Happy dance! It’s time to think about the Cybils Awards again! If you’re a book blogger, there are still two more days (until September 11) to sign up to be a judge. It’s a lot of fun, and I highly recommend it. If you’re a reader, now is the time to start looking back at your favorite books for kids and teens published since October 16, 2016. Nominations will open up October 1!
Meanwhile, here is another Cybils Young Adult Fantasy finalist from last year.
When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore. Thomas Dunne Books, 2016. Once upon a time there was a story about a girl called Honey who fell out of the town water tower and whose hem stayed wet for the rest of her life. Once upon a time, there was a boy who tried to give her the moon… The myth that opens the story gives way to the reality, still quite magical, of Miel, who did fall from the tower and who always has a rose growing out of her wrist. She lives with Aracely, who behaves more like a big sister than a mother. But her friend Sam – short for Samir – lives nearby and is always painting lamps with the moon to hang up around town. They are already dealing with being minorities in a mostly white town, when the Bonner sisters, used to having and discarding whatever they want, decide that they want Miel’s roses. They threaten to reveal all the secrets they’ve found out if she doesn’t cooperate – including that Sam started life as Samira.
This is luminous magical realism – by which I mean that there are magical things that happen more because of the beauty and the symbolism of them than any underlying magical system to the world. “Lush” keeps coming up in reviews of this book, and it did feel that way. My colleague pointed out that “lush” often goes together with slow-moving plot. I didn’t feel that way, but the character development and the beautiful language really did work for me. Meanwhile, under the thorn-studded rose vines of magic and beautiful words are some bold and original choices. In most teen books, if there is sex, it’s the culmination of romance that built over the book. Here, we get shorthand that their relationship was building for years. They have sex very early on, and then we get to see the awkwardness of renegotiating a longstanding friendship. I don’t think I’d ever read a trans romance before, and not for teens. The details of the Latina and Pakistani culture weave beautifully into who Miel and Sam are. This is dreamy and relevant – kudos to the Cybils committee for this choice!