Review: “When the Moon Was Ours” by Anna-Marie McLemore

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: 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.

Review: Anna-Marie McLemore’s writing is some of the most beautiful I’ve read in a while. Usually very poetic prose bothers me in a novel, but this book wouldn’t be the same without her style adding to the magical details and empowering plot. Her imagery is so vivid that I got sucked right into the book and began to see and feel everything that Miel and Sam did. It’s the type of prose that inspires.

Almost every character is coming to terms with some aspect of themselves. In addition, both main characters are people of color. That’s right, this is a fairytale that features people of color, one of them being transgender. This shows a wonderful amount of diversity that we don’t see enough in books.

Miel is constantly frustrated with the roses that grow from her wrist and she believes they are the reason her mother and brother died. Sam used to be referred to as a girl, but is now identified as a boy because of a Pakastani tradition where the daughter acts a boy to protect the family if there is no other masculine figure. Per tradition, he is expected to return to womanhood as an adult, but he’s starting to realize that isn’t what he ultimately wants.

At first, the Bonner girls are difficult to tell apart as they are seen as a single unit. As the book goes on, we get to know the individual struggles they each face, including ostracization from teen pregnancy, hiding who you are to be accepted, and not even knowing who you are.

The romance between Miel and Sam is the type that we need to see more of in YA. It’s complicated by emotions that they don’t understand and grows more and more over time. It’s the kind of love that isn’t blind to flaws but acknowledges and accepts them. Even after they fight, they find their way back to each other in a healthy way.

Romance isn’t the only prominent relationship here. Aracely takes Miel in as soon as Miel is found in the water tower spill and treats her like family. Sam’s mother Yasmin is well known in the community for taking care of children. She can get even the most difficult child to do their homework and is so wonderful. She is so accepting of Sam and does everything she can for him, and it’s just really great to see these relationships so prominent in a YA novel.

Final thought: Everything about this book is beautiful. There’s truly something for everyone in here and these characters are so diverse with so much depth that everyone will be able to relate to someone. If you haven’t yet, go pick up a copy!

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