I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore
Release date: October 4th, 2016
Publisher: Thomas Dunne
Genre: Young adult, contemporary, romance, fantasy
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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 rumors 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 rumored 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.
This was one of the most magically beautiful books I have read this year or possibly ever. The words were lyrical and in some parts it utterly destroyed me. It’s one of those stories where you feel so many emotions that it’s just so difficult to fully explain. I felt like a tornado, all twisted up inside. At times I was reading with a huge smile and others crying quietly to myself. When the Moon Was Ours was definitely a rollercoaster ride, but one I would gladly take again.
It would so easy to just summarize the story as being about four beautiful and manipulative white girls who will stop at nothing to steal something from the quiet odd girl. Sure, that’s kind of where the plot takes the reader, but this story is about so much more! It’s about secrets, those kind that you try to hide even from yourself, self discovery and acceptance.
Miel struggles with who she is and remembering her life before she was found in the aftermath of a flood. Multicoloured roses grow from her wrist, but she isn’t sure how she feels about it. Sam, her best friend, isn’t sure who he is. He struggles with his body and his place in the world. What he does know is that he loves Miel more than anything else in the world. Miel and Sam – Honey and Moon as they were often referred to – were just so beautiful. I wanted to hug them so many times!
Where this book shines is in its handling of gender issues. I have never read a book where the topic is written with such skill and brutal honesty. Yes, I have read books in the past that discuss transgender characters, but it felt like that’s all the character was. Here, the characters aren’t forced into one box. All facets of their personality and lives are explored.
I highly recommend reading the Author’s Note at the end of the story. Like the book, it’s highly emotional and carefully crafted. It provided insight into how the book was written and the inspiration behind it. I found it extremely touching.
You really need to read this gorgeous book! I rated it five stars, but could have easily given it more. The writing, the characters…it does something to you. Seriously, my heart is still recovering. It’s going to be so difficult to pick up another book after finishing this one.