First Review of 2021: When the Moon was Ours - Anna-Marie McLemore
Genre: Young Adult, Magical Realism
Published: Thomas Dunne Books, October 2016
My Rating: 4/5 stars
“They would remember only that Miel and Sam had been called Honey and Moon, a girl and a boy woven into the folklore of this place.”
The first book towards my 2021 reading-challenge is a fact, and it was a good one!
It’s a difficult book for me to review, as I feel its such a gamechanger in important own-voice representation (especially in the year it was published), and I feel wholly inadequate to speak to any of it. As far as I can tell from my own feeling about the book, the beautiful reviews I’ve read from people who can speak to it, and fact that it’s own-voices, I understand it’s brilliant.
I will share a little of my thoughts at the end of this review, but I really rather you don’t take my word for it, and please seek out some of the excellent own-voice reviews that have been written on this book.
What I can speak about is my love for Anna-Marie McLemore’s prose. They are one of my favourite authors when it comes to their artistry with language and When the Moon was Ours is just as much as testament to that as the previous work I’ve read by them. Although I personally liked the plot a little less than I did that of Wild Beauty (my favourite book by them), I think I prefer the imagery and the atmosphere infused with Latinex folklore in this one.
The friendship-to-lover-romance between Miel and Sam is beautiful, although I do have to take one star off my 5 for the huge amount of miscommunication needed to carry the plot. I understand this is a story about teenagers making mistakes and finding their way, but for my personal enjoyment it was a bit too much at times.
Other than that I have absolutely 0 complaints. Please read this book if you love magical realism, beautiful writing that flows like poetry and stories steeped in folklore, magic and transcendental love.
Regarding the representation:
Again, I cannot speak to the LGBTQ+ representation in this book, but having been a sensitivity reader and reviewer for many other kinds of minority-representations, I do have some thoughts to share:
When it comes to representation I often feel there are two types of “diverse books”:
1. the ones that are written for people within the “majority population” to give a surface level understanding and show their virtuous nature for sympathizing
2. the ones written for and by people within these minorities and anyone truly willing to have a glance at the innerworld of someone else, whether they’re similar or completely different to them.
The more I read, the easier it becomes to distinguish the two, regardless of the content of the representation, and Anna-Marie McLemore’s work falls squarely in the second category. They write from the heart, without any fear or quasi-educational pretences. It’s why I support and trust them as an author and hope many more people will find their way to their books.
As for me, I’ll be here eagerly awaiting the publication of The Mirror Season if you need me…