By Heather A.
4 out of 5 stars ★★★★☆
When the Moon Was Ours follows two characters through a story that has multicultural elements and magical realism, but also has central LGBT themes—a transgender boy, the best friend he’s falling in love with, and both of them deciding how they want to define themselves.
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.
An ARC was provided by the Publisher via NetGalley for an honest review
The reason I liked this so much was because of the author’s note at the end, how the book about a girl and a transgender boy was based on her life. I was so touched by this note, it gave the book–very much based in magical realism–something genuine on which I could reflect.
When the Moon was Ours is just about the sweetest book on the planet. Two friends who will try and protect each other at all costs. Their friendship encompasses compassion, love, acceptance, and all the emotions in between. For instance, Miel is forced to give her roses that grow from her wrist to the Bonner sisters, local witches. Miel does this to protect Sam, so the sisters don’t expose his secret. Sam also does the same thing. He finds out from Miel’s sister a family secret, which he wants to protect Miel from.
Beyond this conflict and how these two gentle souls resolve these issues, there’s so much more to the story than what’s on the surface. That’s the beauty of the writing and the nature of magical realism. Miel grows roses from her wrist. Some people think it’s a curse, while others, like the Bonner sisters, believe the roses may have magical powers. What does Miel think? Can she accept herself and find herself worthy of love whatever the answer may be? And for Sam, he draws moons everywhere. They each feel life-like when he paints them and hangs them in the woods. They illuminate the darkness, make scary places a little less scary. It’s how he expresses himself.
As I should mention, this book is diverse. Miel is Latinx, Sam is a trans boy and from Pakistan. Pronoun usage from the very beginning is clear and, if I’m being honest, as a cishet person, very helpful when writing this review. There’s no doubt that Sam is a boy. If you’re looking for something to recommend for either of these topics, this book is well worth reading. But I would go further and say that even if you weren’t looking for something of this nature, you’ll still see the beauty in the writing and the realism in the characters.
Very glad I was able to read this story. Pleased to recommend it to anyone looking for a story with magical realism, young love and friendship, and cultural connections.
Let me know what you think in the comments!