– I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review. –
To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town. But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.
I chose this book because…
I haven’t read fantasy in so long, but it was one of my top genres in my childhood, so I want to find that magic again and hope to do it with this book. And you already know that I’m taken by anything to do with the celestial. Also LGBTQ themes are always a plus. The blurb of this story reminds me of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton, which I enjoyed, but is not necessarily what I’m looking for with this book. A different book is an opportunity for a new story, and there are so many still waiting to be discovered!
Upon reading it…
It took me awhile to get into the book because I couldn’t sympathise with Miel’s intense fear of pumpkins, and I also didn’t get the Bonner sisters. The idea of a group of witchy/bitchy girls that hold so much power by instilling fear in everyone is old. But I think both of these were tools of magical realism, so maybe it’s just that this genre isn’t totally down my alley.
But there were parts that I got into. Although this book is probably for younger audiences, it’s progressive and will leave you with something to think about. This story has so many things going for it, including PoC and LGBTQ themes, and the Author’s Note added a whole nother dimension to it. I think what sets this story apart is the topic of transgenderism. While LGBTQ works are growing, I feel like the majority of them talk about the experiences of being gay or les, but not as many talk about transgenderism. This could be the book that some youth need.
The surrealism in this book reminds me of Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel and Beloved by Toni Morrison, although the contents of the stories differ vastly. I suppose I was just reminded of these stories because I don’t read very much surrealism/magical realism.
To the boys who get called girls,
the girls who get called boys,
and those who live outside these words.
To those called names,
and those searching for names of their own.
To those who live on the edges,
and in the spaces in between.
I wish for you every light in the sky.
Miel still had thousands of secrets, small and shimmering. She held them tight in her hands, and he had nothing left that he had not given up.
When they saw each other in Aracely’s indigo room, when they both realized they were heartbroken enough to want the love torn from their rib cages, they touched each other with their hands and their mouths, and they forgot they wanted to be cured.
Of course he trusted Miel. She knew everything that could wreck him, but acted like she didn’t.
He would grow out of this, he wanted to tell her. The same way he’d grown out of saying his favorite color was clear (Why? Miel had asked him. Because everything clear is magic, because it’s invisible, he’d told her) and Miel had grown out of saying her favorite color was rainbow (Why? he’d asked her. Because they all look prettier together, she’d said, and because I don’t want to pick).
He hesitated putting his hands near her, like his fingers and her skin carried the static of the driest days.
I don’t get mad. Nobody should. What does that do?
She could almost feel the weight of her heart, how she wore her disappointment like wet clothes.
That was the truth of holding so much back, and then giving up a little of it. The rest came.
You’re worse than anyone on Aracely’s table. You want to fall in love more than you want to be in love, and you want someone falling in love with you more than you want them loving you.
He would never be free of this. Of any of it. How he wanted Miel in a way that hurt as much as the tightening of his lungs against the cold water, a desperation for a breath in matched only by the impossibility of taking one.
You’re so many questions to me. And you always will be.
She had loved him since they were small, when they’d met on feral land among the brush of feather reed grass. They had spent nights pretending the stars were things that could be lured to earth. That the fairy rings thick with white-capped mushrooms were the light of the moon seared into the ground.
It was his. All of it was his. His body, flawed and refusing to match his life. His heart, bitter and worn. His love for Miel, even if it had nowhere to go, even if he didn’t know how to love a girl who kept herself as distant from him as an unnamed constellation. These things belonged to him. They were his, even if they were breaking him.
The truth slid over her skin, that if she loved him, sometimes it would mean doing nothing. It would mean being still. It would mean saying nothing, but standing close enough so he would know she was there, that she was staying.
She didn’t want to fear anything. She wanted to be as fearless and generous as the woman who stood in this indigo room, for her laugh to be like Aracely’s, both reckless and kind.
But he hated seeing it, her bowing to the way other people saw her, her sinking beneath the lie of what everyone else thought. So if he could say enough to remind her that she still existed, that she was both other than and more than what everyone else assumed she was, maybe she would lose the truth of herself a little more slowly.
He gave her all of it. If it belonged to him, it was hers.
He was losing her, this girl who built with him each night a world so much softer and more beautiful than the one he woke to in the morning. She was the wild blossoms and dark sugar that spoke of what the world could be. She was the pale stars on her brown skin. She was the whole sky.
…a hundred thousand yellow butterflies, and the bright, wild wish to be as she really was.
Their secrets were killing them. They knew it. Speaking them gave the power of those unsaid things back, but it broke them into pieces like the stained glass.
All these broken pieces, becoming a hundred thousand unmapped stars.
This is the thing I learned from loving a transgender boy who took years to say his own name: that waiting with someone, existing in that quiet, wondering space with them when they need it, is worth all the words we have in us.