Title: When the Moon Was Ours
Author: Anna-Marie McLemore
Publisher: Thomas Dunne
Release Date: October 4th 2016
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 goodreads.com
I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
My Thoughts On…
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.
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.
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.
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 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.