Monday, April 20, 2015

Black Iris by Leah Raeder

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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.

If you're inclined to reading darker subject matter then Black Iris should be on your list! It's a story about manipulation and revenge. The main character Laney, lays out all her flaws immediately. Simply put, it's one of the more unsettling books I've read in a while, yet despite that, I couldn’t tear myself away, managing to finish the book in one reading.

As I mentioned above, Laney admits her shortcomings and is no hero in this story that switches gears between the present and the previous year. Her home life is a wreck save for her close relationship with her younger brother. She’s not with the popular crowd at school and doesn't have any close friends.  At the beginning she comes home after a night of partying to discover a horrific scene at home.  And she hints that it’s something she had set into motion some time ago. 

There were many times where I was alarmed by Laney’s self-destructive exploits which include regular drinking, drugs and random sex. She's spiraling deeper into her own dark thoughts. Being the unfortunate victim of a prank where her own sexuality was used against her has affected her behaviour and subsequent motives. Maligned at school and made to feel like an outsider, she decides to live up to the vile rumors that have spread about her. 

Much later on she attends a college party with the intention of finding someone specific. She doesn't identify who, except that this is someone she despises with every fiber of her being, and we’re led to believe that he is the root of all her problems. We’re only given details in pieces until the whole picture comes together at the very end. While she doesn't find this mystery person, she does meet Armin and Blythe, instantly becoming friends with them. It’s a bizarre friendship-turned-love-triangle based on partying, drugs and lies. As the drama unfolds revealing secrets and tensions, you begin to see how every event is interconnected. What’s most disturbing is who does the manipulating and to what extent. It's all part of some twisted, elaborate game of cat and mouse. Honestly, I felt sick to my stomach.

Like I said earlier, I couldn't put this down. Only great writing can pull you in and immerse you in its world. I felt the weight of Laney's bitterness and feared for her when things started to get way out of hand. I also felt the reality of the world Raeder created. It helps that I'm familiar with some of the suburban places she mentions. I had this playing out as a movie in my mind as I read along. It has all the right elements -- betrayal, romance, sex, mystery. There's so much happening that messes with your mind. On the one hand, you see entitled kids wasting time by playing a high-stakes game of chess with people's lives. On a deeper level, these are seriously troubled individuals, sociopaths if you will, who like to instigate and maneuver events to their liking - public shaming for example - regardless of the casualties. 

Black Iris doesn’t offer any kind of clean cut resolution, there’s no fist bump of triumph in the air when the truth comes out. Everything comes at a cost and that cost is high. I had absolutely no idea where the suspense was headed. I just clutched desperately to the hope that someone would finally see things with clarity. By the time it was all over, I had to take a few deep breaths. There are still moments of the book that stick with me. It's not a story that you can easily shake off once you're done with it. When that happens, you know that was a great story!

      Black Iris

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