunts her. Tavia is secretly a siren, a type of supernatural being; sirens are exclusively Black women and girls, and they are considered dangerous and evil. A boyfriend murders his girlfriend. Peaceful protesters are roughed up by police with military gear. Characters use supernatural powers for revenge and self-defense, including turning other people to stone. There are a couple of instances of romantic kissing and talk of crushes. Being an influencer on YouTube is central to one of the main subplots.
Is It Any Good?
Though it starts a little slow, this clever fantasy goes deep and stays there. Tavia and Effie, the main characters of A Song Below Water, by Bethany C. Morrow (author of MEM and editor of Take the Mic), are such believable teens that it's easy to follow them from swimming in a pool at the community center to flying around town in the wings of a gargoyle. Literal Black girl magic illuminates how young women can discover and embrace their real-life superpowers.
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