ARC Review: When the Moon Was Ours

When the Moon Was Ours

Title: When the Moon Was Ours

Author: Anna-Marie McLemore

Series: N/A

Publisher: Thomas Dunne

Release Date: October 4th 2016


Five Stars

When the Moon Was Ours follows two characters through a story that has multicultural elements and magical realism, but also has central LGBT themes—a transgender boy, the best friend he’s falling in love with, and both of them deciding how they want to define themselves.

To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumours say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town.

But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumoured to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

– Blurb courtesy of

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My Thoughts On…

…The Plot

“Someday, he and Miel would be nothing but a fairy tale. When they were gone from this town, no one would remember the exact brown of Miel’s eyes, or the way she spiced recado rojo with cloves, or even that Sam and his mother were Pakistani. At best, they would remember a dark-eyed girl, and a boy whose family had come from somewhere else. They would remember only that Miel and Sam had been called Honey and Moon, a girl and a boy woven into the folklore of this place.”

This book was so many things I’m honestly not sure where to begin reviewing it. After I read Bone Gap last year I fell in love with the magical realism genre and wanted to explore it more. Until I started When the Moon Was Ours I had yet to find a book that matched the wonder, magic and slightly twisted-modern fairytale themes I loved so much in Bone Gap. When the Moon Was Ours had all that and more; a diverse style of characters and a beautiful story about discovering who you are.

The story begins when the old water tower is pulled down and a girl is found shivering and soaked in the field among the wreckage. Appearing out of nowhere, flowers growing from her wrists Sam is the first to approach the strange girl, reaching out to her when no one else would or could. Ever since that day Miel has been part of the town staying with Aracely  in the home near Sam’s. Ever since that day she has been terrified of the Bonner siblings. Ever since that day Sam and Miel have been best friends who also love one another.

“One day, they would be no more than that fairytale. They would be two children named Honey and Moon, folded into the stories whispered through this town.
But tonight they were not those children. Tonight they were Sam and Miel.”

Now Chloe Bonner has returned home. The Bonner sisters have always ruled over their small town, they are equal parts loved and feared by all the residents. Everything they wanted has been theirs for the taking. Until Chloe left and the sisters fell apart without her. Now she is back they are shifting to make room for her again but their power seems to be falling apart. That’s when they start to desire Miel’s roses.

Miel’s past is dark, she lost her whole family before appearing in the water tower and keeps quiet about her past, but as the Bonner sisters become desperate for their power to return, desperate to believe the rumours that the flowers that grow from Miel’s wrist contain magic, they dig up not only her secrets but Sam’s as well to get what they want.

As Miel faces her past to find the strength to stand up to Ivy and her sisters Sam is struggling to understand who he is. Born Samira he became a bacha posh and dressed up as a boy but now he is unable to hide behind that tradition. Sam has to accept who he is; Sam, Samir, Samira, Moon, before he can help Miel accept her past.

…The Characters

“Maybe bacha posh were words that did not belong to him. They were only his through the stories his grandmother had told him, of families across the border from Peshawar, mothers and fathers dressing their youngest daughters as sons.”

Sam was a wonderful character to read. He struggles with accepting the girl he used to be, he pushes her down to the very bottom of who he is but at the same time he hides behind the lie that Samir is just temporary until he ready to throw off his disguise and become Samira again. Sam’s journey in this book is about him learning what he wants; both in terms of his gender and in terms of his feelings for Miel.

‘I am not your garden,’ she said, the words no louder than the thread of her mother’s voice the wind carried.
‘I am not one of your father’s pumpkin vines.’
‘You do not own what I grow.’

Miel holds all of Sam’s secrets but she doesn’t share many of her own. Her past is dark; the roses growing from her wrist were seen as a curse by her family and she was hurt trying to break that curse. She holds a lot of weight on her shoulders, mainly what happened to her mother and her brother which she cannot forget and cannot forgive herself for. Miel hates the roses but she refuses to give them up to the Bonner sisters when they try to take them.

The relationship between Miel and Sam was more than just friendship and more than just love as well. The two of them mean so much to one another and their bond is deeper than any other in this book. They have been the other half of each other for as long as they have known each other; Sam is the one who hangs moons in the trees for Miel, so she can never lose it again, Miel on the other hand is the wonder, the mystery, the magic to their friendship. As Sam tries to discover who he is Miel gives him the space and the safety to explore, even when Sam isn’t aware of it.

“The Bonner girls were losing their strange power, but Ivy thought these roses could get it back. They could make any boys they wanted fall in love with them. This town would understand that the Bonner girls could take whatever they wanted.”

The Bonner sisters are an otherworldly force; beautiful, magical and dangerous, and seeing them through Miel’s eyes we see all that and more. They are cruel and willing to do anything to get what they want from Miel, but at the same time there is another side to them. I loved reading about all of them; Chloe, Lian, Ivy and Peyton; despite them being seen as one entity they all have a different facets to their personality, they all have something driving them alongside their desire for things to go back to the way they were before Chloe left.

Miel’s guardian Aracely appearing in town along with a hundred thousand butterflies. She cures lovesickness from people and understands both Miel and Sam in ways they cannot understand. Aracely’s part in this story was as a teacher for both Miel and Sam; she is kind when needed  but not afraid to tell the truth when that was what’s needed as well.

In terms of magical realism books When the Moon Was Ours is one of the best I’ve read. I felt there were small hints of fairytales throughout, most notably Sleeping Beauty, which I loved reading and discovering. I have a feeling this will end up being a book I go back to over and over again, loving it as much each time I pick it up as I did the first.

What did you think of When the Moon Was Ours? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.

All quotes have been taken from an ARC and may differ in the final publication.

27 thoughts on “ARC Review: When the Moon Was Ours

  1. I fell in love with the cover a long time ago…#coverlove all day long. But I am not too familiar with magical realism. So I stayed away.
    But if you liked it after giving it a shot, then this is going right on the TBR!
    Excellent and thoughtful review! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I was the same. I noticed the cover first but then when I saw the blurb, when I saw the fact that this book was magical realism, I just had to pick it up. I wouldn’t say I was familiar with magical realism but I’ve read a few amazing books from that genre and I just want to read more. They have kind of slight fairytale influences I think which may be why I enjoy them so much. 🙂
      I would recommend giving this one a try, it’s a wonderful book and a wonderful story as well. Also in terms of magical realism books I’d recommend Bone Gap as well. That was the first magical realism book I read and it’s what made me fall in love with the genre, hopefully it’ll do the same for you!
      Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed my review! 😀


    1. Ohh I’m glad you’ve already added this book, it doesn’t seem to be on too many people’s radars which is a shame because it’s amazing. When the Moon Was Ours was just amazing, and I think if you really loved Bone Gap you’ll love this one as well. I can’t wait for you to read it and to see your review! 🙂
      Thanks Marie! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been hoping I would see a review of this somewhere soon! I received an ARC of this as well but wasn’t completely sure what it was about beyond the synopsis and the common knowledge that it had magical realism. But after reading your review I understand it a bit more and am even more excited to read it! I’ve never read a magical realism book before so this one is going to be a first and I’m hoping I enjoy it as much as you did. Plus, I have a thing for books that are really poetic and flowy – I can feel myself falling in love with the writing from the quotes you included. Lovely review, Beth! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In that case I’m glad you found mine! 🙂 The synopsis doesn’t really give much away but for magical realism books, and this one as well, sometimes that’s really for the best because the story is as much about the characters and the discovery of the story than about the plot you know?
      I’m glad my review could help you understand what this book is about a little more, I really hope you enjoy it.
      I haven’t read too many magical realism books but this is definitely one of the better ones I’ve read, so it’s a great one to start off with as an introduction to the genre. (If you like When the Moon Was Ours I’d recommend Bone Gap as well)
      Definitely poetic and flowy, and if you enjoyed the quotes I picked you’ll love the rest of the book, there’s so many more I could have picked but these were my favourites!
      Thanks Melissa, I really do hope you enjoy this book, and I can’t wait to see your review for it! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. True. I feel like a lot of books with fantasy and even magical aspects are better for having a vague synopsis. It can make the whole journey of reading it more interesting.
        I hope so too! 😊
        I’ll definitely have to look up Bone Gap, I’ve actually seen people talking about it lately so I’m curious.
        You’re welcome!! ♥️😊

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Exactly, and a large part of the reason I enjoyed this book was because the blurb was vague and it let me discover the story and the characters on my own, without guessing based on what the plot revealed.
        I’m one of the people who have probably talked about the Bone Gap a little bit, but it’s an amazing book and the one that introduced me to magical realism so it’s well worth picking up. I’ve yet to see a bad review for it! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Jill! I’m glad you liked my review and honestly it’s an amazing book. It completely exceeded all my expectations and ended up being a beautifully written and wonderfully moving story. I’d highly recommend it if you enjoy magical realism, or even if you just want to jump into that genre.
      That’s all right! I really hope you enjoy this book as much as I did! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great review, Beth! I haven’t seen too many of this book and wasn’t aware it was even on NetGalley. It’s good to hear that the magic realism in this book managed to give you that great sense of wonder and fairytale – some just come across as weird/nonsensical, I feel, and it’s a hard balance to strike. I think I’ll enjoy the relationship between the two main characters as well, especially with the added layer of LGBT themes. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Reg! I haven’t seen too much of this one around either. I have Anna Marie McLemore’s first book on my to-read list and this one sounded really interesting as well so when I saw it on NetGalley I thought it was the perfect opportunity to start her work.
      Honestly I love magical realism as a genre, it always gives me that sense of wonder and fairytale, but I can see why some people don’t enjoy it as much and I can see how it is hard to do right. I’ve read a few books where it hasn’t worked as well but luckily this was one where it did for me at least.
      The relationship between Sam and Miel was just wonderful, and it was a beautiful LGBT relationship as well. 🙂


      1. I’ve heard a lot about The Weight of Feathers and am not sure if I should pick it up – I’ve heard mixed reviews and I’m very skeptical about multiple perspectives, and I heard this one has lots of really weird perspectives. I hope you get to pick it up soon – I’d like to know waht you think of it. 😂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’ve read The Weight of Feathers, and will actually be posting my review in a little while. While I did enjoy it I preferred When the Moon Was Ours.
        I didn’t think it had too many weird perspectives, in fact it only seemed to switch between the two main characters, either way I’d still recommend picking up When the Moon Was Ours first! 🙂


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