After loving Anna-Marie McLemore’s short story in Toil & Trouble, I was excited to find out that When The Moon Was Ours is the April pick for Dragons & Tea group on Goodreads. With lush prose, Spanish myths, this is a magical, queer fairytale with characters of colour about family dynamics, identity, love, friendship, and respecting cultures. Here’s a spoiler-free review of my new ALL TIME FAV BOOK!
“To the boys who get called girls,
the girls who get called boys,
and those who live outside these words.
To those called names,
and those searching for names of their own.
To those who live on the edges,
and in the spaces in between.
I wish for you every light in the sky.”
About The Book
Title: When The Moon Was Ours
Author: Anna-Marie McLemore
Category: Young Adult
Suggested Reader Age: 14+
violence, sex, language
Genre: Fantasy, Magical Realism, LGBT
From the author of The Weight of Feathers comes a young adult novel about a girl hiding the truth, a boy with secrets from his past, and four sisters who could ruin them both.
To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow from 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.
Recipient of a Stonewall Honor and long-listed for the National Book Award, When the Moon Was Ours is a stunning and utterly romantic novel, packed with gorgeous prose and just a hint of magic.
› When The Moon Was Ours takes place in our contemporary world, and has magical elements which everyone accepts as kinda normal. It’s enchanting, fascinating, mysterious and lovely. Reading this was one of those rare circumstances where I wanted to read it as slowly as possible because I didn’t want it to end.
› This has a slow, meandering plot and a diverse cast.
› Miel: a latina, “girl made of water”, also known as “Honey”. She’s trying to remember what happened to her mother and brother. Samir has been her best friend for years, they now have stronger feelings for each other.
“To this whole town, she was odd and unnerving. To them, she was the motherless girl who came from the water tower and grew roses from her wrist. A girl whose skirt hem was always a litte damp, even on the driest days. Whatever they said about her liking girls or liking boys was a handful of water next to the whole river. It could not make her stranger, more unsettling, to everyone else than she already was.”
› Samir: Italian-Pakistani, trans boy, also known as “Moon”. He makes moons and hangs them in trees. Because Samir’s father isn’t around, he decided to live as a male, a cultural practice known as Bacha Posh. Most Bacha Posh will live as a female after puberty. Samir has always planned to eventually live as a woman, but is secretly wondering if that’s what he truly wants.
That was his problem. Sam was sure of it. He couldn’t be a girl. But maybe if he waited out these years in boys’ clothes and short hair, he would grow up enough to want to be a woman. He would wake up and this part of him would be gone, like rain and wind wearing down a hillside.
› Aracely: becomes Miel’s caretaker. The town believe she’s a witch and she has a business where she’s able to physically remove heart ache.
“Even in her nightgown, without her makeup on, Aracely was a slice of color against the window. Her hair was as bright as the fruit of a nectarine. The brown of her skin looked like raw gold stripped from quartz. And she stood tall enough that she looked like she could meet the gaze of the sky out on the horizon.”
› The Bonner Sisters (Chloe, Lian, Ivy, Peyton): antagonists, who take what they want. Miel is afraid the sisters will take Sam’s attention away if they find out how she feels about him.
› The writing is flowery, but not overdone. I found myself re-reading many passages because they are just so beautiful.
“When they both realized they were heartbroken enough to want the love torn from their rib cages, they touched each other with their hands and their mouths, and they forgot they wanted to be cured.”
› Inspired by her husband’s courage, this is an own voices story written from McLemore’s personal experience as a queer woman and her trans husband.
› When The Moon Was Ours is strongly influenced by La Llorona, Spanish for “The Weeping Woman”, which is a legend of a ghost who roams near water, wailing, and waiting to drag children into the water. It’s believed she’s the spirit of a mother whose children drowned, and will punish those who don’t treat their family well. https://www.legendsofamerica.com/gh-lallorona/
› Not simply a queer teen love story with frilly words, this is also an important narrative about racism and hate. As a white woman I feel incredibly grateful to read such a poignant story about people of colour, and love to see young characters share a story about race, culture, sexuality, and gender.
› I loved this from beginning to end. The lyrical writing reminded me of Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. I highly recommend this moving book about the power of truth to readers who like magical realism.
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About The Author
Anna-Marie McLemore was born in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and taught by her family to hear la llorona in the Santa Ana winds. Her debut novel THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS was a Junior Library Guild Selection, a YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults book, and a finalist for the William C. Morris Debut Award. Her second novel, WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS, was longlisted for the National Book Award in Young People’s Literature, and was a 2017 Stonewall Honor Book.