Review: When the Moon was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

when-the-moon-was-ours Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Release date: October 4, 2016
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 288
Goodreads || Book Depository

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.


5 stars

When the Moon was Ours is the epitome of everything that I love in a story. It had beautiful writing, a romance and friendship that gave me hope, and magical realism elements that left me in wonder. This book isn’t for everyone, but if you love all of the things that I mentioned above, I think you will absolutely fall in love with this story.

I read Anna-Marie McLemore’s The Weight of Feathers at the beginning of this year and fell in love. That novel is still my favourite of her books but When the Moon was Ours explores other things that are near and dear to my heart. The diversity in this novel is absolutely amazing and I loved the exploration of and focus on identity and having the courage to be the person we want to be. This novel follows two LGBTQ+ characters: Sam, a transgender boy, and his queer best friend, Miel. And what I appreciated about this LGBTQ+ representation was that it didn’t feel forced. McLemore incorporates the exploration of gender identity so well into her plot, her characters and her magical realism elements, and everything just worked seamlessly and effortlessly. While I do read a lot of LGBTQ+ fiction, I’ve read very few books that feature transgender main characters and When the Moon was Ours is by far the best. It thoroughly examines the struggle that transgender people go through, including the fear of rejection by the community and the fear of nonacceptance by family and friends. It explores the courage that it takes to tell others and to own your identity. It was evident that these issues mean a lot to the author and it’s particularly special knowing that her own personal story is reflected in this novel.

This book not only has diversity of sexual orientation, it also includes lots of culturally diverse characters. Sam is Pakistani and there’s a lot of Pakistani food and culture mentioned in the book. McLemore uses a Pakistani cultural practice called bacha posh quite heavily in her book and I really enjoyed how much of the plot and Sam’s identity was tied to this. Bacha posh is a practice where families without boys will choose one of their daughters to dress and live as a boy until they are old enough to get married. In the novel, Sam hides behind the practice of bacha posh and uses it as an excuse to keep living as a boy, without hurting or disappointing his mother. I just really appreciated how these cultural elements were incorporated into the story and that the author wasn’t scared to include a lot of diversity in her novel. Cultural identity is important and McLemore highlights this importance brilliantly in her book.

She was a place whose darkness held not fear, but the promise of stars.

My favourite thing about this book is definitely the relationships. The romance between Sam and Miel was first and foremost a friendship and I loved how much they supported each other through the good times and the bad. Their connection was great and the way that they kept each others secrets and protected each other was really beautiful. But it wasn’t just the relationship between Sam and Miel that warmed my heart. I absolutely adored Sam’s relationship with his mother, as well as Miel’s relationship with Aracely, the lady who takes in Miel at a young age. The family and friendship elements were exquisite and made the book extremely touching and enjoyable to read.

All of the beautiful elements that I’ve discussed above make it unnecessary to even talk about the plot because at this point you’ve probably already run away to order the book. But I also absolutely loved the plot. I thought it was extremely clever and the way that the magical realism elements tied into the themes of the book as well as the plot was really masterful. I loved all the magic and the quirkiness of the story and its setting, even though it was surprisingly creepy and thrilling. There were some amazing plot twists that I didn’t see coming and I highly enjoyed every last word of this novel.


14 thoughts on “Review: When the Moon was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

  1. Nick says:

    I’m glad to see you liked this one so much, Jenna. I really adored all the diversity too and how thought-provoking the book was. I did find it to be confusing in spots though which is why I didn’t love it as much as The Weight of Feathers. Still, it was a really good book and I think a lot of teens will benefit from reading it.
    Lovely review, Jenna!


  2. Ksenia says:

    Beautiful review, Jenna. This sounds like a very unique story. I haven’t read any of this author’s books. I rarely pick up magical realism books, but you convinced me to give it a try.


  3. Liam @ Hey Ashers! says:

    The more I hear about this book, the more I need it in my life. I hadn’t known that Sam is Pakistani, nor that Pakistani culture is portrayed in the story. Sounds like I need to make an emergency trip to the library this weekend.

    Lovely review! =)


  4. Lois says:

    I absolutely adored The Weight of Feathers, so I am positive that I am going to love this book as well. I love that the exploration of LGBTQ+ issues never felt forced and the elements of cultural diversity. More than that it sounds like i am going to love the character journeys and the way they explore and accept their identities. The touch of magical realism is simply a bonus. 😀


  5. aentee @ read at midnight says:

    I am so glad to hear you enjoyed this book, the imageries with the moons and the roses already have me all excited because I am already planning the graphics I will make. Wonderful to see such a diversity of experiences being championed in this book as well, and the romance sound simply magical *A*


  6. Chantal says:

    That settles it. I’m reading The Weight of Feathers next. These books sound amazing. I love the diversity aspect and when magical realism is done right I adore it. Thanks for the fantastic review, Jenna!


  7. Jeann @ Happy Indulgence says:

    I can tell how much you loved this novel Jenna, it sounds so beautiful and I love the diversity featuring the transgender character and Pakistani culture. I’m going to have to track this one down! Lovely review, I can’t wait to read The Weight of Feathers as well!


  8. Lectito says:

    I’ve been hearing wonderful things about this book, and you’re review has made me even more keen to check it out. I also really love the cover. So whimsical. 🙂


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