March 8, 2016
Black Iris- Shadowcon Mini-Views
I've never had favorite authors until now.
Oh, I have favorite books (there are eleven of them so far, all of which I consider masterpieces for more personal than objective reasons, and they can be found here), but no author has spoken to me so personally through their work or done as thorough a job at making me fall in love with their world, writing, and characters, as Mr. Elliot Wake. His writing is beautiful, raw and untamed, definitely, and the allure of that is powerful. But even more than that, it is his specific storytelling ability that fascinates and moves me.
Black Iris isn't a New Adult book. It's in that genre, and there's definitely a romance in here, but as with any story that is bound to steal my heart, it's what Wake does with this material that gives this life. As a storyteller, you can either stay in the proverbial trope-box, you can go outside of it completely, or you can tilt the box and really explore the various tropes and whatnots that are in that box, rip them open and send their insides flying. I am a huge tilt-the-box fan, and this book plays that strategy on a whole other level, one that had me on the edge of my seat for most of it.
So, no, this is not New Adult. Like the main character of the book, Delaney, Iris doesn't conform to labels. It slithers around and examines a host of themes while flirting with many different labels all at once: it's a suspense-thriller, a tragedy, a romance, an erotica, etc.. But none of these define it, and the book recognizes and just plain revels in that knowledge.
The plot is this book's strongest facet, told out of order in a very complicated spider-web over roughly two years, following the life of Delaney Keating as she explores herself and her identity as a person; "befriends" Blythe and Armin, two fucked up individuals; weaves an endearingly complicated and self-centered revenge scheme; and contend with her bipolar mother, wrestling with their relationship and coming to terms with her mother's death. It's interwoven a little too well, and there are a lot of twists besides, and as a result it feels upon first reading more delicate than solid, and I was left wondering if everything added up; I've no doubt it did, but I never got that personal "reader's click" that you're supposed to get at the end of a big multi-storied work like this. Still, the themes that tie all this together are so strong that they do make up for how nettled the plot web becomes at times.
There are a few really great passages that come out and tackle ideas of binary gender labels, sexuality, and the corruption and cynicism of the human mind, and coupled with the trademark visual writing that lathers the pages of this story, the book works very well in telling an engaging moral and socially-aware tale while maintaining the general fucked-up-ness of its core cast, another sign of how Wake de-centers thematic material from their respective tropes. Indeed, the mere environment that these people inhabit seems to cling almost desperately to darkness or harsh knife-like day, a fact that propels the story and always keeps you invested in whatever's going on.
Admittedly the sex/make-out/erotica of the book that is a staple of the New Adult world is a bit overdone. Unlike in Cam Girl, whose sex scenes all gave us new insight into Vada's or Elle's characters, a few of the later sex scenes between Laney and Blythe or Laney and Armin failed to give us new information about the characters, existing more for their own sake than anything else, something that Cam Girl managed to rarely ever do. There are many scenes though that do contrast with each other nicely, informing us of how Laney feels differently about either of the two characters, but by the end I found less pieces of her character unveiling as the story went along whereas with Cam Girl there was a consistent emotional development happening with Vada's sexual relationship with Elle, not just a physical one. I myself was also not a fan of the continued literary and author references on display. I found them a bit too on-the-nose; I get that Wake wanted to enunciate his themes by referring to other works and authors and themes explored in them, but the book was already doing such a good job doing this on its own that I found the extra help rather superfluous.
Those issues aside, however, this was another excellent book from Elliot Wake! Complex characters, a riveting story, and that intoxicating and just so vivid writing make for an amazing experience, and I highly recommend this one, and I recommend you check out Elliot Wake's other books as well. He's an incredible writer, leaving a definitive and powerful mark on the literary world!