Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Review: Black Iris by Leah Raeder

Black Iris by Leah Raeder
Series: Standalone
Published: April 28th, 2015
Publisher: Atria
368 pages (eARC)
Genre: Contemporary New Adult/Thriller/LGBTQ
Acquired this book: Via NetGalley in exchange for honest consideration
Warning: May contain spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy this book: Amazon || Chapters/Indigo}

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.

Black Iris is one of those books I knew early on would be difficult to review, not only because of potential spoilers, but also because it’s hard to describe the way it made me feel. It was a total mindfuck that horrified me, turned me on, broke my heart, and ultimately left me completely satisfied. I know that sounds like an odd combination, but Black Iris is so complex, you can’t help but feel a mixture of emotions. It was dark, disturbing, sexy as hell, and beautifully written. Laney and her messed-up life wormed their way into my heart and mind, and I didn’t want to put this book down. I cursed being a painfully slow reader and the fact I need sleep to be a (semi)functioning human being, because I just wanted to find out what would happen next. I read as late as I could, jumping at every shadow and sound, and then having crazy dreams all night.

Black Iris is a book that left me feeling confused - not about the story itself, but about my own feelings. Laney is a character who could be hard to relate to for a lot of people. While I only had a few things in common with her, I felt a connection with her immediately. I think every writer understands, and has likely danced with, that madness that comes with being an artist and thinking differently from other people. I’ve gone through the highs and lows, and while not as all-consuming as what Laney experienced, I think it made it easier to understand the darkness in her. As for the confusion I felt: Laney did some horrible things. Things you wouldn’t normally condone, things that would get someone thrown into a psych hospital or a jail cell if they were caught. But somehow, as things unfolded through the course of the story, her actions started seeming almost justifiable, despite knowing they were wrong. She was masochistic and self-destructive and she wanted to make people suffer the way she’d suffered. She was neither hero nor villain, she was just a girl with darkness and poison and vengeance running through her veins, and she was doing what she thought she needed to do to, as messed up as those things were. Her actions, her behaviour, and her dark thoughts pushed me out of my comfort zone in all the best ways.

There were a lot of complex relationships in this book. I loved Laney’s brother, Donnie, and their relationship. Seeing the softer side of Laney added even more depth to her character and made me sympathize with her even more. As for the romance element of the book...I won’t go too in depth, even though every aspect of the story was somehow tied to Blythe and Armin, but I will say this: it was intense, sexy, destructive, confusing, messy, and beautiful. It shouldn’t have worked - they enabled each other, and they were like dynamite and a lit match, poised to explode and take down not only themselves but everyone around them, too. It was so unhealthy, and yet it did work - they understood each other and they needed each other.
Besides being a really unique story, part of what made Black Iris so amazing was Raeder’s gorgeous, lyrical writing. I wanted to crawl inside the words, wrap them around me, and stay there forever. I haven’t read many books like that lately, so I revelled in it, highlighting and rereading my favourite passages, and knowing I needed to bump Raeder’s debut, Unteachable, up on my TBR.

Black Iris is dark, surprising, twisty (and twisted), thrilling, and unique. It shocked me, pushed me outside my comfort zone, and kept me guessing from beginning to end. This is a story that will stick with me for a long time.

Have you read Black Iris? What did you think? If you haven't read it, do you plan to? What's your favourite 'mindfuck' book or a book that left you feeling a range of hard-to-explain emotions? Let's talk here or on Twitter!
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  1. I'm not sure this book is my cup of tea but I've heard some amazing things about it. Maybe I should pick it up.

  2. LOVE your review. It's so hard to write a review when there's some aspects to the story that you just can't give away without ruining it for someone else. I think you did an amazing job expressing the feel of the book--it makes me super curious, even more so than I was before!


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