“The way he loved her was his, even if she wasn’t.”
Read in March 2020
When the Moon Was Ours takes place in a world very similar to ours, but also very different. Miel arrived at age five, one day without warnings. People say she appeared within the water of the water tower the villagers just knocked it over, as they watched the water spilling out, the shape of Miel appeared. One second she was just water and the next she became a real human. No one could ever explain what happened or how it happened. Because of this day, but also because of the roses that grow out of her wrist, Miel is called weird and she doesn’t have any friend, except one Sam. No one knows much about Sam and his mother’s life before they moved to town. His habit to hang moons in the trees, makes him considered as odd and it’s naturally that Sam and Miel became inseparable. But even they know to stay away from Las Gringas Bonitas, four vain sisters rumoured to be witches.
The Bonner sisters are described as beautiful, and they easily get boys to fall in love with them. However, they begin to think Miel’s roses are magic and that they can help them gain power. I enjoyed the Bonner Sisters; they were equally mysterious and frightening in a way that gave me goosebumps. Even though their powers were never explicitly described, I’m pretty sure they do have magic in the end, but the prose was so enchanting that it was enough to make me feel the creepy and eerie vibe without needing any proof whatsoever. This book was totally unexpected! I seldom read magical realism but here the writing style was lush and poetic, that it alone perfectly helped set the atmosphere. It made my whole experience reading this book enjoyable and it helped me to get invested in the story.
“When they both realized they were heartbroken enough to want the love torn from their rib cages, they touched each other with their hands and their mouths, and they forgot they wanted to be cured.”
The most perfect part of this book, in my opinion, was the glorious diversity. The combination of the magical story and real culture and traditions was beautifully and respectfully done. This book doesn’t shy away from reality and doesn’t hide behind the genre to avoid tackling social issues. All the lightness (for example, the gossips…) were used for a deeper purpose, to show how society is always scrutinizing your every move and how people will always have something to say about you. These not only reflected on the main characters but also on the Bonner Girls for instance. To avoid being judged, many will keep secret, hide their true self, that’s what Miel and Sam decided to do in this book. Sam’s secret lays heavily on his shoulders but Miel is here to help him with it. To her, keeping this secret is the most important thing she ever had to do and she protects it fiercely. She is ready to fight for it and she is even ready to die if it means protecting it. Unfortunately, one of the Bonner Sister discovered Sam’s secret and she is threatening to divulge it if Miel doesn’t give her roses away.
Sam and Miel’s relationship was so cute and heartwarming, I really adored reading about their love and respect to one another. At first inseparable friends, they slowly shifted into a blooming romance filled with adoration and acceptance. I could really feel Sam’s struggle with his own body He was assigned a gender he does not identify with at his birth, and a Pakistani custom called bacha posh made him pass as a boy for years, and he never wants people to know what is (or more accurately isn’t) inside his pants. I really love how the sex between them was told as well. However, in my opinion, the line between metaphors and actual action was really thin and it made things difficult to guess. The plot was driven solely by the characters and their struggle, and I would have liked it better if an actual story was happening.
“To the boys who get called girls,
the girls who get called boys,
and those who live outside these words.
To those called names,
and those searching for names of their own.
To those who live on the edges,
and in the spaces in between.
I wish for you every light in the sky.”
Overall, When the Moon Was Ours was my first book by Anna-Marie McLemore, but it won’t be my last. I really enjoyed myself and writing about diversity is always tricky, but the author managed to respectfully and accurately portray minorities of race and gender. The story was woven in Spanish tales and included some real culture practices that I didn’t know about and that I was happy to research. Other than that, I could only advise you to read the author’s note. In my opinion, it is almost mandatory and it really gave depth and purpose to the book.
Have you read or will you read this book?
What did you think about it?