Tuesday, November 1, 2016

When The Moon Was Ours (review)

When The Moon Was Ours
Author: Anna-Marie McLemore
Publisher: A Thomas Dunne Book for St. Martin's Griffin (October 4, 2016)

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 recommended when I was seeking books with transgender characters, and it has that and so much more. Magical realism shows up in various books, but has a special style in Latin American literature. (Note: I majored in Latin American studies in college, and lived briefly in Venezuela.) The magical realism in When the Moon Was Ours is so tightly woven into the story and setting and language, you would have trouble sorting out what it "real" and what is "magic", and all of it is steeped in symbolism and interconnected meanings. It reminds me of both Jorge Luis Borges and Gabriel García Márquez.

But even if you are not a literature-nerd, this is a wonderful young adult story of love and loss and sacrifice. Miel and Sam are beautifully drawn, and inexorably drawn together. The Bonner girls are fabulous villains, as perfect and flawed as you could hope. Reading about them, you are reminded that every person has their own tragic and heroic story, and I almost wish Ms. McLemore had time to write those as well.

Given that I sought the book out for its transgender character, I should mention that it is a tastefully and lovingly handled. I have too little personal experience to judge or comment on that aspect beyond the fact that the author made the characters feel authentic and true.

But don't take my word for it. Run out and get a copy of this gem.

Five stars out of five!


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