ORPHEUS GIRL is a loose retelling of the Greek Orpheus myth. In it, a girl named Raya is sent to a conversion therapy camp after she is caught having sex with her girlfriend, Sarah, in a conservative Texas town. There, the two of them are reunited, but it's bittersweet. In addition to the rigid gender role exercises and constant confessions, a terrible threat looms over them all.
So this book was... kind of amazing, actually. I was a little leery when I saw that the author was a poet, because what works in poetry doesn't always translate well to fiction, but ORPHEUS GIRL was a really lyrical novel with exceptionally vivid and unique imagery and the author did such a great job of putting a scene into your head, whether it was good or bad. I was high-key impressed with how Greek myths were woven into the storyline. Raya's mom is a soap opera star on a Greek myth-themed fantasy show and she's learned the myths to get closer to her mom in spirit, basically, but also casts herself as the heroine in her own hero's journey as a way of coping with her terrible situation.
The book seems to be set in the 90s/early 2000s and does a great job of capturing a snapshot of what it was like to be a teenager in those times. I would know, because I was one. I loved the romance between Raya and Sarah, and how much they loved each other, and how that was juxtaposed against the more universal insecurities that plague adolescents worldwide. I love that there are more F/F books coming out, and honestly, this is one of the best ones I've read.
I do want to issue a caveat that this book deals with some incredibly tough topics. What makes it worse is that conversion therapy and homophobia are real, so this isn't even fantasy; people suffer like this in real life. Some of the trigger warnings are suicide, self-harm, electroshock therapy (which is represented as torture), misgendering a transgender person on purpose and forcing them to dress like the opposite gender and go by their "dead name," and lots of other homophobic stuff.
If you can stomach the content, it's so worth the read. What a beautiful, sad little book.
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!
4 out of 5 stars