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A Chorus Rises by Bethany C. Morrow #BookReview

Meet Naema Bradshaw: a beautiful Eloko, once Portland-famous, now infamous, as she navigates a personal and public reckoning where confronting the limits of her privilege will show Naema what her magic really is, and who it makes her.

Teen influencer Naema Bradshaw has it all: she’s famous, stylish, gorgeous–and she’s an Eloko, a charismatic person gifted with a melody that people adore. Everyone loves her–until she’s cast as the villain who exposed a Siren to the whole world.

Dragged by the media, and canceled by her fans, no one understands her side: not her boyfriend, not her friends, not even her fellow Eloko. Villified by those closest to her, Naema heads to the Southwest where she is determined to stage a comeback… to her family, her real self, and the truth about her magic. What she finds is a new community in a flourishing group of online fans who support her.

At first, it feels like it used to–the fandom, the adoration, the community that takes her side–but when her online advocates start targeting other Black girls, Naema will realize that–for Black girls like her–even the privilege of fame has its limits. And only Naema can discover the true purpose of her power, and how to use it.

A Chorus Rises by Bethany C. Morrow - A Song Below Water YA fantasy novel.

Title: A Chorus Rises | Series: A Song Below Water | Author: Bethany C. Morrow | Publisher: Tor Teen | Pub Date: 01/06/2021 | Pages: 272 | ISBN13: 978-1250316035 | Genre: YA Fantasy | Language: English | Source: NetGalley | Starred Review

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A Chorus Rises Review

I enjoyed Bethany C. Morrow’s A Song Below Water, so I gladly took a review copy for Morrow’s latest, A Chorus Rises. A Chorus Rises is set in the same universe as A Song Below Water, and I honestly didn’t look further than that when I put in the review request. 

That may have been a blessing. Imagine my surprise when I opened A Chorus Rises and found it centered on Naema Bradshaw. Naema was the “mean girl” from A Song Below Water. At first, I hoped her sections would be balanced by portions of the story from another character’s POV. While I agree that protagonist’s don’t have to be likeable, I was squarely in Tavia’s corner in book one. And from the outset, Naema makes it clear she doesn’t regret her actions during the events that led up to the stoning on the night of the junior prom.

The thing is, Naema has such a strong voice I was pulled into the narrative. While early on, part of me wanted to see someone teach her a lesson, Morrow had better things in mind than revenge. Naema’s journey is an unexpected one that brings her full circle and forces her to confront some of her own regrets. 

I definitely don’t want to give away the plot. This is a story that sneaks up on you. It doesn’t always feel like a highly plot-driven story, which is fine, but the author does an excellent job of tying things together and making everything relevant. Instead of a scenario where adults constantly try to change Naema or correct her, she’s usually indulged and pampered. It isn’t until she steps outside her comfort zone and interacts with people who don’t treat her like she’s special that she really examines herself, her relationships with others, and the role she’s played in some of the conflict in her life. 

Naema’s extremely self-confident. There’s a fine line between confidence and conceit, and part of me had a hard time relating to someone who seemed so full of themselves. Ultimately, though, Naema’s personality is a critical factor in the outcome of the plot. When she’s forced to make a choice about where she stands, it’s Naema’s self-confidence and security in her identity that enables her to confront her own actions and stand up to others. Naema shows what she’s really about, and it isn’t getting revenge or being worshipped.

This book can and should inspire whole essays. Morrow doesn’t shy away from the way people perceive “mean girls” or how popularity affects perception. Naema realizes people can use prejudice against sirens to conceal their racism. Yes, it’s possible for people who’re saying something you agree with to be wrong about other things. Her confidence never waivers, but her experiences force her to think about people other than herself and how her actions could affect them. Morrow also develops Elokos more in this novel, adding to our knowledge about their abilities.

Morrow also underscores a critical truth. We won’t be friends with everybody, and when you don’t get along with someone it can be just as simple as a personality clash. It doesn’t mean that person’s evil.

I think it’s a great thing that I wasn’t a Naema fan from the start of this book, because Morrow crafted an engaging tale that was almost impossible to put down and won me over. I stayed up late in the night, finishing this story in two days, and it’s stayed with me. I highly recommend it. 5/5 stars.

You can purchase a copy of this book via your normal retailer, but please consider purchasing it from a local indie bookshop instead. It can be found here at Indiebound or at Bookshop. Please note the Bookshop link is an affiliate link and each purchase you make through it helps to support Sci-Fi & Scary and keep the site running.


Racism, Black trauma, profiling, forced outing.

Published inBook ReviewsStarred Reviews

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