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Literature / Black Iris

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Girls love each other like animals. There is something ferocious and unself-conscious about it. We don’t guard ourselves like we do with boys. No one trains us to shield our hearts from each other. With girls, it’s total vulnerability from the beginning. Our skin is bare and soft. We love with claws and teeth and the blood is just proof of how much. It’s feral.
And it’s relentless.

Black Iris is the third novel of New Adult author Elliot Wake. It details a few climactic years in the life of Delaney Keating as she searches for revenge, finds it, and then fights off a mysterious blackmailer looking to take revenge on her. It utilizes odd chronology and liberal, lampshaded use of the Unreliable Narrator to keep the reader guessing up until the last page. Obviously, as the story relies on its many twists and turns, spoliers ahoy.

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Provides Examples of:

  • Almost Kiss: Blythe and Laney, after a bar brawl. It's surprisingly sweet.
  • Berserk Button: Blythe punches a drunk guy who calls her and Laney dykes. She later dismisses it as boredom, but Laney privately notes she was perfectly calm until he said the word.
  • Bi the Way / Depraved Bisexual: Blythe and Laney. They're both openly bisexual by the end, and neither is particularly moral, but the bisexuality isn't inherent to their issues. However, in the case of Laney's experiences with homophobic bullying, it is something of a Start of Darkness, so it's debatable which side they land on.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Armin and Zoeller have gotten their comeuppance, but Mrs. Keating's suicide is irrevocable, and Laney has no plans to change her vengeful, manipulative ways. On the upside, she's coping with her illness a bit better(e.g., less drugs), has accepted her sexuality, and she and Blythe are blissfully happy.
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  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Laney speaks directly to the reader often, but it's most noticeable near the end.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: According to Caitlin.
    "There are two parts of me. The night and the day. One part went to you, one part went to your brother."
    "You think I'm the bad part of you?"
    Her hand twisted in my hair, painful. "Darkness isn't bad. It's only darkness."
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Blythe dares Laney to show her and Armin how she gets off.
  • The Dog Bites Back: The entire plot. Laney takes the anger and hurt she's accumulated through years of suffering at the hands of insensitive men and uses it to fuel a magnificently convoluted revenge plot.
    This is what helps me sleep at night. Knowing one of us stood up and refused to take it. One of us said Fuck you and struck back.
    One of us became the wolf, and bloodied her jaws so others can live without fear.
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  • Do You Want to Copulate?: Laney rather bluntly asks a frat boy named Josh "do you want to fuck?" while he tries to have an in-depth conversation about The Lord of the Rings with her.
  • Driven to Suicide: Mrs. Keating does not handle the violent upswings of bipolar disorder well.
  • Evil Is Petty: Armin. He tells Brandt Zoeller to seduce and destroy "one of those fucking dykes" because he's angry at Blythe for cheating on him with a girl.
  • Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex: Blythe eats Laney out on the desk of her irritating ephebophile guidance counselor after they go on a vengeance spree that ends in her high school.
  • How We Got Here: Thrice over. How we got to Caitlin Keating committing suicide, how we got to Laney, alive and vengeful and living in Chicago, and how we got to someone blackmailing her, Armin, and Blythe over their relationship.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Laney and Armin. For reference, when she wears his shirt after their first time, it nearly goes to her knees.
  • Icy Blue Eyes: Blythe. Initially, Laney sees them as pale and witless, but as she gets to know the fiery creature underneath Blythe's pretty face, they become hypnotic and piercing to her.
  • In Medias Res: See How We Got Here. This story starts out pretty early on, chronologically, but still manages to be right in the thick of it.
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence: Laney compares Armin stopping her in the middle of a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown on Zoeller to being interrupted while masturbating. Then after, she observes her work on the victim "rapturously".
  • Ironic Echo: Laney repeats the instructions Armin gave to Zoeller while she's explaining her motivations to him.
  • Just Between You and Me: The climax, when she explains to Armin WHY and how she's taken her revenge on him. While she's holding a gun to his head. An unusual case in that it doesn't fall under Bond Villain Stupidity. She's already done everything necessary to make his life fall apart. Now she just has to stand back and watch.
  • Meaningful Name: Armin and Blythe go by the pseudonyms Artemis and Apollo(Armin as DJ Apollo, Blythe using Artemis or variants as her screen name in online poetry forums). They're thick as thieves despite being almost diametrically opposed, one of them a doctor, bright and talented, and one a ferally beautiful night owl. It doubles as foreshadowing for their ultimate roles in the story. Apollo, a pushy womanizer who frequently got into trouble/Armin, a Heteronormative Crusader who is punished in an almost greek tragic method for his unintentional cruelty towards Laney, and Artemis, huntress and protector of women, who is often interpreted as a lesbian/Blythe, a loudly sapphic woman who becomes one of the founding members of Black Iris, a vigilante justice group focusing on the safety of minorities.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Laney is an aspiring novelist and Blythe a passionate poet.
  • N-Word Privileges: Laney calls herself a dyke and a fag several times, despite not technically being either of those things. Blythe revels in being a bitch and a slut, saying a bitch is "a woman who gets what she wants". Of course, those words also appear on the tongues of people with no right to them.
  • The Ophelia: Most of the female characters echo this archetype, but Laney fits it best, as her fragility and madness is highlighted the most.
  • Pædo Hunt: Blythe and Laney get Laney's former guidance counselor in trouble by sending a picture of "the youngest boy we could find deepthroating a massive veiny dick" to the whole school from his office computer. In their defense, Laney claims he was sleeping with half the(presumably underage)cheer squad, so whatever trouble he got into might not have been so undeserved. Another point of suspicion: his mustache.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Naturally.
  • Professionals Do It on Desks: See Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex. And on the blotter, too.
  • Queer Romance
  • Really Gets Around: Laney and Blythe both.
    They lifted Mc Stud to his feet as he spouted off about suing the club and the drunk slut for all they were worth. Blythe didn't flinch. In her eyes, I caught a maniacal glint of delight.
    "You stupid cunt," she crowed at him. "You can't slut-shame me if I love being a slut."
  • Red Herring: Brandt Zoeller. Specifically, his status as the main villain. You're led to believe that he's Laney's most important target on this revenge spree because of what he did to her in high school. It takes your attention off the numerous clues that her relationship with Armin and Blythe is not what it seems.
  • Rewatch Bonus: Tons.
    • On first read, Laney racing up to the stage to knock Armin's drink out of Hiyam's hands seems like an overreaction. On second, it's both sweet and devious. Not only would it expose her to ecstasy, jeopardizing her hard-earned detox, Laney knows that Hiyam, as a former addict, might recognize there was something in the drink and alert Armin.
    • On a similar note, Laney jokingly asks a very amorous Armin if he's high, despite knowing he's totally straight-edge. He is. You even see Armin looking back and realizing it during the climax when she rolls off the effects of ecstasy-"it makes you feel awake, sensitive, turned on"-informing him how she used those effects to make him think he was more infatuated with her than he was.
    • If you somehow didn't pick up on it before The Reveal that Laney is bisexual, her interactions with Blythe come off very different on reread.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Laney's modus operandi. It kick-starts the plot and ends it too.
  • Room Full of Crazy: Laney's hidey-hole, reminiscent of the String Theory variety.
  • Shout-Out: Numerous, of both classic and pop-culture varieties.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: A dramatic, long-game variant. Laney spikes Armin's Red Bull with ecstasy so he'll become addicted and understand the despair he put her and her mother through.
  • Teamwork Seduction: Laney and Blythe get disposable one-night stands with the power of Girl-on-Girl Is Hot.
  • The Sociopath: Brandt Zoeller.
  • Three-Way Sex: Between Armin, Laney, and Blythe. And really, who didn't see that coming.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: A milder example than most, but still. We get to experience Laney's psychotic symptoms firsthand.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Like her or not, you can't help but feel sorry for Laney after everything that's happened to her. The stress of borderline personality disorder, turning to drugs in an effort to get away from it, being bullied for a harmless crush on a fellow(female)student, finding her mother's corpse and thinking it was her fault she died, which it was, having to stay away from her lover for months All for Nothing, almost dying several times....the poor girl's been through a lot.
  • Unholy Matrimony: Blythe and Laney in their endgame incarnation. They even start a secret society(named Black Iris)for vengeful, mistreated people like themselves and appear to be still leading it as of the blurb release of Bad Boy.
    Laney: I want you. I want the badness in you. I want the craziness, the animal. I'm going to hurt them all. Every single person who's hurt me. And you'll be there at my side.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Laney openly admits to being this in the beginning, and shows it off several times, withholding information from her friends, her family, and the reader.
  • Villain Protagonist: Guess who.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Laney racks up a search history full of keywords like "ptsd", "sexual abuse", and "rape" to get sympathy from Armin before telling him about Zoeller.
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