Book Review: When The Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

28220826Title: When The Moon Was Ours

Author : Anna-Marie McLemore

Publisher : Thomas Dunne

Release date : October 4th, 2016

Rating : 5/5

☯ Synopsis (from Goodreads) :

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 :

When The Moon Was Ours was one of the most enchanting books I’ve ever read. ❤

I didn’t know the term for this genre before, but now I do : magical realism. And it’s possibly one of my favorite genres ever. McLemore’s writing is impeccable, and it contributed to give her novel its own brand of magic. I honestly think her prose is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever read. It’s light as a feather, soft as a breeze. The way she describes places makes me want to live in her world; her imagery is evocative and dream-like, tickling our understanding with metaphors and imaginative comparisons.

I’m not sure what else could I say to highlight the sheer beauty of McLemore’s writing, without using the same words : dreamy, soft, beautiful, magical. The author invites our senses to the reading, evoking them when describing a place or introducing characters:

Aracely had hair as gold as late afternoon, her eyes the deep brown of a wet, fertile field. Miel’s hair was dark as a starless autumn, a night made brown by fall leaves, and her eyes matched the gold of low twin moons. 

Because of the genre itself, it was at times confusing distinguishing between reality and metaphor, but it is an easy obstacle to surmount as the story progresses, and you realize that yes, roses do grow out of a girl’s wrist, and love sickness can be thrown out the window.

All these curiosities abound in the town in which live Miel and Sam. Though at first these two characters seem pretty bland, their worth starts unraveling as the reader is guided through their experiences, their feelings and their numerous struggles. The relationship between the two is amazing and as solid as rock. The certainty of their bond is felt even when they are apart, or even when it is strained by the heartbreaking secrets of their past and those of their close ones.

As much as the protagonists are interesting, the secondary characters deserve as much praise. Everyone has a rich backstory and an equally great plot line, which unravels their nuanced personalities and makes room for both sympathy and resentment.

But what makes the story itself unforgettable is the diversity and the respect of cultures. Here we have a Latina girl, and a half Pakistani boy, Spanish legends, a wide spectrum of gender identities, and everything that comes with it. Questions of body, of name, of how to support someone you love, are all well-handled. I can’t say with certainty that it was perfectly dealt with, as I have never been in this situation, but I think it was a close-to-perfect LGBT novel that everyone should read.

As I came near the ending, I realized that not many non-contemporary books tackle social issues with such sensitivity. Therefore, I thank McLemore for her awareness and generosity. How lucky we are to have such a talented author take the time to address those subjects!

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with this book, and to Anna-Marie for writing it.

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