McLemore, Anna-Marie. When the Moon Was Ours. 288p. ebook available. St. Martin’s/Thomas Dunne. Oct. 2016. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250058669.
Gr 9 Up –Love bests every opponent in this surreal exploration of familial bonds and sexual identity. Teens Sam and Miel have been best friends for years, ever since Miel appeared, sodden and terrified, amid the flooded ground around an overturned water tower. As their friendship unfolds into romance, long-repressed secrets and rumors clamor for air. Sam is reticent and obsessed with painting moons on paper and metal. Miel and her guardian, Aracely, are thought to be witches—Miel because roses grow beautifully and painfully out of her wrist one at a time, and Aracely because she cures lovelorn townspeople with potions she creates. Until recently, the four haughty, gorgeous Bonner sisters held mysterious sway over the hearts of the town’s young men. Now that their power has gone, they believe Miel’s roses are the fix they need, and they have no scruples about using physical cruelty or blackmail to get what they want. Amid the ordinariness of the small-town setting, McLemore winds arabesques of magical realism. This imbues the narrative with the feel of a centuries-old fairy tale, while the theme of sexual identity gives it the utmost relevance. Some teens might be put off by the frequent descriptions of egg and pumpkin varieties and their associated shapes, colors, and uses. VERDICT Readers who stick with this novel will be rewarded with a love story that is as endearingly old-fashioned as it is modern and as fantastical as it is real.–
This review was published in the School Library Journal August 2016 issue.