Single Sundays: Black Iris by Leah Raeder

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Black Iris (from Goodreads):
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.

breakdown

Author: Leah Raeder
Genre: New Adult, Suspense, Romance, Mental Health, LGBT, Dark
Heat Rating: hot
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: April 28, 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I can’t remember where I found this book. It was either on someone else’s blog, NetGalley, a “can’t wait for” list or through a book on Goodreads. Regardless, I wanted to try my hand at a New Adult suspense novel. Normally, I go for the more romance focused New Adult reads but this one had a darker spin, a LGBT aspect and a revenge based premise.

I was really intrigued by the synopsis (and the cover) and couldn’t wait to dive into this one when my hold finally came in!

The Concept:

This story is told completely out of order. Each chapter is clearly labelled so it is easy to keep track of the timeline…for the most part. I do recommend trying to read this book in bigger chunks than littler ones so that you can keep everything straight. Because it does move around quite a bit. For example, one chapter could be May 2015, next is Feb 2014, followed by March 2015. It isn’t a simple alternation between the past and the present…and it really works with this story and its unreliable narrator.

Also, the LGBT premise is really fantastic! I kinda forgot about it when I picked it up so it surprised me a bit when I first started. Nevertheless, struggling with one’s sexual identity is the backbone of this book. It’s very heartfelt and real and grounds the story with its very dramatic revenge plot line.

The Plot:

As the reader, you spend most of your time trying to put together what has really happened to Laney that has caused her to go down the path of revenge. Laney is an unreliable narrator and completely knows it (she tells you multiple times throughout the book). So that can make it frustrating to read at times because you know you aren’t getting the full story. But only getting little breadcrumbs at a time also makes it equally exciting and captivating. I had a hard time putting this book down because I wanted to know what was going to happen next. It really reminded me of watching How to Get Away with Murder because we only get fragmented pieces at a time, leading up to the big reveal.

While Laney’s mental health issues as a result of her family life and sexual identity are very realistic and an important part of the plot, don’t think book is meant to be one of those realistic fiction reads about someone who is suffering a sexual identity crisis and has a major epiphany. Because it isn’t. It’s a revenge story about a girl who wants to hurt everyone who ever hurt her. Who those people are and how she is going to do it is the main plot line of this story. It’s dark, it’s gritty and it takes no prisoners and compared to my usual New Adult fodder I found it to be very refreshing.

But I also found it to be detrimental to a certain degree. I don’t mind drug and sex references in my books, I might not like it, particularly the drug usage, but I won’t let it prevent me from reading a story. And while the drug usage and sexual situations worked for this story (ie they moved the plot forward and weren’t in there just for shock factor), I think there was just too much of it earlier on, especially the drug usage, and that dampened the experience for me a bit. It shifted the focus away from the larger issue of the plot for me which is the need for revenge.

The Characters:

This book has quite the cast of characters! They are all deeply flawed and so layered that it definitely keeps things interesting.

Laney was a very complex character and because she is an unreliable narrator, I had a hard time deciphering what was real and what wasn’t in terms of who she was as a person. Part of the problem lies in the fact that she is a character going through an identity crisis, so she doesn’t even really know herself. It was cool to see her evolve into her “true” self. But the execution, at times, makes it hard to get a read on her and her true motivations.

I would say overall, I didn’t really connect with any of these characters despite understanding them. I didn’t find myself rooting for Laney to succeed like I thought. But at the same time, I’m not sure if you are supposed to or not. Laney straight up says she isn’t your typical heroine in your typical story and that is 100% true. So I think it is expected that you aren’t going to root for her but you will understand her character and her motivations. You may not agree with her motivations or methods but you get why she feels like she has to do it that way.

The Romance:

I think this is the first book I have ever read that has a “true” love triangle. What I mean by true love triangle is that all three people involved are in love with each other. Person A is attracted to B + C, Person B is the same with A + C, etc. The only one that comes close is No One Needs to Know but it doesn’t really count because two of the people involved are twin siblings with no incestuous tendencies. It makes for an interesting dynamic and one that I really enjoyed watching unfold.

I find for the most part, the romantic relationships are based on physical attraction. It’s never really elaborated (at to me) why they all shared some inexplicable connection with each other initially. But by the end of the story, it became slightly more apparent to me why these characters were drawn together. I personally just like that little bit more for my characters, especially near the start, when it comes to their romantic relationships. In the end, it doesn’t really matter because the romance is just a tool to drive the plot forward and what we have is more than enough to satisfy that requirement.

My Rating: 4/5

I really struggled to rate this book when I finished it. While reading, I would say it was at a solid 4 and then the big reveal happened and I immediately thought 5 stars! But when it came to picking my rating on Goodreads, I hesitated. I adore books that give you all the clues throughout but prevent you from putting everything together until the big reveal–which is what this book did and that was why I wanted to give it 5 stars. However, I dropped it to a 4 because I did spend a lot of the time reading confused as to what was happening and keeping the plotline straight. And the dramatics (like the drug usage) slightly killed it for me as well, especially near the end. I just felt like it was a little too much when all was said and done, thus a 4 star review.

overall

I think a lot of readers will struggle with the format/execution of this book. The flip-flopping between past and present can be difficult to follow at times. It is also a book that slowly builds up to the big reveal so you may be left scratching your head for quite awhile. But overall, I found it to be enlightening and entertaining and it’s encouraged me to pick up other New Adult suspense novels.

Read if You Like: diverse books, books with GLBT themes, books dealing with mental health
Avoid if You: don’t like unreliable narrators, stories with drug usage

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