The next dark and sexy romantic suspense novel from the USA TODAY bestselling author of Unteachable, which was praised for its “lush, haunting prose, deft storytelling, and scorching sensuality” (M. Pierce, bestselling author of the Night Owl trilogy), and called “one of the best forbidden romances” (Lauren Blakely, New York Times bestselling author).
“Love is not a thing that we create. It’s an undoing.”
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.
|Product dimensions:||5.30(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
Leah Raeder is the author of Unteachable, Black Iris, and the forthcoming Cam Girl. Aside from reading her brains out, she enjoys graphic design, video games, fine whiskey, and the art of self-deprecation. She lives with her very own manic pixie dream boy in Chicago. Visit her at LeahRaeder.com.
Read an Excerpt
APRIL, LAST YEAR
April is the cruelest month, T. S. Eliot said, and that’s because it kills. It’s the month with the highest suicide rate. You’d think December, or even January—the holidays and all that forced cheer and agonized smiling pushing fragile people to the edge—but actually it’s spring, when the world wakes from frost-bound sleep and something cruel and final stirs inside those of us who are broken. Like Eliot said: mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain. In the deepest throes of depression, when sunlight is anguish and the sky throbs like one big raw migraine and you just want to sleep until you or everything else dies, you’re less likely to commit suicide than someone coming out of a depressive episode. Drug companies know this. That’s why antidepressants have to be marked with the warning MAY CAUSE SUICIDAL THOUGHTS.
Because what brings you back to life also gives you the means to destroy yourself.
Flick, flick, flick. The lighter in my hand, the sound of my life grinding into sparks that would never catch, under a salmon-pink dawn in Nowhereville, Illinois. Gravel crunched beneath my shoes, polished like oyster shell from the rain. I stopped at the puddle outside our garage and peered into the oily mirrored water, watching the slow swirl of a gasoline rainbow, the tiny orange tongue of fire licking shadows from my face until they washed back over and over. An unlit cigarette hung from my lip and my mouth had a weird bleach taste I tried not to think about. I tried not to think about anything that had happened last night. I was eighteen and, according to Mom, “completely out of control,” which to anyone else would have meant “a normal teenager.” Mom’s favorite hobby: projecting her own psych issues onto me.
Very soon I’d be free of her.
From the alley I could see the backyard, the grass jeweled with dew. Mom’s garden lined the walk to the porch, hyacinths with their cones of curled blue stars, rosebuds crumpled like flakes of dried blood, everything glazed in clear lacquer and the air musky with the cologne of rain. At six fifteen she’d wake and find my bed empty. But that wasn’t the real problem. The real problem was that in about three minutes, something terrible was going to happen. The thing you’ll hate me for. The thing that will make me an Unsympathetic Protagonist.
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.
Oh, and I’m a writer. Which is worse than all the rest put together.
Open sesame, I texted my brother.
I don’t know how I didn’t hear it. It was quiet, the crickets creaking like a rusty seesaw, but that other sound must have been there, scratching softly at my brain. I crept into the backyard through the maze of Mom’s thorns.
The house was dark, Donnie’s curtains closed. Wake up fuckface, I texted, punctuating with a smiley. Six twelve a.m. Three minutes until Medusa’s alarm went off. Donnie always slept with his phone under his pillow, which was probably slowly giving him cancer. He should’ve been up by now. Mom’s gonna kill me, I wrote. Do you want to be an only child?
Dammit. I had to beat that alarm.
I bolted across the lawn, kicking pearls of dew loose from the grass. A thorn snagged my ankle but I wouldn’t notice the blood till much later, in the hospital. My socks instantly went damp. It wasn’t until I’d reached the porch that I saw the other tracks, paralleling mine.
A chill swept up my back. I touched the kitchen doorknob.
I didn’t open it. That coldness wove around my spine, thickening, binding. Someone was awake. Someone had come downstairs, crossed the yard before me.
She was in the garage, at the window. I knew my mother’s silhouette from long years of it slipping into doorways, catching us horsing around when we should’ve been asleep, catching me when I snuck in alone after midnight, my body weary and ancient with all that had been done to it. I knew the high set of those shoulders, that neck rigid with contempt. The closed mouth carved tight into her elegant Gorgon skull. She’d stand there without saying a word. Her silence was the kind that compelled you to fill it with all your wrongs. I could never see her eyes but I knew they burned ice-wraith blue, and now I felt them through the dusty window pane, felt the stare that could turn me to stone.
I removed the lighter slowly from my pocket. Flicked it once with exaggerated languor. Lit up. Took a long, luxuriously filthy drag, meeting her stare. The inside of my body felt carbon-coated, black and grimy. Not the soft pink vulnerable thing I really was.
Okay, bitch. Your move.
She just stood there.
Those moments counted. Those moments when I faced her, eating fire and breathing smoke, telling myself I was hard, that I could crush her and this whole world in my hands. Telling myself she couldn’t hurt me. No one could hurt me anymore.
Those moments could have saved us.
By the time I reached the end of the cigarette the sun had torn a red gash at the horizon, and I saw that Mom was unsteady on her feet, swaying. And finally I realized what that rhythmic sound was beneath the crickets. I knew it from climbing up into the garage rafters with my brother to smoke a J, the beams creaking with our weight. Wood, under strain.
I dropped my cigarette in the grass.
In some deep part of me, I already knew. I crossed the lawn, noticing the white square taped to the side door only when I touched the knob. A name scrawled across the paper in her bold, slashing handwriting.
How had she known it would be me?
I ignored the note. I was trying to turn the doorknob and failing. Locked.
“Mom,” I said, and rattled the door, then again, louder, “Mom.”
She swayed dreamily.
A light flipped on inside the house, a yellow frame falling over me. I braced both hands on the knob and kicked. Everything stretched away like the reflection in a car mirror. My mind floated above my head, looking down at my body: Laney Keating, her hair matted, a black wash of mascara running down her cheeks, her mouth still bitter from the blowjob, throttling the garage door and screaming her mother’s name. I watched her from a faraway place. She gave up kicking and punched straight through the window in a brilliant starburst of glass. I felt the heat shoot up my arm like a drug, saw the redness streaking over my skin, but didn’t quite connect it to me, to the girl crawling in over those jagged glass teeth, tumbling to the floor, scrambling up and screaming as she grabbed her mother’s legs and uselessly lifted the limp, hanging body. My mind was still outside, staring at my name on the suicide note. All I could think was, How did she know I’d find her? How did she know it would be me?
I don’t remember much else because I blacked out thirty seconds later. Dad had seen me from the house and dragged me onto the lawn, then Mom, laying us side by side. I was unconscious but somehow I can picture it. Grass curling over bone-white skin, tracing horsetails of dew, tiny clear beads that reflect an entire world full of stars and flowers and our pale bodies, everything she’d left behind. My blood mixed with the dew and turned pink. The glass would leave scars on my right hand like the ghost of a cobweb, which is what scars are: a haunting of the skin.
At the funeral Dad said he thought she’d killed us both. He’d been a heartbeat from getting his semiautomatic and joining us when he realized I had a pulse.
This might sound fucked-up, but the part that really upset me wasn’t the suicide. That had been a long time coming. What disturbed me was that she knew I’d find her first.
I am my mother’s daughter.
I know what it feels like to plan something that will destroy you, to be so fucking sure you want it that you arrange everything perfectly, prune the roses while you debate the merits of hanging yourself with nylon rope versus an appliance cord, serve your children baked ziti while your suicide note lies in a desk drawer like a cruel bird of prey waiting to unfold its wings until, one morning when the world is diamond-strung with rain and your daughter is coming home from another night of ruining herself (because you were never there for her, you were never there), you get up before everyone else and calmly step into the garage, and that noose, and eternity.
She’d planned it for years. Knew it was coming and kept tending that garden. Those roses she would never see bloom, the irises and peonies, the daughter and son, all of us left behind to flower, somehow, without her.
Well, I did. I bloomed into the dark thing she made me.
I am a creature with a vast capacity for patience, and for violence. For watching. For waiting. For taking the moment only when it is perfect and sure. I’m a hunter like my mother, patient and watchful and still, my fangs full of black venom. There is a terrible thing tucked inside me raring to lunge forth into the light. And I’m just waiting for that perfect moment. Just waiting. Just waiting.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I will start off this experience by saying there is no way I can possibly narrow my experience with BLACK IRIS down to coherent sentences. “Scars tell a story. My whole life was written on my body. How are you supposed to leave the past behind when you carry it with you in your skin?” To say that I loved this story, the characters, the dark and gritty feel of the words written on this book’s pages is probably the biggest understatement of the year. My love for BLACK IRIS is feverish; it knows no bounds. “What brings you back to life also gives you the means to destroy yourself.” Laney’s quest to find some sort of peace with herself and her demons took me on the craziest (literally) ride of my literary life. Side note: if you thought you were confident with your sexuality before reading BLACK IRIS, I can assure you that your confidence will wane after finishing this book. The second I closed the story, all I could think was, “What am I!? Am I gay now!? Is this how it starts for me? I will have to adapt; I am no longer the same person I was before this story, clearly.” Moving on… Leah Raeder creates this world filled with terrible, ignorant people who make you want to rip your eyeballs out (sorry, graphic?) and characters who need their voices to be just a little bit louder, who need to be heard just a whole lot more. “Nothing hurts more than being alive.” My heart ached from beginning to end with this story. There was romance, a ton of suspense, a more thorough view on what life is like to be queer, and a shining bright light on the ever-so-important theme of mental health. Being a psych major, this story screamed importance to me; the idea of educating yourself on mental health, even if you believe it does not pertain to you, is crucial to understanding the people around you. “Sometimes all you know about where you’re going is that it’s away from where you are.” BLACK IRIS was jarring, admirable, complex, beautifully poetic and astonishingly brave. This story will forever be imprinted on my soul. I’m entirely infatuated with the characters, the darkness that tinges the pages of this book, and the overall theme of overcoming personal demons before they have a chance to pull you under.
4.5 out of 5 Stars After reading Unteachable, I knew Raeder was an author to look out for. She can tackle any subject matter and weave it into every cell of your body and make you believe that you’re living that character’s life. Raeder has a way with words. Her writing ensnared me and I had to keep turning the pages to see how Laney’s story would unravel. I loved how this book was laid out in past and present tense, it just made the story more compelling as I got an up-close and personal look inside Laney’s head and how her experiences led me on a whirlwind of emotions while wandering would happen next. This book was dark, twisted, and emotionally beautiful - everything I love about new-adult. With impeccable writing and great characterization, Black Iris is an experience I won’t forget.
When I read Unteachable by Leah, I was impressed. When I read Black Iris, I was blown away. I love this book. I love this book so hard. Love. Sex. Revenge. It's beautiful. It's raw. It's messy. It's perfection in book form. This isn't a real review. This is me loving a book too much. This is me wanting more. This is me trying not to completely fangirl over Leah Raeder and her amazing book. You can read all of my reviews on my blog, KDH Reviews.
4.5 Twisted Stars Wow...just let me say this book was not what I was expecting. Delaney is our heroine and she is one messed up young lady. From the beginning you know she is suffering from some mental health issue or a trauma of some sort. She is a young lady who has a sexuality the can't simply fit into a box of being straight or gay and unfortunately she is hurt by almost all around her. Rather than wallow in the hurt she is calculating and cunning and she will get her revenge. Along the way she meets Armin and Blythe, an unusual pair, and initially I thought this was gonna be a book about the three of them coming together. But this story of love, yes I believe it actually is there among the craziness, is not typical in the least. I was so wrong every step of the way. Aside from her sexuality, Delaney reminds me of the crazy wife from Gone Girl with her intricate planning for revenge so genius you know she can't be sane. The other characters were so deep and complex as well and they fit the story perfectly but yet I couldn't find myself connecting with any of them, thank God. However the story is brilliantly written. Told in sort of a past present format I found I really had to keep on my toes and at times I was a little lost in regard to the timing. There is mystery to the story and also a lot of chemistry among some of the characters which is very steamy, even if it is not the type of coupling I would normally read. I highly recommend this dark story based on the amazing writing and intrigue Raeder creates. But be warned some difficult topics are included in this story and some readers may have an issue with the way the story ends. Overall, in my mind, a great book. Thanks to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
EXCEPTIONAL & COMPLETELY UNPREDICTABLE Mindf*. This book is a total mindf*. That perfectly describes Black Iris and the psychological turmoil I experienced while reading. I thought my first experience reading Leah Raeder’s Unteachable was intense, but this book displays a whole different level of her literary genius. It’s powerful and deeply personal which makes the reader connect in an indescribable way. The novel captivates you from the moment you begin reading. I am generally not a fan of making highlights in books. When I started reading more e-books I rarely took advantage of the highlight feature on my Kindle. I loved that I was able to highlight and flag things without marring the book, but I’ve still remained a bit conservative in that respect. Something has to really speak to me for me to highlight. Black Iris seems to be the exception. I found myself constantly highlighting wanting to savor and remember every moment, marking the words that moved me so I could go back to them later and relive the experience. The writing is profound, lyrical and undeniably haunting. There is a pain and complexity to this book that I’ve never experienced before as a reader. It is as though you are watching someone come to terms with their very existence and how they begin to accept every part that makes them a whole. The book is sexual, but doesn’t fit in any particular mold. The romantic aspect of this book is complex and at times troubling. I worried about how toxic some of the relationships in this book had become at one point, but there was such immense beauty in Laney’s coming to terms with who she was. Bit by bit, piece by piece, as disturbed as I was at times by her actions I understood them in a way that made me question my sanity. There are writers I dislike, writers I like and then there are the writers that I love. The ones who I know will repeatedly produce outstanding content. The author whose writing seeps its way into my veins, searing their name into my soul. Leah Raeder managed to win me over with Unteachable, but Black Iris gripped my heart solidifying my love for her writing and a deep respect for her as an author. It is addictive, flawlessly unique and oddly refreshing. It is unlike any book I’ve ever read. Black Iris is raw, wild and completely unpredictable. It crosses boundaries and takes you through a journey of acceptance, revenge and pain unlike any book I’ve ever read. It examines human sexuality on a deeper level than I’ve ever contemplated. It describes how fierce love between human beings can be, the effects of non acceptance from society as well as self, how deep an individuals experience can brand them and to what lengths someone will go for retribution. Love is love. Reader’s brilliant, dark and poetic writing capture this message beautifully. I voraciously devoured Black Iris and I hope you will too.
I'll go ahead and say upfront, this book needs a Trigger Warning for graphic violence. The world of Chicago and the surrounding area is given just enough details in the story to make me feel like I'm there, though I never have been. The world building is done in such a fluid way that it doesn't interrupt or take away from the story, but rather builds alongside it and adds to it nicely. The characters are developed and redeveloped, changing constantly based on plot points that come out and explode at specific times, much like a New Year's fireworks show. Getting to know them again and again at each drastic new change is beautiful, if a little nerve wracking. There was a conversation at one point where Laney and her mother are talking where the mother explains the reason she hates medicine is because it makes her feel dead inside. I related to this statement on such a deep level that I had to put the book down for a little while and process before coming back to it. I also saw a lot of myself in Blythe for most of the story: the bipolar swings and impulsiveness that are so much of who she is. I believed diverse representation in books was important before reading this, but now I feel that belief to my very core because I've never before been quite so well represented as I am in Black Iris. The story was quite a bit darker than I was expecting and there were so many plot twists I was constantly on my toes. I couldn't put it down because I was constantly wondering what would happen next. Black Iris is a beautifully disturbing must-read. I can not wait to read more from Elliot Wake. For this review and more, please visit my blog at vicariousbookworm.wordpress.com
Intense and gorgeous. Read it. Re-read it.
The only reason I haven't reviewed BLACK IRIS yet is because I'm still trying to find a more coherent way to describe the story than HOLY. SHIT. I knew going in that this was going to be dark, and I knew going in that it was going to be hot, and I also knew that it would be ten or twenty different kinds of messed up. What I didn't expect at all was how well all of these pieces would fit together, or how extreme Laney's revenge spiral was actually going to be. There are a lot of really horrible things described in detail in BLACK IRIS. There's quite a bit of violence. Large portions of the story read like a can't-look-away kind of train wreck, because you can't help wondering just how far Laney will go to get even, even after you suspect that she's already gone too far. I was gleeful over some of the stunts she and her friends pulled, and disgusted by others. There were times when I was laughing maniacally right along with her, and other times where I had to close the book and walk away for a few hours, or a night, before I was able to go back and keep reading. The whole story messes with your head in the same way that many of the other characters mess with Laney's, and I wouldn't have it any other way. It would be much harder to sympathize with a character who is so hell-bent on damage if you weren't getting a firsthand look at all the damage that has been done to her. To me, the truly impressive thing about BLACK IRIS is that it doesn't promise redemption or a HEA to get you stick around for the ending. Instead, it takes a shunned, misunderstood outcast and provides you with an opportunity to understand her completely. Which is so freaking perfect, I don't even know where to start.
I drool over Leah Raeder's lyrical writing style. Every word on the page pulls you in until you reach the final period. Her second novel is a New Adult story about a girl named Laney who seeks revenge on her high school bullies. It's a dark story about a girl who loves, hates, hurts, and mourns deeply. Laney is unapologetic about everything. Her actions, who she loves, how she acts. Her relationship with Blythe is intense and raw. They understand each other in a way no one else can, and although Laney is hesitant to let anyone near her, she falls hard for Blythe. Even when you question Laney's motives you want more. You just want her to be happy at the end of the novel. I gave this novel 5 stars because I read it back in May and I still can't shake off the raw, heart breaking emotions this book left me.
Let's be real here: this is not Unteachable with some F/F and light gore. This is a great departure from Unteachable, something dark and twisted and boundary-pushing. Black Iris approaches the New Adult genre and says "come at me". Black Iris isn't for everyone. Laney is an "unlikeable heroine", and she challenges readers to find beauty in her dirt. She's passionate about poetry, but she's more likely to lose herself in drugs than words. She's smart, but she's also a schemer. She loves so few people very intensely, but she preys on the rest of the world. Blythe and Armin, the other two main characters of the book, are a balance of chaos and order; revenge and justice. Black Iris might also be too heavy on the flowery prose for some readers, but I loved every word. I reread all the dancing and kissing scenes aloud and let the way the words spilled out of my mouth swallow me up. But my favorite lines were the simple, gritty bits of insight - "It takes a village to keep someone out of rehab." The only problem I had with the book was the shifting timelines. If I had read it one sitting, I might have kept it together, but I had to spread this out over multiple sittings. I frequently picked up where I left off trying to remember when I was and what had happened to Laney/Blythe/Armin and what hadn't. Part of me wonders if it was supposed to add to the pandemonium. Raeder is unforgiving with releasing "unlikeable heroines" out to the literary world, and I could not thank her more for challenging the New Adult genre with such a delicious slice of darkness.
Things you should know before you read Black Iris. This book is raw and it is intense. It is not a love story, it is a story of revenge and love just happens to find its way in. What happens to Laney and what it drives her to do is ugly and yet the story is beautiful in its honesty. Laney tells you from the outset that she is broken and not a nice person and on this point, she does not lie. Black Iris deals with bullying, sexuality, mental illness, and addiction and it does it in a harsh yet truthful way. If you are okay with reading ugly truths, then proceed. I think you will quickly find yourself immersed in a dark and thought provoking story. But if you're looking for a hearts and flowers romance or a story of redemption, stop now because Black Iris is not it. Black Iris is told from Laney’s point of view and we have three timelines playing out – the present, the past in which Laney’s relationship with Blythe and Armin begins, and the slightly more distant past of Laney’s time in high school when she endured the events that set her revenge plot in motion. Much like a braid, the initial weaving of the tale is a little haphazard as I got accustomed to Laney’s narration and the author’s writing style. But as I continued reading and became immersed in Laney’s world, the shift from one timeline to another was smooth and flowed seamlessly, getting tighter and tighter with each passing page. It is true that Laney is not a nice person, but as I learned about her past I found myself caught up in her plan for revenge and couldn’t hate her for it. While it’s true that two wrongs do not make a right, this is a work of fiction and within it Laney does what many of us have only daydreamed of doing – giving Karma a helping hand. Was what she did right? No, not by societal standards. She is a vigilante whose vulnerability calls to others to help her. And she has no problem using those close to her to exact her revenge. The thing is, Laney isn’t self-righteous in her revenge – she knows it’s wrong, but she does it anyway. Ms. Raeder unfolds the story in such a way that you are nearly toward the end of the book before you realize the full ramifications of what was done to Laney and what she set out to do. This is the beauty of the three timelines. It does not make the book an easy read – so be sure you can read without distractions and disruptions – but it is definitely worth the read. I know I was shocked at the final reveal because I NEVER suspected it…or them, as there was more than one reveal. I feel I should point out that I typically do not read F/F books because they’re just not my preference. I won’t shun a book that contains F/F interactions, but I don’t tend to sign up for them either. But the blurb for Black Iris was so intriguing that I couldn’t pass it up and I’m glad I didn’t. I don’t feel qualified to comment on whether or not those scenes were sexy, but I will say they were intense and full of emotion yet not gratuitous – they were timed right within the storyline and added to it. The same can be said for the M/F sex scenes – some of which were hot and some were not, but the nots weren’t supposed to be hot. Black Iris was an intense journey of revenge and I loved it. I for one am glad that Ms. Raeder did not feel the need to make Laney a redeemable character and left her flawed as it made for one heck of a read. I received a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. Reviewed by Angela at Crystal's Many Reviewers!
So first and foremost, BLACK IRIS is a New Adult novel, but holy guacamole it is so very different from 99% of NA novels out there right now. BLACK IRIS is not a contemporary romance—it’s a dark, unsettling Thriller with deeply twisted characters and tons of twists. It’s the kind of book I feel like I’ll need to re-read to fully absorb, because it isn’t until all the pieces fall together that it really all begins to make sense. Like UNTEACHABLE, Raeder expertly weaves a raw, realistic voice with moments of beauty and clarity. The characters are flawed and make few attempts to be likable—and there were some moments where I almost felt like Laney, the protagonist, was getting a little heavy-handed on deliberately portraying herself as unlikable (not so much through actions, but through things she would say about being an unlikable heroine). That said, I liked that many of the characters weren’t trying to be likable—they made ugly decisions, and had terrible thoughts, and they owned them completely. The only other thing that occasionally threw me off was the timeline. The story is told non-chronologically with chapters jumping back and forth between the present and past, which occasionally got a little confusing (one of the reasons, I suspect, I felt like I would benefit from a second read). Despite that, I really loved this book. From the gripping plot, to the out-there-for-you-to-see ugly emotions, to a protagonist who wasn’t completely sure about her sexual identity (and wasn’t trying to be sure or put a label on it), to a cast of characters who were twisted, and layered, and all-around fascinating, BLACK IRIS is on my list of favorites. If you’re looking for a gripping, beautifully-written, dark, and complicated New Adult Thriller, I couldn’t recommend this one more. 4.5/5 stars to this seriously awesome book. Diversity note: The protagonist doesn’t label herself, but is attracted to (and has on-the-page explicit relationships with) both men and women, and she also has borderline personality disorder. Other major characters are bipolar and have antisocial personality disorder, and two major characters are Persian (including one love interest).
I'm not sure I've ever felt so conflicted about a book as I have when I put down BLACK IRIS earlier this week. This is not a light, fluffy read that you pick up because you have a few hours to spare on a Saturday afternoon. Oh, no, my friends. The intensity of this book will weigh on your brain and give you deep thoughts. It will make you question what it right and what is wrong. It will make you realize how incredibly difficult life can be when you suffer from mental illness. Let's start with what I LOVED about this book. The writing is magical. Raeder uses words to paint this story in a way that makes you experience this book with every one of your senses. I think this is why it took me a full week to finish this book. I usually read three books a week, but this story took a lot out of me. You'll probably find this to be true, too. Raeder is one of the most gifted writers I've ever read. The other piece I loved? Raeder does an amazing job of showing us that homo and hetero are not not the only two prefixes that can be used to describe ones sexuality. There's a larger group of people than you may realize that cannot and don't want to put a label on sexuality. I want to give Raeder all the standing ovations in the world for bringing diversity into the new adult genre. Now, Laney tells us right from the beginning that she's not the heroine of this story. She tells us she's effed up, completely dysfunctional and that hers isn't a character arc where she finally finds redemption. She tells us this straight up! I kept waiting for the part where she lied because, see, she also tells us she's an unreliable narrator. Turns out she is absolutely right about all of this. She IS effed up. She IS dysfunctional. And redemption? Well, that might be subject to interpretation. I'm going with a big ol' "no" on this one. I wanted to cry a river of tears for Laney. (That might make me unique. I've read a number of reviews that loved the ending of this book. I did not.) In the end, for me this story is about mental illness and how it's effects are further reaching than anyone could ever document.. There is not one character in this book who wouldn't benefit from reaching out to someone for help. But they would never do that. They self medicate with drugs of the illegal variety and plan revenge against those who have wronged them. In the most brutal of ways. Their behavior is despicable. As despicable as the people who have wronged them. The sympathy I felt for Laney (and others) diminished when their response to the wrongs committed against them were as bad as the perpetrators. It's a vicious, vicious cycle where no one wins. And you know what? That IS life for some people. These are characters with dark lives, dark thoughts and dark secrets. Just...be prepared going in. Life doesn't always give you a happily ever after.
Black Iris was long anticipated. I am not a fan of changing POV’s and although the author doesn’t do that she does alternate chronologically between months and I found that to be as distracting as an alternating POV. I admire Ms. Raeder for changing it up and bringing different topics out of the norm to her writing. My issues with the book had nothing to do at all with the sexuality but the confusion of the characters. It was so busy and so back and forth I really had a hard time pulling through to the end of the book. The book felt very overly descriptive in places where it didn’t need to be. I appreciate a book with no plot holes but this was a lot of overuse and quoting. I wonder if it was just filler. I couldn’t find the redemption anywhere and maybe that was the authors point. Laney felt like a sociopathic druggie and nothing good came from anything in the book. I didn’t care for the twist even though something need to happen because going back and forth from month to month was getting old. There were characters that I would have preferred had more book time than others but they became background noise. I don’t write books and I can’t imagine the life the author poor’s into them. I off up applause for changing the very typical M/F aspect of most books and would enjoying reading more in the F/F NA genre, just not this particular book. I wanted to love it, I just didn’t.
1 Star I didn't like this book at all. I was so excited to get an early copy of this book because I saw everyone raving about it on Goodreads. I just knew that this would be a book that I would fall in love with based on all the 5 star reviews that I saw. I am not sure that I read the same book that everyone else read. I disliked everything about this book. I almost stop reading many times but I kept waiting for that magical moment where I would fall in love with this story like I had expected. Now that I have finished the book, I can honestly say that I wish I had listened to that little voice in my head telling me give up on this book early in the story and move on to another. I didn't care about the characters. There isn't a single one of them that I like in even the smallest way. These are not nice people. The main characters spend most of the book under the influence of some kind of substance. They spend the entire book thinking about sex, drugs, more sex, and more drugs. I have read and loved books that have a strong focus on both sex and drugs before so it isn't really the sex or the drugs that were the problems for me. These characters didn't feel real to me. I felt absolutely no connection to them in any way. I can't even say that I hated any of them because none of them made me feel anything. I didn't like how this book jumped around in time. This has to be one of the most confusing reading experiences of my life. I was constantly having to stop and figure out where on the timeline each chapter was happening. I have read a lot of books that used flashbacks or a dual timeline that I have really enjoyed. This book would jump around in time in a way that made no logical sense to me. I think that the story would have been so much easier to follow if things had jumped around less. I didn't like the writing style. Descriptions sometimes seemed to go on forever and in the end didn't make any sense. The author would also insert little comment about how the typical novel would go from this point and I will be honest every time this happened it drove me crazy. I can't tell you how many times I would read a sentence and think huh? Then I would read it again and wonder what kind of image those words were really supposed to help me create. I didn't like the story. I thought this book was one of the most boring things that I have read for the first 60% or so. Things got a little more interesting at that point but that is just because something finally happened. Even after there was a little action, I still never felt connected to the story. This story just never grabbed me. There was never a moment where I couldn't wait to see what would happen next. I was incredibly let down by how this story ended. I wouldn't recommend this book. I do think that many readers will love this book. Almost all of the reviews that I have seen up to this point have been very positive so I am definitely in the minority with my opinion on this one. I received a copy of this book from Atria Books via NetGalley for the purpose of providing an honest review.