April 22, 2015

Title: Black Iris

Author: Leah Raeder ♥ @leahraeder

Expected Publication:
April 28, 2015

Publisher: Atria /
Simon & Schuster

Pages: 368

Genres: New Adult ♥ Contemporary ♥ Romance ♥ Suspense ♥ GLBT

Source: publisher

Summary from Goodreads: The next dark and sexy romantic suspense novel from the USA Today bestselling author of Unteachable.

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.

Average Goodreads Rating (as of 04/20/2015): 3.81

  • Christina thought this title was wildly entertaining. It goes on her TOP SHELF. To find out why…

**SPECIAL NOTE:** An e-ARC of this title was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. However, that did not influence this review in any way. All thoughts, quotes, and opinions will be of this version and not of the published edition.

WARNING: THIS WILL PROBABLY BE CONSIDERED A SPOILERY REVIEW TO SOME. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK, BUT YOU SHOULD PROBABLY, ABSOLUTELY IGNORE ALL THE QUOTES IN GRAY BOXES IF YOU ARE A SPOILER-PHOBE! This is also a New Adult novel. My review reflects the book, so if cursing and sexual context isn’t your thing, avert your eyes now.

♥ Quick Thoughts and Rating:
5 glimmering stars! 
Raw, riveting, and completely unhinged.

A bloody mindfuck. An alluring tease. A carnal love letter to my poet’s soul, sealed with jagged edges meant for ripping flesh and cherry-flavored kisses to heal the wounds. And it’s completely, astoundingly entertaining.

Fair Warning: You’ll be so wrapped up in the intoxicating richness of Raeder’s prose, you’ll miss your decent into full-on madness, pushed over the edge by this dark and cunning plot that will keep you racing through the pages until the sudden impact of a single moment jars everything into focus, bringing all this author’s careful crafting into blinding clarity. Then you’ll just sit there is absolute wonderment at her brilliance and think Holy hell, WTF kind of awesome did I just read? And you will love it even if your mind is left reeling and more than a little confused and a whole lot spent.

♥ The Lowdown: This is the story of a girl and her brokenness. A story of her questionable sexual and mental identifiers and labels. A story of a her mad mother and the ripped pieces of a shredded life she left behind. This is the story of ruined girl who found her saviors in a boy that loved broken girls and trying to fix them and a girl that was crazier than she was, sex personified and in love with all the dirty, dark places Laney held close.

Or…

Maybe the girl is only ruined because that’s what she wants you to believe. Maybe this girl is the master manipulator and we’re all just pawns in her grand game.

“Since the fourth wall is down, let’s get one thing straight:

I am not the heroine of this story.

And I’m not trying to be cute. It’s the truth. 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.”
~quote taken from the eARC of Black Iris at 2%

♥ My Thoughts: I know you’ve probably read this quite a few times in my most recent reviews but it proves more true in regards to this book than any others I’ve written reviews for to date. It’s rather simple, you see. My words will never sufficiently express my feelings on this book. There’s nothing beyond “akdflkadfhdfkjlsakdjfhalkdfjl” that will adequately summarize the tangle of thoughts in my mind and heart after closing this book. But, I will try. And because I’m me and I’m attempting to corral my thoughts, I’ll have to break them down into tidy, organized bullet points.

First, let me say that I’ve had Unteachable, Raeder’s debut, on my TBR ever since it released, and damn me for waiting to dig in because after finishing this, I can only imagine it’s going to be amazing. I can say with honest certainty that I’m thrilled I didn’t let a year or so grow between this novel publishing and me picking up. That would feel tragic now. While I’m here spouting randomness, I now realize that I sense a bit of a pattern with this author: She wants to push the envelope. She likes stepping outside of the box and she probably knows that not everyone is going to love her books, but she chooses to write and publish those stories regardless. That takes serious guts, and I respect the hell out of her for it. I love that she isn’t afraid to take it there and push boundaries.

So now the bullet points…

  • Writing: So, yes, it’s no secret that I love pretty words. Loooove them! I love when an author becomes a Jedi word ninja and can manipulate the hell out of words to make the imagery come alive in my head. And Raeder’s prose? Nothing short of mind-bogglingly amazeballs. (I seriously want to plug in a bunch of “I.CAN’T. EVEN. Y’ALL!” and gifs with flaily hands and the like here, but I’ll refrain with just this hint of it.) You can tell that each word was carefully selected, that phrases and passages were created and inserted with absolute precision and grace to inflict the greatest amount of impact at exactly the moment she wanted you to be affected. I caught myself rereading certain chapters over and over again, not only because I loved the way her words fell off my tongue, but also because of the slideshow film it inspired in my mind. And make no mistake about it, her prose is so deep and purple it might as well be as dark as the petals this book is named after. Yet again, it’s stunning and incomparable the way it generated a multitude of layering moods and influenced my emotions as I read. It was poignant and visceral and lascivious and crude and pure perfection (in my opinion).

“Falling for someone is like pulling a loose thread. It happens stitch by stitch. You feel whole most of the time even while the seams pop, the knots loosen, everything that holds you together coming undone. It feels incredible, this opening of yourself to the world. Not like the unraveling that it is. Only afterward do you glance down at the tangle of string around your feet that used to be a person who was whole and self-contained and realize that love is not a thing that we create. It’s an undoing.”
~quote taken from the eARC of Black Iris at 28%

  • Characters: Raeder’s characters couldn’t have come across any clearer than if they were standing directly in front of me in real life. It took little time before they materialized right before my eyes and stepped off the page. Fully realized, flesh and bone (and teeth and nails and tangled limbs), and so bloody vibrant, I could have easily overdosed on these characters. I was intoxicated by they way the orbited one another and how interlocked they were with progressing the plot. I don’t want to say more because the characters are unequivocally linked to their roles in the book and I can’t talk about their roles without divulging more of the plot in which case spoilers would fly.
  • Plot: Basically, I’m only putting this here to say that there is one and it’s genius. And deliciously dark, gritty, and all things dangerously captivating. To go much farther would probably lead to spoilers and I’ve probably already riddled this review with far too many anyway. I will say that the way the book is written with the timeline jumping all over the place within a year’s time, just pay attention. Or, you can do what I did and just let the story tug you along more than a little confused. You’ll still arrive at your final destination a little stunned at exactly how the novel spun its web, knotted you in it, then cut the ties and let you fall flat on your face. It really was marvelous the way it all played itself out.
  • The exploration of sexuality and mental illness: This book isn’t like others I’ve read in regards to sexual orientation and dealing with mental illness. I don’t think Raeder tried to paint us pretty pictures or wanted to help us “understand” what others go through because of particular issues some people have to deal with in their daily life. It’s like she simply said, “Here. This is how it is. This is what it looks like. It’s not always pretty. It’s not something that can be beautified with bows, sparkles, or rays of sunshine and unicorns shooting rainbows out of its ass. Sometimes it’s shitty and ugly. Sometimes people are crap and treat others even crappier. But, for better or for worse, this is life. Deal with it. You don’t have to pity me. You don’t have to be sympathetic. But you will acknowledge that I’m human and that I’m worthy.” I think it was that bluntness and honest writing that really hit me the hardest and helped this book leap above others that deal with similar serious topics. And, if I’m being completely honest, those f/f scenes were some of the hottest, most intimate I’ve read maybe ever, whether that be hetero or otherwise.

“If I was gay,” I told the ceiling, “I wouldn’t need an asterisk beside my name. I could stop worrying if a girl I like will bounce when she finds out I also like dick. I could have a coming-out party without people thinking I just want attention. I wouldn’t have to explain that I fall in love with minds, not genders or body parts. People wouldn’t say I’m ‘just a slut’ or ‘faking it’ or ‘undecided’ or ‘confused.’ I’m not confused. I don’t categorize people by who I’m allowed to like and who I’m allowed to love. Love doesn’t fit into boxes like that. It’s blurry, slippery, quantum. It’s only limited by our perception and before we slap a label on it and cram it into some category, everything is possible.” I glanced at Josh. “That’s me. I’m not gay, not bi. I’m something quantum. I can’t define it.”
~quote taken from the eARC of Black Iris at 88%

♥ Rec It? In case my love for this book hasn’t already been established, then I’m saying yes! I want to say that everyone should go out and read this and fall in love with its corruptness, but I know that’s not exactly rational thinking. There will be many that won’t love this as much as myself for varying reasons– too dark, the indulgent prose, f/f romance or diversity in your reading doesn’t float your reader boat (I’m glaring at you a little.), the material makes you uncomfortable, or the jumping timeline is too distracting– and you’re entitled to those reserves as a reader, but all I’m saying is just give it a chance. Don’t pass judgement over it because of my review or the subject matters addressed in the book before you read it. Just give it a shot. You might surprise yourself.

Ms. Raeder, you’ve found yourself a new fan in me, and I apologize for my tardiness about jumping on the bandwagon. Thank you for your clever book with pretty words and real characters. Thank you for the personal message you shared in the acknowledgements, too. I’m proud that you’re still standing, head unbowed, and that you showed all those awful people that you’re a bossass bitch and you handled yours. Much love and respect. ♥

♥ A very special thanks to Atria and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.

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