A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that When the Moon Was Ours is the second magical realism love story by critically acclaimed author Anna-Marie McLemore. The novel blends Mexican folklore (such as the legend of La Llorona, aka the Weeping Woman) with a diverse romance between a Latina girl who can grow flowers out of her wrists and her best friend, a transgender South Asian boy. There's occasional strong language, usually "f--k" or "s--t," but also insults such as "dyke." The romantic plot does include two love scenes, one which is pretty frank in its descriptions, as well as references to the sexual exploits of four "queen bee" sisters. When the Moon Was Ours is an ideal conversation starter about teen sex and sexuality, LGBTQ discrimination, the representation of diversity in books, and the literary genre of magical realism.
What's the story?
WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS follows inseparable best friends Miel and Sam, otherwise known as Honey (which is what miel means in English) and Moon (because Sam is an artist who paints and hangs moons around their town). Miel is no ordinary teen -- flowers grow out of her wrists, and she was first discovered in the water that spilled from the local water tower when she was 5. Sam isn't ordinary, either -- he wasn't born Samir, as everyone besides Miel and his mother believes, but Samira. As their friendship turns into an intensely felt romance, they must both contend with the four beautiful red-headed Bonner sisters, who want Miel's flowers, even if they have to blackmail and torture her to claim them.
Is it any good?
This beautifully written romance is a magical fairy tale about best friends who fall in love in a poignant, honest, and life-altering way. Author Anna-Marie McLemore, a finalist for the American Library Association's William C. Morris YA Debut Award for her first novel, Weight of Feathers, outdoes herself with her second book. The novel features an atypical couple with an authenticity that stems from the author's own first-love-turned-marriage with a trans man. But even before you get to the author's note, where she lovingly explains all of that, readers will be swept up by the story and captivated by how McLemore weaves the ordinary in with the extraordinary. The entitled, clannish, and self-destructive Bonner sisters who truly believe everyone should either fall in love with them or at the very least do as they say are like The Virgin Suicides' Lisbon sisters meets the Mean Girls Plastics' clique.
Despite their years of friendship and love, Miel and Sam's evolving relationship doesn't always come up roses. They both have major identity issues to deal with, and they don't necessarily know what to say or how to say it. McLemore includes nuanced supporting characters for both Miel (Aracely, her big-sister-like guardian, a curandera -- healer -- who cures lovesickness) and Sam (his mom, who moved to their small town years earlier so a young Sam could live as a boy). Sam's gender identity is inspired by the Afghani tradition of bacha posh -- a fascinating practice in which parents with only daughters would raise one as a son until the child was past adolescence and ready for marriage. Regardless of what Sam keeps hidden, he undeniably loves Miel so much he hangs moons for her. She, in turn, would do anything to keep him safe. Richly told and unique, When the Moon Was Ours is an enchanting and unforgettable read.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how When the Moon Was Ours deals with LGBTQ issues. Does knowing that the author identifies as a queer Latina make the book more authentic?
How does sex change the central relationship in When the Moon Was Ours? What, if any, consequences are there to the sexual relationship?
Talk about the various kinds of diversity in the novel. Why are diverse representations important in children's and young adult literature?
- Author: Anna-Marie McLemore
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Thomas Dunne
- Publication date: October 6, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 18
- Number of pages: 288
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
Our editors recommend
For kids who love romance and LGBTQ stories
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.