Wednesday, October 5, 2016

when the moon was ours: stardust arc reviews

When the Moon Was Ours
Anna-Marie McLemore


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.

full review under the cut! 

WOW guys. I saw this book awhile ago, I believe on Emery Lord's twitter, and I immediately requested it off Netgalley, based on the cover and her recommendation alone. I had absolutely no idea what it was about, but thankfully, Thomas Dunne Books gave me a chance to read this book, and as pub day grew nearer, I started hearing buzzing about how wonderful this book was. Now, I really wanted to read this one. But, if you've read my September Wrap-Up post you'll know that I was in a reading slump basically all of last month. So I finally just got around to starting this one, and that whole long rant was to say that I am SO glad I finally read this book, I immensely enjoyed it, and was fully immersed in a story for the first time in a while, which felt so good. 

I do not read enough magical realism, but this book is making me think that I should get to it more. Basically, this book takes place in a town that would be like any other town, except for it's not. It's populated by boys who breathe light into pictures of the moon, girls with roses growing out of their wrists, bruja witches that pull the lovesickness out of people's hearts, and sisters with hair like autumn leaves that get everything that they want. And lots and lots of pumpkins. I loved the magical aspects of this story. I could definitely tell that they were there, but they were painted with such a light touch, and described in such beautiful prose, that I didn't get distracted by these little gold pieces of magic. 

Basically, reading Anna-Marie McLemore makes me want to be a better writer. She's obviously incredibly talented, just from a prose standpoint, but the way the story is woven together is so skilled as well, it comes together seamlessly. This world was something that I could've drowned in, for its strangeness and complexities. Instead, I felt like I was being led into familiar waters, and immediately was completely immersed in everything that was happening. I haven't read McLemore's novel, The Weight of Feathers, which I think is based on Romeo and Juliet and came out last year, but I definitely want to now! If it is anywhere near as beautiful and heartbreaking as this book, sign!! me!! up!!

 This book opens by explaining how best friends Miel and Sam– otherwise known as Honey and Moon– met. When Sam was five years old, his town cleared the land underneath the old water tower. And then they tipped it over. When the tower emptied itself, there was a girl where there had before been only water. Everyone stared at this strange girl, who had been made of water, but Sam walked over to her, comforted her, brought her home to his mother. His mother had taken care of her until their neighbor, Aracely, took the girl in and raised her, half as a sister, half as a mother. 

Miel and Sam are both strange, and they are soon inseparable. Miel's strangeness comes from the fact that she came from the water, and that the hem of her skirt is always damp, no matter what. She's deathly afraid of pumpkins. She also grows roses out of her wrist, painfully sprouting thorns, stem, and bloom, over and over again. Sam's comes from the fact that he isn't like the other boys in town, too slim hipped, not as broad, with a softer face. He's Pakistani, and very few people know how his he and his mother lived before they came to town. He also infuses light and color into his paintings of the moon, and hangs them around town so the children can sleep. By default, Sam and Miel are weird. But they have each other, so everything is alright. At least for a time. 

Sam and Miel love each other. It only takes us a few pages to get to that point. But their love story is not the central plot of this book. It is a part of it, them coming to terms with the nature of their love for one another, but it isn't the main problem here. There are so many things going on. Miel is coming to terms with everything that went on in her life before she tumbled out of the water tower. She's remembering her family, lost to her now, and the curses that seem to lie within the roses that sprout form her wrists. Sam is coming to terms with the fact that he may never want to go back to being Samira, a person that he remembers as if only in a dream, and what this means for himself and his mother going forward. Both of them are dealing with the lovely clan of Bonner girls that live down the road. Four sisters with hair the shades of autumn leaves, they break every single heart they encounter and always get what they want. So when they decide they want Miel's roses, nothing is going to stop them. And they will do anything, even reveal secrets they shouldn't know, to get them. 

God, this book was just lovely. The prose, the magic, the deeply human conflicts. The colorful characters, from Sam's mother with her kind blue eyes, comforting food and swishing skirts, to Aracely, with her golden skin and perpetually painted nails, pulling the lovesickness from people at night and then bearing the brunt of their insults about her bruja nature in the daylight. From Sam, dark skin, dark hair, tender heart, love of art, plants, and Miel, to Miel herself, come from water, frightened of pumpkins, sprouting red and yellow and deep purple from her wrist like love from her heart. I just absolutely loved everything about this one! I would definitely recommend it to you if you're looking for trans/hispanic/middle eastern representation in your YA, if you love magical realism, if you have a thing for pumpkins, or if you're just looking for a story that you can burrow into. 


1 comment:

  1. I've been eyeing this book on Netgalley because of the cover and I'm glad to hear how much you enjoyed it. Great review!


80% Read the Printed Word!