Throwback Thursday Review | When the Moon Was Ours | Anna-Marie McLemore


When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

Thomas Dunne Books, 2016, 270 pages

Trigger Warnings: Transphobia, attempted suicide

About the author: “¡Bienvenidos! I’m Anna-Marie, author of fairy tales that are as queer, Latinx, and nonbinary as I am. My books include THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, a 2016 William C. Morris YA Debut Award Finalist; 2017 Stonewall Honor Book WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS, which was longlisted for the National Book Award in Young People’s Literature; WILD BEAUTY, a Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Booklist best book of 2017; BLANCA & ROJA, a New York Times Books Review Editors’ Choice; DARK AND DEEPEST RED, a Winter 2020 Indie Next List selection; and the forthcoming THE MIRROR SEASON.” (Bio taken from the author’s website.)


Twitter: @LaAnnaMarie

Facebook: @AnnaMarieMcLemore

“‘Miel,” Aracely said. ‘This isn’t me hiding. Me trying to be her son, that was hiding. This’ —the tips of her nails, painted the color of champagne grazed Miel’s forearm—’this is me not hiding.'”

In a world where pumpkin patches turn to glass, Miel still manages to be strange. She is embedded in the memory of her town as the girl who poured out of the derelict water tower, terrified, with little memory of her past. But no one can recall a time when she wasn’t closest to Sam; a boy known to paint moons in every shade. Miel’s roses, which grow constantly from her wrist, become the interest of the four Bonner sisters. Beautiful, distant, and alluring to almost all boys, the powerful sisters seem to finally be slipping. Miel struggles to protect Sam’s past while still resisting the Bonners’ demands, but, along the way, she must confront her own past, too. 

When the Moon Was Ours is a book worth analysis. While the magical realism of the book was captivating, the plot involving the Bonner sisters’ plans to steal Miel’s roses takes a sharp backseat to other elements of the book. Specifically, the book focuses on Sam’s character who is a transgender boy. 

It is vital to include characters like Sam who are shown to be strong, kind, and worthy of love as their whole selves, and for that I can applaud McLemore. However, much of the plot’s movement hinged on the threat of Sam’s identity being swiftly exposed. Though one of the two main characters, Sam’s personality often felt reduced down to the threats of other people and his discomfort with himself. The threat of being outed is a real fear for many LGBT people, but by centering the plot’s movement around that threat, Sam seemed to have little agency for himself.

PRR Writer, Grace Kennedy

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