A moving, darkly funny novel about six teens whose magic goes wildly awry from Magic for Liars author Sarah Gailey, who Chuck Wendig calls an “author to watch.”
Keeping your magic a secret is hard. Being in love with your best friend is harder.
Alexis has always been able to rely on two things: her best friends, and the magic powers they all share. Their secret is what brought them together, and their love for each other is unshakeable—even when that love is complicated. Complicated by problems like jealousy, or insecurity, or lust. Or love.
That unshakeable, complicated love is one of the only things that doesn’t change on prom night.
When accidental magic goes sideways and a boy winds up dead, Alexis and her friends come together to try to right a terrible wrong. Their first attempt fails—and their second attempt fails even harder. Left with the remains of their failed spells and more consequences than anyone could have predicted, each of them must find a way to live with their part of the story.
When We Were Magic, Sarah Gailey
March 3, 2020
Well, this book certain started off with a bang.
Well, near bang.
Well, a boy’s genitals were exploded by accident.
This book had a lot of things I loved (not the genital explosion. Should I stop saying genitals? I’m going to.) like queer teens, teen witches, wild and unknown magic, the best ride or die squad you could ever hope to see. There’s a death and Alexis and her BFFs have to race to hide the body parts before the town and the police figure out what happened.
It’s got all the things I loved, but I didn’t really love it enough. We’re introduced to SIX people right off the bat (not including Dead Boy) and we’re expected to remember each and every one of them and their particular magic. It got real confusing, real fast. If we were slowly introduced to them instead of all at once, I may have been able to better understand them all. But as it stands, I can’t even tell you all their names right now because they all just get jumbled in my head.
I also feel like we don’t really spend that much time understanding the world and the tension Gailey is attempting to nurture. Why are these girls magic? Where did that magic come from? Who else is magic? What does it mean when the cop who gets assigned to the high school to question everyone keeps lingering her eyes on Alexis? We don’t really get answers to a lot of stuff and it’s frustrating.
It tends to feel like we end up getting snippets and vignettes of the characters burying each body part before it all comes to a convenient close.
BUT. There are loads of great things, as always. Gailey is a master of queer rep and Alexis has two dads, at least three of the girls are openly queer, one is heavily suggested to be nonbinary/genderfluid (it’s never stated explicitly on the page, but the characters do have a conversation about them wanting to move to the Big City and cut their hair and go by different pronouns). Alexis ends up coming out to her friends as bi (Heck. Yeah. On screen bisexuality) and there’s so much queer rep my cup overfloweth and thank you Sarah Gailey, you’re the Reagent of Queer in my life, bless you.
I loved the squad’s connection, how they used their magic in little ways, how each time they buried a body part, they lost something vital to themselves. It was heavy and I loved it. Their friendships were stellar and really the greatest part of this book.
All in all, a good book, a great tale of friendship and queerness, but left me wanting for more. I feel like that’s a usual thing for me and Gailey’s books–I just want so much more, I want to bury myself in 600 pages of their writing.