Black Iris is a new adult novel by Elliot Wake, published under Leah Raeder, centring around sexuality, gender, mental illness, and not really being able to fit in. On top of that, it’s about intense friendship, sex, violence, and most importantly, vengeance. The story revolves around nineteen-year-old self-proclaimed Unreliable Narrator Laney Keating heading off to college with the hopes of leaving and burying her past behind her and starting over on a clean slate. Though she wasn’t looking to making new friends, she meets the charming Armin and ruthless Blythe. But despite this, Laney knows that anything good will not last long. Only this time, she was determined to set things straight once and for all. And so when an old enemy resurfaces, she was not going to let them win.
It’s difficult to pin down the novel as anything, if I’m being honest, because it’s nothing like I’ve read before. Black Iris spans many months, as reiterated in the chapter headins, and is told in a non-linear structure, making readers give their undivided attention so that they won’t miss out on important details in order for them to connect the dots. It starts many, incredibly messed up characters, but Raeder successfully paints them in a realistic light.
I know that there are people out there who have been so traumatised that their sense of reality will be skewed. To the point where it seems like there’s nothing worth saving, both from an outsider’s perspective to the traumatised person in question. This is exactly how Raeder portrays Laney. She has had a harsh upbringing; being queer and mentally ill does not help her situation in the least. She seems to be holding on for the most part, until one misstep brought her whole world down. This is where we see her completely unravel and, being the viewpoint characters, readers are treated to a first-class seat to how Laney sees the world—dark, brutal, gritty, unrelenting, and unforgiving, much like herself. She is a bit of a villain at times—an anti-hero at most—and there are times where I find her unlikeable. But her circumstances also make it difficult for me to not sympathise with her.
I adore Raeder’s prose. Her words are lyrical, like poetry but in prose form. It’s effective when it comes to a book centring on delicate subjects such as sexuality, mental illness, and abusive relationships, and will also not leave the readers jaded with repetitive descriptions of Chicago, the beach, and Umbra, the nightclub Laney and her friends frequent.
Black Iris is a well-written novel with complex, flawed characters and touches on subjects that a lot of modern-day authors either mess up or don’t dare touch in the first place. Its lyrical prose will draw you in and the many suspenseful scenes will leave you on the edge of your seat, and when you finally turn that last page, it will leave you breathless like you just came down from a high and will leave you wanting more.
If you’ve made it this far into my post, thank you for reading! Have you read Black Iris? If so, what did you think? If not, would you like to? Let me know in the comments and I’ll see you in my next post!
Until next time,