Black Iris by Leah Reader Review: Watch the World Burn

October 30, 2015 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | 4 stars, Books, Reviews

Black Iris by Leah Reader Review: Watch the World BurnBlack Iris by Leah Reader
Published by Atria Books, Simon and Schuster Australia on April 28, 2015
Source: Publisher
Genres: New Adult, Thriller, LGBT
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It only took one moment of weakness for Laney Keating’s world to fall apart. One stupid gesture for a hopeless crush. Then the rumors began. Slut, they called her. Queer. Psycho. Mentally ill, messed up, so messed up even her own mother decided she wasn't worth sticking around for.

If Laney could erase that whole year, she would. College is her chance to start with a clean slate.

She's not looking for new friends, but they find her: charming, handsome Armin, the only guy patient enough to work through her thorny defenses—and fiery, filterless Blythe, the bad girl and partner in crime who has thorns of her own.

But Laney knows nothing good ever lasts. When a ghost from her past resurfaces—the bully who broke her down completely—she decides it's time to live up to her own legend. And Armin and Blythe are going to help.

Which was the plan all along.

Because the rumors are true. Every single one. And Laney is going to show them just how true.

She's going to show them all.

Dark, irresistible and captivating, Black Iris is undefinable. With fluid sexual orientations, substance abuse, a range of psychological issues and an unreliable narrator, it’s a dark and disturbing story that can only be read with an open mind.

It’s told by an unreliable narrator who is driven by revenge, and you’re pulled along Laney’s dark and twisted game as she drifts between two absolutely captivating people – the cool, unhinged goddess Blythe, and the warm, calculated, fiery god Armin. Drug abuse, suicide, death, violence, bullying and a multitude of psychological problems heavily feature in this novel, expelling a depth of emotional pain and darkness that I’ve never felt before.

“Will you do it with me?”
“Yeah, I will. I’ll fuck this world up with you.”
“Good girl,” I said. “Let’s be bad

Laney has always been bullied for liking women, but the fact is, romance for Laney isn’t the most straightforward thing. Her sexual orientation is fluid and can’t be simply labelled with one word – she likes both men and women, based on who they are and how they make her feel. Armin for his protection and cool calculated passion, and Blythe for her craziness and Laney’s darker side. I’ve never read a romance quite like this one, where love was undefinable and held no boundaries. The relationship between the three of them is intense and enveloping, crossing the boundaries between normal friendship and daresay, relationships. This isn’t a train wreck guys, this is a fucking apocalypse that will make the world burn. 

Laney’s influence has always been from her bipolar mother, who she blames for making her life miserable. Her mother has two children, the angelic and kind-hearted son and the dark and twisted daughter. This was paralleled through Laney’s love interests, one offering darkness, the other offering light. Black Iris contains a variety of psychological disorders which are explored in a deep, confronting and impactful way.

“I never wanted to be saved. I wanted someone to follow me down into the darkness.”

The non-linear storytelling further highlights the undefinable nature of the book, as Laney’s past, present and future will all converge into a final reveal at the end of the book. She’ll narrate specific scenes in her life, and even those are hazy as they are driven by her extreme emotions through borderline personality disorder and heavy use of drugs.

Although I was really drawn into the story, I found it to follow with so much going on, with the unreliable narrator and the non-linear timeline. Revenge, drugs, confusing family relationships and the messy romance, made it a really intense and confronting read. It builds up momentum really quickly at the start, but I found it become quite multi-layered and complex later on. It’s also filled with many passionate sex scenes, which I found distracted from the main storyline which I was trying to figure out.


Black Iris is a dark, disturbing revenge story fueled by a complicated romance and an unreliable narrator. It’s sexy, complicated and compelling, pinpointing how it feels to have a complicated psychological disorder and to have a fluid sexual orientation. A really intense dark thrill-ride not for the faint of heart!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia for sending me this book for review. 

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Jeann is an Aussie YA blogger and mum who loves to read and recommend books! You can usually find me fangirling about books on my various social media channels including Tiktok@happyindulgence, Instagram and Youtube.

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55 responses to “Black Iris by Leah Reader Review: Watch the World Burn

  1. I'm so glad you liked this one, Jeann! I thought that the prose was SO LOVELY, especially since a lot of books written this way can seem a bit too much at times.

    I didn't love this book as much as I thought I would, though, which was sad. I think I was just left kind of … wanting more of the revenge plot? And less of the dramatic romance, I suppose. I mean, not A LOT happened in this book, except for friendship and romance stuff, and I guess I was expecting a bit more from it.

    I can definitely understand why you were so taken with it, though! It's definitely a different kind of book.

    Lovely review, as always <3
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  2. I think I need to add all of Raeder's books to my TBR shelf, Jeann! I've just seen some reviews from one of her other books, and Black Iris sounds spectacular, too! Stories that don't follow the normal flow, and that feature characters that are a little different always make me realize that the diversity in books is so needed. And if there's a little darkness as well, I'm a happy reader! Great review!
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    • I completely agree, after reading Black Iris I decided I needed them all as well! it was really fantastic and a unique sort of book too! Thanks Lexxie, I hope you enjoy it!

    • It was so good, I completely agree it! I couldn't believe how dark and addictive it was. I'm definitely looking forward to picking up CamGirl!

  3. Marianne @ Boricuan Bookworms

    This book was intense… so mindblowing. I couldn't believe that plot twist! I actually really liked Laney's character… she was pretty relatable in a way, if that makes sense lol. Great review!

  4. Gosh, this sounds so incredibly dark and brooding, but I love the diversity and that the author has created more than just the stock standard 'diversity' we see in most fiction. If only more authors had the balls to tackle the same. It does sound really confronting though and not being much of a new adult reader, I wonder if I'll be able to enjoy it as much as you have Jeann. You've convinced me to give it a whirl though, damn you 😀 Wonderful review and so glad you enjoyed it despite those few niggling issues <3
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    • I know, there was just so much goodness and diversity here! It was definitely confronting, but wow just intense and unique. If you do pick it up, I'd love to hear what you think!

  5. I really want to read this one, mostly because it is SO outside my normal comfort zone, and I have heard good things. And I love that it is so multi-faceted. The diversity, the mental health, all things that I can get on board with. I want to know more, just from reading your review, so that has to be a good sign! Maybe I'll buy myself a little present soon 😉 Fabulous review!!
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  6. I've heard so many good things about Black Iris but I didn't realize how intense it was until I read your review. It sounds like the kind of read I'd have to be in a certain mood for because of it's complexity. I can totally see this as the kind of book that will make me feel frustrated but in a good way since that does seem to be the point. Plus unreliable narrators are amazinggggggg.

    Fantastic review, Jeann!! 🙂
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  7. This may not be for me, because ooh does this sound intense! I love the whole fluctuation in sexuality that Laney has going, as well as the light/dark contrast between the love interests, but I'm not a big fan of dark reads haha. (Also that comment about lots of sex scenes that was distracting from the story made me laugh out loud :P)

  8. Oooh interesting! I've never read a book with a character that has a fluid sexual orientation before, so this is a really interesting concept. Laney's drive for revenge is also something different and refreshing, because redemption is way too mainstream 😛 It sounds truly dark and like a spiral towards an ending that is unpredictable. So glad you liked it Jeann!

    • It's definitely a rarity to find a character that is bisexual, let alone fluid, so it's definitely interesting! The revenge concept in here was soo good!

  9. I can NOT wait to read this! I purchased it as soon as it came out, buttttt I already had so much to read, so I'm buddy reading it next month with a friend! I first fell in love with Leah when I first read Unteachable back in 2012 or 2013, and my obsession has only grown now that I follow her on twitter. Her personality definitely shines through in her writing, so with confirmation from your review, this book is going to be good! Great review girl 🙂
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    • I totally know what you mean, so many books, so little time! So glad to hear you loved Unteachable, I had originally ruled that one out but now I'm curious!

  10. Whoa. That sounds crazy interesting! I've always wanted to grab one of Leah Raeder's books and your review has only fueled my interest, and I've been looking for a great NA lately, especially since I haven't had luck with the genre! Lovely review, Jeann!
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    • I hope you enjoy this NA Peach! IT's definitely worth picking up if the dark story interests you. So much intrigue and depth of feelings! I'm picky with my NA too, (I only read Colleen Hoover and Krista & Becca Ritchie and KA Tucker).

  11. Braine-Talk Supe

    I scheduled Cam Girl next week. Maybe I should shoot for a back to back novel, I can't concentrate on fantasy right now, this sounds captivating. Fantastic review!

    • Awesome, will check out your review Braine. I'm looking forward to Cam Girl! I've been focusing on fantasy, but it's refreshing to read something different once in a while.

  12. I like my NA books more on the fluffier side, but I'm very intrigued by this one. It sounds incredibly dark and I do love a good revenge story. The fluidity when it comes to sexual orientation is also really interesting because you don't see that often in books. I'm glad this was a huge success for you, Jeann!
    Beautiful review!
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  13. Oh I've heard so much about this book recently! I like the idea of reading a story about revenge instead of a redemption story. But it does sound like there are a lot of things going on…

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