Review: Black Iris – Leah Raeder

black irisIt 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.

Rating: 4/5

I bottle my hate until it ferments into poison, and then I get high off the fumes. 

Going to try write this review without copious use of the f-bomb, but we shall see if I succeed – because all I want to do is go FUCKING HELL WHAT DID I JUST READ.

Heed the warnings of other reviewers when they say this book was dark – and while I know that it can be a tad disturbing, I was in the mood for something raw, and edgy, and brutal. There was no redemption arc in this book – while the ending was a little lighter, and the madness slightly dissipated, our MC was still on a path for vengeance, albeit to a lesser extent. You will find no fluffy bunnies and glitter and feel-good moments here.

Love doesn’t fit into boxes like that. It’s blurry, slippery, quantum. It’s only limited by our perceptions and before we slap a label on it and cram it into some category, everything is possible. 

But I liked that the characters were unlikeable – nay, entirely screwed up, capable of extremely questionable acts, manipulation and violence – because it’s different to what I’ve read before. Everybody is a villain here. But then you look at what shaped them to be that way, and you say, how could they not end up the way they did?

Sometimes all you know about where you’re going is that it’s away from where you are. 

The book was incredibly compelling. Once I got past halfway, I flew through until I finished at 2am my time. (Also, I’m a little disturbed at how intrigued I am with the sociopath dude, and that he appears in the author’s next novel.) I didn’t find the use of drugs/sex/alcohol gratuitous – people do that, especially the less stable ones who self-medicate.

I really enjoy Leah Raeder’s prose. While some of the descriptions and figures of speech can be read as pretentious, they also smack of authenticity to me – not weird and ill-fitting, like when writers are trying too hard to be unique. In fact, some of the prose almost seems stream-of-consciousness-like, although I’ve also seen the word ‘messy’ used to describe it. I guess it’s a personal preference, and won’t work for everybody.

We cruised through dead streets where neon perfused the air like coloured smoke. Traffic lights blinked on and off, emerald and citrine and ruby splitting in dazzling shards across my face. 

(The back and forth timeline can get confusing, but as with all novels structured like that, it all starts to make sense once you’ve made some headway.)

In a typical college romance novel, he’d be a gorgeous but troubled sex god who’d cure all my deep-seated psych issues with a good hard fuck. I’d smell his misogyny and abusive tendencies from miles off but my brain would turn to hormone soup because abs. That’s the formula. Broken girl + bad boy = sexual healing. All you need to fix that tragic past is a six-pack. More problems? Add abs. It’s magic dick lit. 

Leah Raeder is a refreshing voice in the NA genre. She pulls no punches. Her female characters are fierce. Nothing about her books is formulaic, and she puts the rest of the problematic crap in the NA genre to shame.

2 thoughts on “Review: Black Iris – Leah Raeder

  1. This is why her books would never work for me. I’m too chicken shit to read anything dark. Plus, she writes the angstiest of the angst, so as much as I know I’m missing out, I think i’m okay over here perched upon my rainbow.


  2. This book REALLY surprised me by how dark and twisted it was. I mean there was UNTEACHABLE and there was… THIS. This masterpiece of a story where the characters make you want to take a shower and at the same time, make you feel for them because of how lost they are AND HOW YOU FEEL THIS LONELINESS in the words. Sigh, this writer is seriously something!

    Faye at The Social Potato


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