Review: When The Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

 When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

Published by: Thomas Dunne /St. Martin’s Press

Date of Publication: October 4th 2016

Genres: Young Adult/Magical Realism/LGBTQ

Pages: 288

Format: eGalley (Netgalley)

Rating: ★★★★★(5 stars)



Goodreads Synopsis:

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.

I’d like to thank Thomas Dunne /St. Martin’s Press for approving me to receive an eGalley of When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


When the Moon Was Ours is the story of two best friends, Miel & Sam who meet when they are children, under unusual circumstances. The town’s water tower has fallen & Miel, a child at the time is found sitting there when the water washes away. The belief is that she came from the water tower. Sam is the only person/child that Miel allows to approach her & since that day, they’ve been inseparable. A friendship that grows with them & eventually turns into much more. Both Miel & Sam hold secrets close to their hearts. This is their story of coming to terms with, accepting, and loving who they are. It’s about releasing your fears & understanding your loved one’s journey at their pace. A story about self-identity & living your truth. Sam short for Samir is a transgender Pakistani boy who the town often refers to as moon for all of the globes/moons he paints & hangs all throughout the town and woods. Sam & his mother who is a stay at home teacher, moved to the town with no paper trail to their past. Miel (Spanish to English translation: Honey) is a Latina girl with a fear of pumpkins & is believed to have been cursed. Miel has an open wound on her arm where a rose with vines & thorns grow. when in full bloom, Miel offers them up to the river. Miel was taken in & cared for by a neighbor after she was found by the tower of water. The neighbor, a Latina woman who is known as the town’s Curandera, specializes in curing lovesickness. The story revolves around Miel, Sam, Sam’s mom, Aracely (Miel’s caretaker), and lastly the Bonner sisters (4 in total). The Bonner sisters are known for their beauty, red hair, and ability to attract any male in town with little to no effort as if they have bewitched them. When one of the Bonner sisters does something that could bring shame to the family, she is sent away. It is her return that shakes up Miel & Sam’s lives. The Bonner sisters seem to have lost their magic but believe the  rumor that the roses growing from Miel’s arm can restore beauty & attraction, are true. So begins this story filled with pain, sadness, and beauty…

“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.”


I LOVED these characters so much that my heart was breaking for them for more than 80% of the book. Sam, a transgender Pakistani boy who binds his chest & practices his voice to make sure it sounds low & developed at the same rate as other boys in school. Sam who adopts a tradition that his grandmother passed on to him, called bacha posh “a cultural practice in parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan in which families who have daughters but no sons dress a daughter as a boy. The daughter then acts as a son to the family. As an adult, a bacha posh traditionally returns to living as a girl, now a woman” Sam adopts this tradition thinking he would one day want to be a woman. Sam will forever be in my heart for all of his beauty & tenderness towards Miel. For all of the moons he lit up & hung around the homes of children who couldn’t sleep. Miel is a girl who carries guilt, pain, and beauty on her arm. This book is full of metaphors & beautiful prose but it’s clear that the roses are connected to Miel’s own heart. The cruelty she experiences at the hands of the Bonner sisters broke my heart into pieces & I felt the need to protect her. The parentals, it’s rare nowadays that you come across parentals in YA books that you actually like but that are also flawed themselves. Such is the case with Sam’s mom & Aracely who is Miel’s caretaker, these women have plenty of pain of their own but they both are portrayed as very strong women.  What I loved the most about these two is the support & understanding they both provided to Sam & Miel. They guided both Miel & Sam, making sure to toughen them up for what was sure to come.


The writing in When The Moon Was Ours is full of magic, folklore and legends. Lush with the littlest of details making their world come to life on the pages. So much beauty in the words for these characters who experienced profound pain & sadness. Sam went out of his way to bring out the beauty of the night to Miel & we can feel how much he truly loves her. I found myself caught up on some of the prose describing how he viewed Miel, tissue at the ready. When I read violent scenes I was always struck by the contrast in the world Sam & Miel had created for themselves next to what it really is. To be honest I didn’t know if this book was for me because although I love Magical Realism, McLemore’s writing is very lyrical & reminiscent of Laini Taylor…I just have to be in the mood for their style of writing. Thankfully I decided to stick with it & now I have a new favorite story that will for sure stay in my heart.


I actually read the afterward at the end of this book & I’m glad because Anna-Marie McLemore shares a bit of where she drew inspiration for this book. She met her husband when they were both teens & always wondered whether he was transgender. There were moments where she noticed his awkwardness at being grouped with other females. She provided for him the same understanding that he gave her. Anna-Marie had nightmares of La Llorona as a child. In myths she is said to have drowned her own children & roamed around wailing at night and stealing daughters from their parents. She talks about providing that understanding for her husband when he did decide to live his life in the gender he identifies with. It wouldn’t be until many years later that she would write When the Moon Was Ours, a story that at its base is an extension of her own life experiences. Reading this part about the author’s personal experience made this story all the more special.

Author: LairOfBooks

"I didn't choose the Book Life, the Book Life chose me"

45 thoughts on “Review: When The Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore”

    1. Thank you Gretchen! it was a very magical read that required a little bit of patience but the reward was all worth it. I think you would enjoy this one, many of the sentences are prosey, lyrical…even poem like 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I’m so glad you enjoyed this Lilly! I haven’t read it myself yet, as you know, but with each review that I read I want to drop everything and pick it up. It sounds like a wonderful, important, and magical story. I’m definitely going to have to try to stuff it in this month’s TBR. I started out planning to binge read ToG and ended up with Six of Crows, a review book, hopefully this one, and maybe a thriller 😂. Great review as always! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Melissa! It’s def a magical story with beautiful writing, just have to be in the mood for it as it is heavy both in writing & emotion. I’m glad you’re enjoying SOC! Although I enjoyed TOG, nothing beats SOC😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome! 😊
        I’ve always loved lyrical, flowy writing but yeah stories with heavier emotions are definitely a need to be in the mood for it type read. And even though I haven’t read ToG I’m going to have to agree with you. 🙈

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Wonderful review, Lilly! I checked this one out a few times, but my score wasn’t looking so hot at the time. 😂 I could see me reading this, but it would have to be after horror month. I haven’t read much cuteness lately. It’s been all horror and darkness. 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Jill! 😊💕this one is much less cute & way more heartbreaking & just sad 😔 you def have to be in the mood not only for the writing style but also the heavy emotion it stirs up. Spookathon looks like fun, I’m going to read 1 or 2 darker books to honor the mths mood 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, I save those heavy hitters for when I’m in the mood, which is not very often. I haven’t even read a romance novel in months. Crazy, huh? I love my spooky month. I’m the Queen of Horror! 👻 I even wrote a short story for Drew about a killer circus. 🙂 I plan to share it on my blog, so you’ll get to read my creepy writing. lol I can’t wait to see what you read for the month. Oh and I bought Hocus Pocus tonight. I think I’ll review that along with some Freddy movies. 🙂

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      2. Jill!!!🙈 lmao! You are the Queen of Horror! But I love it! Hocus Pocus will forever be a fave of mine😊that movie brings back so many great childhood memories, look forward to your review AND reading that Killer Circus short story. No reason why Drew should get all the fun 😂😂😂

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      3. I feel the same way about Hocus Pocus. I love it! Thanks! 🙂 Haha! I wrote it at Drew’s request, and then I was like wait, let’s post this bad boy on our blogs. It’s called Circus of Blood. *insert Joker laugh here* Lol 😂

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Haha! Joker is awesome! I’m posting it in pieces. It starts off with a creepy newspaper article and then progresses into full-blown creepfest! It’s awesome! 👻 I’ll probably post each piece the week before Halloween.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. First of all, what a fabulous new header!! And second: fantastic review Lilly! I had never heard of bacha posh but it does make sense and must be so confusing for those girls in general. I happen to have a strong dislike for magical realism but this one sounds, well, really magical! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Anne! You are the 1st person to notice😊💕 lol. I had never heard of bacha posh either but now I’m looking for other fiction novels written about this custom. Magical Realism can be tough to get through, my fave is A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness because it wasn’t hard to digest at all. This one was a bit heavy but I had a day off & managed to read it in one sitting. It is quite magical though 🙃🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. BOOYAH!! Sorry, I just had to say that because I’m usually the last person when it comes to…a lot XD. I feel like doing the same actually! What you said about gaining a little wisdom applies to your review as well :).Oh, I didn’t know that A Monster Calls was magical realism O_o. I still want to read that one!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Aww! Yay! Gretchen at Chicnerdreads gave me the little push I needed to go on PicMonkey & create my header lol. Thanks btw😉 & A Monster Calls is Magical Realism for those who don’t like it, it’s very enjoyable & not trippy at all. It’s perfect for this season & worth a read. I fell in love with that story so much that I spent all day Friday trying to stalk Patrick Ness at Comiccon but I failed 😂😂😂 I’ll have to buy my collectors edition next week when it’s released 😆😆😆

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I need to check out PicMonkey as well. The Canva search option is driving me nuts! Ooh, down-to-earth magical realism: me like! ;D Hahahaha, d’awwe! Yup, I guess that’s the only other option! 😉 ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  4. This is a great review Lilly, and I am so glad you enjoyed this book as well! I was lucky enough to get an ARC of When the Moon Was Ours too and it’s become one of my favourite magical realism books. I fell in love with all the characters, especially Miel and Sam but even the Bonner sisters were characters who, by the end, I really felt for, and just loved the story. Do you have any plans to read Anna Marie McLemore’s other magical realism book, The Weight of Feathers? I didn’t enjoy that as much as this one but it’s still an amazing read.
    Great review! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Beth😊💕this was such a magical read that pulls you in & doesn’t let go. I wish we had a bit more of the Bonner sisters but I agree, they were also characters you come to feel for. I’ve heard mixed reviews on The Weight of Feathers, don’t think I will read that one but I am keeping an eye out for this authors next work 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s all right! 🙂 Definitely, I wish I could read this book all over again for the first time because wow, it’s just amazing. I liked what we knew of the Bonner sisters but I agree it would have been nice to have more of them.
        Oh that’s a shame, I thought it was quite a good book and I really enjoyed it. Either way I’ll be keeping an eye out for her next release as well! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I know the feeling, although I’m not able to do re-reads until I’m completely unsure of certain events/details. A few years have passed & then it doesn’t quite feel like a re-read 😂😂😂

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