When the Moon Was Ours

28220826by Anna-Marie McLemore
YA Contemporary / Magical Realism
5 of 5 stars

The trouble with reviewing a book of this quality is the fact that your own writing will be so inadequate you’re left using bland superlatives in an attempt to communicate the sublime experience you just had. It’s “incredible” “amazing” “beautiful” and really all anyone can take from that is “So you liked it a LOT.”

Yes, I liked this story a LOT.

This is magical realism at its most powerful. Miel fell out of a water tower when she was five and grows roses from her wrist. Sam is a bacha posh who paints moons and hangs them all over town. The two have been inseparable best friends until now, when they are seventeen and facing feelings that could change their relationship. Their growing attraction has to bend around Sam’s gradual realization that his identity as a boy goes deeper than the clothes he wears or the body he has. Miel has another reason for hesitance: the Bonner sisters (four girls the town views as witches) decide they want Miel’s roses and threaten to reveal all of her secrets—and steal Sam’s love away—if she doesn’t comply.

The small town is full of delicious, dangerous magic, and people that are all struggling to claim their identities despite the lies they tell themselves or the gossip other people whisper about them. Everything addressed in this story is handled sensitively and with an emotional resonance that will inspire you to see yourself and others in a nicer light.

That was the best I can do—add this to your list no matter what you normally read and let its magic unfold.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, When the Moon Was Ours is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Bone Gap by Laura Ruby – Finn is horrified when Roza goes missing, just like the rest of Bone Gap, Illinois. He alone wants to keep searching for her several months later, despite his disgrace. He was the only who saw the man that took Roza–but he can’t remember his face. This story is filled with magical realism and heartbreaking truths about people. See my review here.
  • Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar – Another story featuring bees and magical realism, this one takes place in the Southwest. Carolina’s family is spending the summer at her grandfather’s ranch, prepping it for sale. Her grandfather is going to an assisted living home (against his will) and Carolina is caught in the middle of her family’s drama. Then her grandfather’s story about a village, a tree, and magic bees starts to seem less like fiction and more like family history. See my review here.
  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli – Simon is only “out” with his mysterious email pen pal Blue. Both of them haven’t told each other their real names, but their growing relationship is threatened by another student who will expose their emails to the school unless Simon helps him land a girlfriend. See my review here.
  • Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero – Another story about learning not to spit on your roots–Gabi is Mexican-American and it seems like she is always becoming either too Mexican or too American for those around her. This book explores her senior year through her diary as she opens up to writing and dealing with the complex highs and lows of high school. See my review here.
  • Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma – I love this magical realism story about a small town with a reservoir and two sisters–Ruby, who is everything, and Chloe, who looks up to her older sister. Ruby will do anything to keep her sister safe with her–even if it means bending the reality of their town and everyone in it. See my review here.

This Adventure Ends

27779275by Emma Mills
YA Contemporary
5 of 5 stars

I grabbed this last year because it’s essentially my favorite color–I thought it would be fun (it definitely was!) but I did not expect to feel so connected to Sloane. I did not expect to feel like Emma Mills was calling me out on my sh*t. It’s a special book that makes you feel vulnerable, understood, and inspired without ever alienating you. So glad I randomly added this to my pile last fall!

But let me back up.

Sloane moves from NYC to Florida with her family for her senior year. She knows this would really piss off most seniors, but she doesn’t much care. She has turned “not caring too much” into an art form, until she breaks up a fight at a party and finds herself drawn into the dynamic and broken lives of popular twins Gabe and Vera. When a beloved painting from their deceased mother goes missing, Sloane makes it her mission to get it back.

Maybe I only connected to Sloane’s special brand of well-meaning earnestness that inevitably turns into awkwardness because it reminded me so strongly of myself, but I like to think the writing is strong enough to pull anyone in. It creates that wistful feeling that you wish you were friends with these characters.

This story revolves around the complicated nature of friendship, which is often overlooked in favor of romance. This one puts attraction on the backburner, choosing instead to study how you become and stay friends now that social media dominates the landscape (don’t worry, it doesn’t get all preachy about technology ruining Today’s Youth or anything). It actually just highlights how it’s harder to know if someone is your friend or just a follower, how you have a public persona and a deeply private one, and how you must reconcile those two sides of yourself. At times I felt guided along, but I did not mind.

What I really loved was the number of strained conversations between Sloane and everyone else. There aren’t snappy retorts and witty banter so much as the moments you feel you can’t tell the truth, so you give a one-word answer. You make a joke rather than addressing the real issue, even when the joke is terrible. Deflections rather than the deeper conversations. Finding ways to tell your friends you care without having to pull the words out. This book works hard in the best way—it’s a new favorite for me!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, This Adventure Ends is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater – Another inseparable group of friends that you just want to be friends with (but possibly more so, because Magic). Blue, the psychic’s un-psychic daughter, joins a group of prep school boys to find a Welsh king in suspended animation so they can claim a wish. Or something. See my review here.
  • When We Collided by Emery Lord – Vivi’s summer in a beach town is already off to a great start when she meets the attractive and quiet Jonah. A summer romance, perfect! Because neither of them have intense personal secrets that could erupt at any time. See my review here.
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – A co-dependent anxiety-filled twin must spend her freshman year of college apart from her sister, and decide whether her roommate’s friend can draw her out of her fanfiction world and into the real one.
  • You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner – Another art-filled story of friendship–and rivalry. When Julia is expelled and becomes the only Deaf girl in a mainstream school, she throws herself into her art even more. But she unwittingly stumbles into a turf war and must figure out who is trying to push her out. See my review here.

What’s new this month

I’m so excited for this month’s books! I tend to gravitate towards contemporary stories in the summer and I will have plenty to choose from:

303128605/2 – Always & Forever, Lara Jean – by Jenny Han

Lara Jean is a senior now, and she has her wonderful boyfriend Peter and her dad is getting remarried–which means Margot is coming home for the summer! But it’s Lara Jean’s turn to make the tough decisions Margot faced: where to go to college, and what that means for her relationship with Peter. I love these sister relationships and I’m ready for one more story with Lara Jean! These are fun, light-hearted summer reads with gorgeous covers.

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


278302875/9 – It Started with Goodbye – by Christina June

This debut’s gorgeous cover grabbed me months ago and I’m so excited to dive into this modern-day Cinderella retelling. Tatum Elsea is stuck in her grandmother’s house for the summer after being falsely accused of a crime. Between community service and her secret graphic arts job she’s keeping busy–and then she finds out she isn’t the only one in the house with secrets. I’m so intrigued by the hint of romance and what her “step-abuela-slash-fairy-godmother” is going to do for her!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

 


314492275/9 – Ramona Blue – by Julie Murphy

This book has received a lot of attention due to a somewhat confusing synopsis. Ramona Blue is described as one of only two out lesbians in her small town. The town is recovering from Hurricane Katrina, her younger sister is pregnant, and Ramona picks up a lot of responsibilities around the house thanks to her parents’ issues. Then her childhood best friend Freddie returns, and they start swimming together–and then Ramona might have feelings for him. The description has changed a few times, but I think the intent is for a girl who thought she was a lesbian to discover she is bisexual, which can be polarizing.

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


233080875/16 – Flame in the Mist – by Renee Ahdieh

My fantasy pick for this month! Pitched as a Mulan-inspired story of Mariko, a girl pledged in an arranged marriage for her family, only to be attacked on her way to her betrothed. Disguised as a boy, she infiltrates the ranks of the Black Clan hired to assassinate her, and uncovers a lengthy history secrets and murders. I have not had a girl-impersonating-a-boy story in so long, and I’m so curious how this one will go and what Mariko will do to set herself free!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


300389065/16 – The Names They Gave Us – by Emery Lord

Emery Lord, my feminist giver of life advice, finally has a new book out! Lucy has the rug pulled out from under her this summer. Her mother’s cancer reappears, her boyfriend wants to take a break, and instead of working at the Christian Bible camp she is assigned to a camp for “troubled” kids. She attempts to be positive about all these changes, but she can’t fully stifle her questions and doubts; and when family secrets come to light she will have to decide how to handle her relationships and her future. Her books always make me laugh and cry and I’m sure this will be no different!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


284585985/30 – When Dimple Met Rishi – by Sandhya Menon

Another debut! An arranged marriage between two Indian-American teens with both of their POVs. Dimple and Rishi have completely different ideas about romance and relationships, but when they both show interest in the same web-developer summer program their parents think it might be a good match. This sounds so cute! Their opposing views, natural attraction that was possibly influenced by their parents without Dimple’s knowledge–this sounds like the perfect rom-com setup and I’m sure I’ll devour this with a big smile!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

You’re Welcome, Universe

25701463by Whitney Gardner
YA Contemporary
4 of 5 stars
Debut novel: March 7, 2017

From the first chapter, Julia’s adamant self-confidence prepared me for a wild ride! When her friend is the victim of a graffiti slur on the school’s wall, Julia takes care of it herself. It’s what friends are for, right? Apparently not, because Jordyn rats her out, and Julia is expelled.

At her new school, Julia has to have an interpreter–she is the only Deaf student.  She’s ready for a fresh-start trust-no-one no-friends year, until her tags start getting attention from another artist, forcing her to retaliate.

The short chapters flew by (embellished with artwork!) as Julia reluctantly befriends an ex-cheerleader she dubs YP and hides her continued passion for painting from her moms. Her friendship with YP ended up being the gold nugget of this book for me! I loved that this story explored the highs and lows of friendships through Jordyn and YP–the devastation of betrayal and the joy of finding someone who Gets You.

Julia’s self-assurance gives her the confidence to strike out on her own, but it also lands her in serious trouble. The contrast of needing faith in yourself with knowing when you’re wrong made her such a fun character to spend time with. Even when I knew she was screwing up I was cheering for her! So many YA books focus on obtaining confidence to begin with, which is fine, but it’s fun to spend time with a girl who acts first and contemplates later (if ever).

What else did I love? Every character had the chance to show Julia (and me) the layers beneath a first impression. Good or bad, nobody was merely what Julia saw at first glance and it’s even more impressive in such a short book.

What else did I love? We stick to a pretty routine high school schedule. So often I find myself thinking “Oh yeah, homework, class, an after-school job…where are those elements?” For me, high school was busy! Julia is too, and her mundane job at McDonald’s is part of her life. Having a crush on her coworker–and watching her ex-best friend flirt with him–is part of her life. That feeling of high school being a small and pervasive bubble of drama you can’t escape is so real here!

Honestly there’s just a lot to love! This is a quick read with cool art, grab it! If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, You’re Welcome, Universe is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord – What struck me about You’re Welcome, Universe was the friendship and this is a goldmine of female friendships! See my review here.
  • Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero – A beautiful story about a girl finding herself and her strength through her poetry, as told in her senior year diary. See my review here.
  • Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes – Maguire is convinced she is cursed with bad luck, but a trip to her family’s relatives in Ireland convinces her to try a new form of therapy. A wry and emotional story of Maguire’s progress in the form of challenges she sets herself, with good friendships and a bit of romance along the way. See my review here.

What to read again:

Reading the previous books in a series a second time lets you soak up all the nuances and speculate about what’s going to happen next—I find it makes the whole experience richer and more fun! What am I going to start re-reading?

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

This is such a cute series about Lara Jean, the middle of three sisters, and their struggles to navigate sibling and romantic relationships. When Lara Jean’s secret love letters to her crushes all get mailed out at the same time, she has to deal with all the boys’ questions and what this means for her current (fake) relationship with Peter. I enjoyed the second book much more than the first, (see both of my reviews here and here) but overall this is a great series and I’m looking forward to Lara Jean’s farewell!
30312860

What’s new this month

It’s a slower month for me (just as well since I have a lot of reading to catch up on!) but here’s what I’m excited about:

306538534/11 – The Upside of Unrequited – by Becky Albertalli

Molly is seventeen and heavier than she would like. Her careful avoidance of relationships has ensured her heart remains unbroken. But then her twin sister Cassie falls for a girl who brings along a cute boy that Molly immediately crushes on—but can she win him over and get her sister back? That’s hard enough without dealing with her coworker Reid who is a Tolkien fanatic Ren Faire pass-carrying nerd she could never fall for—right? This sounds like a jumbled mess of relationships and after Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda wrecked me with emotions I am very excited to read this!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


262194554/18 – The Edge of the Abyss – by Emily Skrutskie

Oh my goodness, so much was packed into the slim first book that I have itched for more ever since! Cas is such a nuanced and ruthless protagonist and she had me hooked from the first chapter. (See my review here). Three weeks after she pledged herself to Pirate Queen Santa Elena and released Bao, the Reckoner she was forced to train, Cas is still dealing with the fallout.  Not only is she training, she has to deal with Swift, the girl who broke her heart. And then she realizes there are other Reckoners roaming the seas illegally that endanger trade ships and pirates alike. It might be up to her to restore balance, even if that means betraying the creatures she used to protect.

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

What’s new this month

Spring is almost here, and the spring releases have finally arrived!

300954643/7 – The Bone Witch – by Rin Chupeco

A story about a girl who accidentally brings her brother back to life, revealing she’s a necromancer, or bone witch. Shunned by her community, she and her brother are taken in by an older bone witch so Tea can begin mastering her powers and other elemental magic. Trouble brews on the horizon and Tea needs to be ready. Pitched as a retelling of Memoirs of a Geisha with Name of the Wind.  I don’t often encounter retellings of modern stories, so consider me intrigued!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


314512673/7 – The Song Rising – by Samantha Shannon

Book three in this dystopian fantasy series finds Paige Mahoney the new queen of London’s Underworld, desperately trying to stabilize the secret voyant community as Scion attempts to destroy them once and for all. Now her enigmatic boss Jaxon Hall is her open enemy, and a new technology known as Senshield threatens to wipe out all voyants if they do not unite and act quickly. I really enjoyed the second book and I have high hopes for this one as Paige becomes even more powerful!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


257014633/7 – You’re Welcome, Universe – by Whitney Gardner

This debut novel has me very excited! Julia is a graffiti artist at Kingston School for the Deaf, but when she artfully covers up a slur directed at her best friend, her friend lands her in the principal’s office. Expelled, her mothers send her to a mainstream school, where she is the only deaf student. Isolated and outcast, she finds solace in her art—until that starts getting attention from a rival artist. I feel like I already love Julia and I can’t wait to read this story!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


303126173/28 – The Gauntlet – by Karuna Riazi

An MG novel pitched as steampunk Jumanji with Middle Eastern flair. (It’s only March and these pitches are killing it!) Farah and her two best friends are sucked into the game The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand and must defeat the game’s architect to free themselves and everyone else trapped inside the game—including her baby brother Ahmed. Of course they face inventive and terrifying obstacles! I know I will end up reading this in one sitting, it sounds absolutely fantastic!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


284492073/28 – Strange the Dreamer – by Laini Taylor

I read the teaser almost a year ago and I’ve been itching to get my hands on this ever since! Lazlo Strange is obsessed with finding the mythic, ruined city of Weep and learning what happened to it. There are mysteries, dead gods, living goddesses, and a bunch of other strange things. Solving the history of Weep is Lazlo’s dream, whether he wants it or not. It sounds similar to the Atlantis myth but beyond that it’s pure speculation as to what fresh wonders are in store for us!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble


299390473/28 – A Crown of Wishes – by Roshani Chokshi

I fell in love with the beautiful language and evocative imagery in The Star-Touched Queen and I have desperately wanted this book since its cover reveal (how can it be even more gorgeous?!) Gauri and Vikram made minor appearances in that book but they take center stage in this one as they compete to win the Tournament of Wishes and escape the constraints of their lives. In this ethereal world of myth and mystery I’m sure there are many surprises for them to uncover!

More info here: Goodreads and Barnes & Noble

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