Friday, April 3, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Black Iris by Leah Raeder

This is a book review for Black Iris by Leah Raeder. I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. The scheduled publication date is April 28, 2015.

It only took one moment of weakness for Laney Keating’s world to fall apart. One stupid gesture for a hopeless crush. Then the rumors began. Slut, they called her. Queer. Psycho. Mentally ill, messed up, so messed up even her own mother decided she wasn't worth sticking around for. If Laney could erase that whole year, she would. College is her chance to start with a clean slate. She's not looking for new friends, but they find her: charming, handsome Armin, the only guy patient enough to work through her thorny defenses—and fiery, filterless Blythe, the bad girl and partner in crime who has thorns of her own. But Laney knows nothing good ever lasts. When a ghost from her past resurfaces—the bully who broke her down completely—she decides it's time to live up to her own legend. And Armin and Blythe are going to help. Which was the plan all along. Because the rumors are true. Every single one. And Laney is going to show them just how true. She's going to show them all.

"I am not the heroine of this story . . . I'm diagnosed borderline and seriously fucked-up. I hold grudges. I bottle my hate until it ferments into poison, and then I get high off the fumes. I'm completely dysfunctional and that's the way I like it, so don't expect a character arc where I finally find Redemption, Growth, and Change, or learn How to Forgive Myself and Others. Fuck forgiveness."

With those few lines, we learn more about Laney than anything else that happens in this plot. Laney calls herself an unreliable narrator and she is. Throughout the entire book, I was questioning everything she said and I am still not sure I know the whole truth. Last night, I stayed up way too late finishing this book. The characters completely sucked me in. The book starts with Laney's mother's suicide. It is revealed that Laney's mom suffered from bipolar disorder and like most patients with bipolar, she refused to go on her meds. The author does not tell the story in a linear way. It goes back and forth, between the now of Laney's friendship with Armin and Blythe, to the before of the torture she suffered in high school at the hands of several bullies. 

It is obvious that Laney is struggling with her sexuality. She refuses to call herself gay, despite the fact that she has a huge crush on one of the most popular girls in school. It was hard for me to like Laney, or even understand her. In the time after high school, she is having sex with pretty much any boy she comes into contact with. She is also very self-destructive, drinking a lot and addicted to pills. I kept trying to understand her behavior. Was she this way because she inherited her mom's mental illness? Was she misdiagnosed with borderline? Was she the way she was because of the bullying she suffered or some other kind of trauma? Was she gay or was she bisexual? There were times I thought I knew the answer, only to have Laney prove me wrong. Let me say this: Laney refuses to be put inside a box of mentally ill or not, gay or not. She is who she is and makes no apologies for it. Honestly, that is kind of admirable. One other thing: Laney tells you (the reader) what she wants you to know, when she wants you to know it and not a minute before. Just when you think you have the answers, she pulls the rug out from under you. She insinuates in the first chapter that she does something that will make you (the reader) hate her. She chose not to reveal what that was until close to the end of the book. By that point, I didn't hate Laney. As much as she probably wanted me to hate her, I couldn't. I am not sure if I empathized with her or even liked her very much, but I think I understood why she made some of the decisions she did.

Her relationship with Armin and Blythe (also known as Apollo and Artemis) was intense and intoxicating. It was a love triangle, but it was so far from the traditional love triangle. I had not clue who Laney really loved. It seemed like she loved and wanted both of them. And Artemin and Blythe appeared as if they were both in love with Laney and each other. See? About as far from a traditional love triangle as you can get. These are three very messed up people who are very intertwined in each others' lives. It's hard to reveal much more about the plot than I have without giving stuff away. Laney suffers through a lot of bullying in high school and she decides to take revenge on those who have hurt her. Because of the slow and deliberate way the information was released in the book, I didn't fully understand why Laney was so mad or even who she was trying to hurt until further along in the book. The ending had a surprising reveal and I am still not sure if I liked it or not. Aside from some key issues in the plot, I can tell you that this book is about a girl coming to terms with her sexuality, revenge, bullying, love, addiction and intense friendships. The best word I can use to describe this book is addictive. I was as addicted to this world as Laney was to her pills. 

Buy/Borrow/Skip: Buy!!


  1. Just reading your review for this one Cynthia really excites me. I'm ok with not liking characters as long as they are interesting and Laney sounds intriguing! Also I've been meaning to check this author out with a while as I know her last book got a lot of praise. Great review and it's on my TBR now!

    1. Thanks Trish! I am happy to hear that. I had not read anything by this author before, but I will be checking her out now. And Laney is one of the most interesting characters I have read about in a while.

  2. Wow. I wasn't going to read this one, wasn't even on my radar. But honestly, now I kind of need it! Such an amazing review, and you have me SO intrigued! And I kind of enjoy the idea of an unreliable narrator. Especially one who is so upfront about it ;) Yep, adding this one to my TBR!
    Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight

    1. Thanks Shannon! I have a feeling you will enjoy it. Laney is one of the most complex, interesting characters I have seen in a long, long time.