When The Moon Was Ours
“As far as he knew, she had come from the water. But even about that, he couldn’t be sure.”
Samir and Miel have been inseparable ever since Sam was the only person to help Miel after she tumbled out of the rusty old water tower in their small town, donning a thin nightgown and screaming into her hands. Sam was the one to comfort Miel and try to give her a place to stay at his home, until his neighbor, Aracely, appeared at the door saying she might have space for this young girl made of water. They then met on the untilled land between their houses, sharing fables of lost travelers and the moon and the stars. Sam, remembering the words Miel cried when she appeared at the base of the water tower (“I lost the moon”) has since made it his mission to hang moons, in the tallest trees and around their houses, hoping to give her it back.
"WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS...has improved upon the gorgeous and fluid language that McLemore excels in....a charming and magical coming-of-age story about accepting yourself, others, and being honest...."
Their existence, strange but constant and littered with the roses that grew out of Miel’s wrist, was unmarred until Chloe Bonner, of the four alluring Bonner sisters, came back from her time away. Suddenly, the sisters, who always had a tight grip on the boys of the town, are losing their charm. The Bonner sisters believe that Miel’s roses are the key to retrieving the magnetic pull they once had. Miel and Sam are soon thrust into situations that they never wanted to be a part of and forced to confront truths that would have otherwise been forever hidden, locked away in a stained glass coffin and in the moons that Sam hung so high in the trees.
Through a glittering web of storytelling, Anna-Marie McLemore, author of the 2015 finalist for William C. Morris YA Debut Award THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, spins an unforgettable tale of finding yourself, finding love and realizing all of the moons and stars in the sky can be right down here on Earth.
Last year, when I reviewed THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, I raved about the awe-inspiring style of writing Anna-Marie McLemore maintains throughout her whole novel. Sometimes authors have moments of beautiful and lyrical clarity, but THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS was a constant barrage of these breathtaking lines, descriptions, dialogue and everything in between. I am happy to report that WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS is no different, and in some instances, has even improved upon this gorgeous and fluid language that McLemore excels in.
While I liked the premise of THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS better (I mean...rival circus performer families...inevitable Romeo & Juliet plotline...it’s hard to beat), WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS has so many vital elements added to it, especially in this day and age when diversity in literature is crucially important. In WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS, there are two transgender characters and one lesbian character. They are not side characters, either. They are main characters, essential to the plot and the development of the story. All of this plus the wonderful writing and fantastic message of acceptance for teens makes WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS a must-read. No wonder it is already long-listed for the National Book Award, and it just came out today.
Another great aspect of this novel which makes it much more meaningful is the author’s note at the end. Anna-Marie McLemore is married to a transgender man, so every emotion each character felt in WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS was real. As I was reading it, I noticed how McLemore never wrote these teenage characters in a condescending way. She wrote them with love and understanding, and when I read the Author’s Note, everything made sense. I love when authors write personal novels about subjects they have close experience with. They must be difficult to write and put out into the world, but the raw emotion comes off so well. Overall, it makes the reader and author experience highly unique, and I am always grateful to be able to read novels like this one.
Finally, I loved the ending to WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS. Throughout the novel, every tiny plot point was building to a grand finale. In the end, though, the finale was simple and perfect, like a vast crescendo in a piece of music only to be followed by a gentle ending, leaving you with a bittersweet tang in your ears but still fully satisfied. Overall, I found WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS to be a charming and magical coming-of-age story about accepting yourself, others, and being honest enough to form cracks in the facade you put on for others and the facade people put on for you.
Perfect for fans of Leslye Walton’s THE STRANGE AND BEAUTIFUL SORROWS OF AVA LAVENDER for the lyrical writing and odd-things-growing-out-of-normal-body-parts thing and THE GREAT AMERICAN WHATEVER by Tim Federle for LGBTQ+ themes and great family relationships.
Reviewed by Bryn D., Teen Board Member on October 13, 2016