Review: Leah Raeder – Black Iris

Black Iris
Leah Raeder

I’m not even sure I can write a blurb for this novel, it was so unsatisfying. Complex relationships and a F/F/M love-triangle combined with copious amounts of drugs and a couple of mental illnesses thrown in does not make a good book.

9781476786421This book was raw, rough and sometimes hard to follow. I am a serial ignorer of chapter titles and headings, particularly when reading an e-book. It took me a couple of chapters before I realised that yes, it was all from one perspective, but no, the time wasn’t proceeding in a linear fashion, and yes, some of those were flashbacks, and no, I couldn’t work out from Laney’s unreliable narrating whether things actually happened. It all came across with the same level of importance and the same amount of crudity.

I feel like I am betraying the queer community for saying this, but I don’t think it’s a supportive book for those going through acceptance issues. I appreciate what this novel is doing in terms of trying to expose sexualities and gender balances to a wider community of readers. However, I felt that the execution of this was too extreme for most people to relate to. The important messages were drowned by the characters’ sex and drugs.

There was sex and drugs and sex and abuse left, right and centre. I’ve read other novels with those things in it, and it hasn’t bothered me. Some of the best books I have read manage to make those things available to the reader, by not scaring them off. If anything, this novel seemed to enjoy disquieting the reader for no purpose,

Something that I didn’t agree with at all was the treatment of serious mental illnesses. Two of the characters had bipolar disorder, and the other had borderline personality disorder. No-one made an effort to medication professionally, instead they abused the medications they had and combined it with as many drugs as possible. If it was just them affecting themselves, I’d be ok with that – it’s their business. But when they are affecting close family members and causing deaths, there’s something seriously wrong.

I felt entirely confused and turned around by the time I got to the end. And I never felt any satisfaction. Laney seemed happy ripping holes in as many other people’s lives as possible, but I wasn’t happy with the way things turned out. The things she gets away with, the forgiveness she demands from other people, everything was wrong.

I had to let the book sit for a while before I could review it. Even now, I can feel the rotten taste of it in my mouth. I literally felt dirty once I had read it. I didn’t walk away from it feeling like I had gotten positive out of it – all I’d seen was what the worst of the world had to offer.

Yes, I kept reading it to the end. Yes, I didn’t want to walk away from it. But no, I shouldn’t have started reading it in the first place. Stay far, far away and shop for something with similar themes but a more satisfying ending (I’d suggest Scars, The Burn Journals, The Admirer and Keeping You a Secret). In fact, even the worst of the queer/mental illness novels that I have reviewed on this blog so far are better than this one.

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