**3.5-stars rounded up**
After the explosive conclusion to A Song Below Water, teen influencer, Naema Bradshaw finds herself for the first time vilified in the public eye.
As an Eloko, a magical being beloved by all, Naema has been treated as a quasi-celebrity in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, for her entire life.
Now pegged as the mean girl who outed classmate, Tavia, as a Siren, Naema is getting dragged in social media channels where she has always been respected and adored.
Once a movie releases purporting to tell the true story behind Tavia, her sister, Effie, and the event known as The Awakening, Naema only sees hostility towards her increase.
Growing more and more frustrated with her current situation and the fact that no one seems to understand her side, Naema decides to leave town.
Heading South, Naema goes to stay with extended family that she never sees. This trip is actually her first time leaving Portland and the bubble she has created there for herself.
Greeted at the airport by her cousin Courtney, Naema can tell immediately from his reaction to her, that life is going to be very different outside of Portland.
Her family couldn’t care less about her Eloko status. She’ll be treated just like everyone else; loved and cherished, but for herself, not for her Elokoness.
It is once she is separated from all the noise in Portland, that Naema is finally able to channel the connection to her ancestors and discover the true power of her voice.
This story was interesting and a tough one to rate. I really had to consider it once I was done.
We only get Naema’s perspective in this book, whereas the first book followed both Tavia and Effie.
This one does incorporate a lot of mixed media, however, and I always enjoy that. It makes the overall story feel more realistic in my opinion.
The bulk of the story focuses on Naema coming into her own. We really get to deep dive into her world.
While there is still an underlining examination of privilege, race, social media and the experience of black women in America, I didn’t feel that coming through quite as strongly in this volume as in the first. It’s definitely still here, it’s just overshadowed a bit by Naema’s day-to-day.
As far as Naema goes. I really enjoyed her perspective a lot. She is snarky, strong-willed, stubborn and funny. I loved her interactions with Courtney and the rest of her family.
I can see why some people may be put off by her, she can seem a bit of a princess at times, however, I think she feels real.
She is a product of her environment, but once removed from Portland, she was able to grow and evolve as a character, which we love to see.
I think Morrow created an important and timely story with both of these books. I would recommend them to anyone who enjoys YA Contemporary stories with Fantastical elements that tackle real life issues.
Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor Teen and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I will definitely be picking up future work from this author!