book review: when the moon was ours by anna-marie mclemore


Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Release date: October 4, 2016
Genres: YA, Magical Realism, Fantasy

Pages: 288
Rating: 5 stars
Goodreads Blurb:

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.


Disclaimer: This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

As usual, I have no idea where to start when I’m absolutely head-over-heels in love with a book. 

tumblr_inline_mlxv0fIYR31qz4rgp.gifI was already a huge fan of this author’s writing so naturally, I started this book with  high expectations. And, (unsurprisingly), within minutes, I was completely immersed in the gorgeous prose and empathizing with the characters. 

The most memorable aspect of this book is the characters. The author truly makes them come alive with vivid descriptions.  Sam, an American Pakistani transgender boy, who can be found painting & hanging moons all over town, was my favorite character. Through Sam, When the Moon Was Ours explores gender identity and what it means to be a boy or a girl. Miel, on the other hand, is a Latina girl with roses growing out of her wrists. She “spilled out of a water tower when she was five” and doesn’t know where she came from. 

We know from the start that Sam and Miel are in love. This love drives the characters to make decisions that, they hope, will protect the ones they love. There are layers upon layers of secrets surrounding these characters’ existence and as the book progresses, these secrets come out into the open. Part of what fuels the character’s development is their interactions with other characters – namely, the Bonner girls, who could have easily been labeled the villains of this story. But once again, Mclemore outdoes herself by creating complex, rich, characters that aren’t easily definable. In fact, the Bonner girls seemed more akin to a force of nature. These girls want Miel’s roses because they believe the rumours about her roses having the ability to make anyone fall in love with them. 

I also loved how this book explores the way culture shapes one’s life. Bacha posh, a Pakistani culture practice, was described at length. Bacha posh is when girls dress and behave like boys (partly to support their families). Eventually, they will live as fully grown women but Sam, initially believes that he is one of these girls dressed as a boy and doing so is necessary to support his single mother. This alongwith other cultural elements and practices are effortlessly weaved into When the Moon Was Ours

With great transgender and PoC representation, an amazing cast of characters, and stunning prose, When the Moon Was Ours is definitely a book worth checking out.


9 thoughts on “book review: when the moon was ours by anna-marie mclemore

  1. Ugh, I am ridiculously excited about this book, and I cry over the fact that I pre-ordered it, and it has arrived, but I can’t read it yet. All because of review copies, and my lack of self control when it comes to review copies. *sigh*

    I have only heard good things about this book so far, which makes me really keen because sometimes a book can sound good, but be terrible. But it doesn’t seem like that is the case with When the Moon Was Our, which is just amazing. Also: intersectional diversity … Y E S.

    I’m so glad you liked this one, Rachana!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh gosh, I have zero self control too. But the good thing is that you have a copy!! And I’m sure you’ll love it when you *do* get around to reading it. I was so relieved that this *wasn’t* one of those books that sound good but aren’t haha.


  2. Oh WOW, I really need to get my hands on this one! It sounds so incredible! I knew that it was definitely diverse, which is awesome- but it sounds like it is incredibly well done too, which makes it a MUST read. I love when authors have great representation AND phenomenal characters AND a great story- those are seriously THE best books ever! ::Runs to Amazon to add it to my wishlist:: Wonderful review, I am so glad you loved it!

    Liked by 1 person

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