When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

McLemore, Anna-Marie. When the Moon Was Ours. 273 p. St. Martin’s Griffin, 2016. ISBN 978125005869.

When the Moon Was Ours Book Cover

Since the day the town emptied the rusted water tower and found Miel huddled in the wet brush, she and Samir have been inseparable. In their small town, both of them are outsiders—a girl born from water and a boy “whose family had come from somewhere else.” Sam does not question Miel’s mysterious past or how she grows roses from her wrist. He paints her moons and hangs them in trees throughout town to light her way. Miel has seen more of Sam than he will show to anyone else. The Bonner sisters are outsiders too, but unlike Miel and Sam, they hold power over the town. They enchant and break hearts. No one rejects their advances. At least, no one did until the four Bonner sisters became three when Chloe, the oldest, left to have a baby. Desperate to restore their power after Chloe’s return, Ivy Bonner decides Miel’s roses are the answer. She will go to any length to take them, even if it means revealing Miel and Sam’s secrets to the whole town.

Written in alternating perspectives of Sam and Miel, When the Moon Was Ours tells a story of self-discovery, secrets, and love. The intersection of ownership and identity is a central theme throughout the novel. Samir’s mother demonstrates her love for him by giving him space to discover for himself who he is and how he wants live. At the resolution, Samir and Miel may not have all the answers to their questions, but they have given themselves permission to “become what they could not yet imagine.” When the Moon Was Ours is full of sorrow, hope, and redemption. McLemore’s prose is as magical and poetic as the roses that grow from Miel’s wrist. Fans who remember her richly descriptive style from The Weight of Feathers will not be disappointed. This magical realism novel is an important addition to any young adult collection for its authentic diversity and enchanting story.

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