Summary: Pain and betrayal chased with emotionless sex and drugs take centerstage in this tale of revenge against her old life — as Laney finds her caught between the illuminating and out of control Blythe, and the understanding and steady Armin. Feelings blur with devastating highs and lows as loyalties are questioned, family secrets are uncovered, and tangled webs becomes unraveled.
This review is going to be the equivalent of me sticking my tongue out at you, and saying nah nah nah nahhh nah I can’t tell you a freaking thing. I apologize in advance. I really do. Believe me when I say I haven’t read such an electrifying mystery crackling with so much tension since Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas. But since Dangerous Girls was a young adult book, picture all of that deliciousness and debauchery turned up a notch… or ten.
I was unbelievably riveted by the story of Laney, struggling with who she is in such a public forum because of a total jerk. It’s more complicated than Laney feeling comfortable to be loud and proud about her sexuality; she wants to love who she wants to love. She wants to kiss who she wants to kiss. Of course, there are the people that don’t approve of this “behavior” and Leah Raeder has sprinkled them throughout Black Iris. Laney isn’t a character who has a ton of support and isn’t exactly forthcoming with all the feelings swirling around her because the judgement so far has been real and painful and soul crushing.
So when she meets Blythe and Armin — it’s like FINALLY. Two people who love her and accept her except she’s into Armin and she thinks he’s into her and she can’t deny she isn’t Blythe and she’s pretty sure she’s into her right back and well, a complex story is dished even more layers. Friendship and trust and loyalty are constantly being tested, especially as Laney becomes fixated on righting the wrongs from high school.
It was more than the tension and the need to know the endgame that kept me reading Black Iris late into my Friday night (the same evening I started it). Raeder’s writing is smart and layered; I loved how Laney and Blythe are literature snobs and geekily trade quotes all the time. In the midst of Laney shifting into this calculated vengeful mastermind, there’s also her difficult relationship with her mom and the exact opposite kind of closeness she has with her younger brother. The details are meaty, and Raeder put as much as work into these of this story as she did with the combustible energy between Blythe, Armin, and Laney.
This is the thing: Laney admits to not being on the straight and narrow. And even though she’s choreographing some horrific situations, I felt empowered on her behalf. She was wrongfully targeted because of who she was and she did something about it. She made people pay. For that, she was pretty kick ass — just like this entire book. For a thoroughly sexy and suspenseful mystery that sucks you in and spits you out, look no further than Black Iris.
Thanks to Atria for supplying an early copy of this book.