Content Warnings: homophobia, transphobia, conversion therapy, shock therapy, abuse, self-harm, suicide attempt
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In her debut novel, award–winning poet Brynne Rebele-Henry re-imagines the epic of Orpheus as a love story between two teen girls in rural Texas.
Abandoned by a single mother she never knew, 16-year-old Raya—obsessed with ancient myths—lives with her grandmother in a small conservative Texas town. For years Raya has hidden her feelings for her best friend and true love, Sarah. When the two are caught in an intimate moment, they are sent to Friendly Saviors: a re-education camp meant to “fix” them and make them heterosexual. Upon arrival Raya vows to assume the mythic role of Orpheus to save them both and to return them to the world of the living, at any cost.
In a haunting voice reminiscent of Sylvia Plath, with the contemporary lyricism of David Levithan, Orpheus Girl is a mythic story of dysfunctional families, first love, heartbreak—and the fierce adolescent resilience that has the power to triumph over darkness and ignorance.
Talk about a major disappointment… Brynne Rebel-Henry’s young adult debut, Orpheus Girl, falls incredibly flat and lacks any type of meaning. It’s a very short story, less than 200 pages, but I found myself struggling to get through it.
Painful queer stories are important but there needs to be a reason or meaning to them. Orpheus Girl contained neither of these. It felt painful just for the sake of it and that isn’t okay. Queer people deserve better.
The characters are one dimensional and other than their pain there isn’t anything else we know about them. My inability to get to know the characters made it impossible for me to care about what they were going through. I found nothing memorable about them and instead of feeling like separate people they were almost one collective person.
I was also expecting the writing to be significantly better than it was. Numerous things were repeated unnecessarily several times throughout the novel. Raya was so obsessed with the idea of being Orpheus that her inner monologue had to talk about it and remind us of it constantly.
This narrative heavy story almost felt like it was trying to be a newer The Miseducation of Cameron Post but instead of being multifaceted it put all its eggs in one basket and counts on the reader to get wrapped up in the pain. Maybe this will be enough for you, and if so I encourage you to give Orpheus Girl a try, but for me, I needed more of a meaning.
A physical ARC was provided by the publisher in exchange of an honest review.