Review | When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

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.

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“She was a world unknown. She was a place whose darkness held not fear, but the promise of stars.”

If I were to describe When the Moon Was Ours in one word, it would be gorgeous. McLemore’s prose is elegant, beautiful, and paints the most pretty imagery. I would love to visit the world that they created.

When the Moon Was Ours is very much a character-driven story and it moves at a slow pace to allow readers to fully get to know the books cast. Miel and Sam are fantastically-written and relatable characters. Both have secrets that they don’t want their fellow townsfolk to know about and McLemore does an excellent job of exploring them in a delicate and respectful manner, navigating such topics as bullying, abuse, racism, acceptance of identity, and experiences as a transgender bacha posh.

This book straddles the line between magical realism and fantasy, with the magical elements being among some of the more interesting that I’ve seen. It pulls from Spanish legends and Pakistani culture to create a truly memorable read – as soon as I finished, I found myself Googling some of the folk tales and the bacha posh to learn even more.

Overall, When the Moon Was Ours was an incredibly diverse, truly important, magical story. I highly recommend giving it a read. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to read everything else Anna-Marie McLemore has ever written.

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