Anna-Marie McLemore was like nothing I've ever read before. I'm not even sure I understood everything. One of my main reading goals this year was to step outside of my comfort zone. Leave the contemporary reading world that I'm often stuck in and branch out to other genres. This book had a little bit of everything. Fantasy, magical realism, and a transgender boy as a main character. I was definitely intrigued.
Miel is different. As a little girl, Miel was discovered in the town's water tower. Her mother's dead, the river took her away. Her brother is dead, the river took him away. Right away people in town could tell Miel wasn't like them. There's something magical about Miel, literally and figuratively. Roses, beautiful and mysterious roses grow out of Miel's arm. Why and how did this start? Do the roses have some mystical powers? Maybe. Now a teenager, Miel doesn't find anything special about the roses or herself. The roses have caused Miel nothing but physical and emotional pain. The mean girls at school, the Bonner sisters, Ivy, Chloe, Lian, and Peyton, are also making Miel's life a nightmare. Not only are the Bonner sisters bullies, they happen to be witches. They each want one of Miel's roses. For what purpose? They won't tell, but they are willing to hurt not just Miel but the most important person in her life.
Sam was the first person to connect with Miel. He found her in the water tower. Over the years, Sam and Miel became friends. As teenagers, they're becoming more than just friends. Sam understands Miel better than anyone. Even better than Aracely, the friendly neighborhood witch. Aracely took in Miel when no one else would. But even Aracely has trouble cracking Miel's shell. The same applies to Sam. He's hiding who he really is, not from Miel but from himself. Sam used to be Samira. The hows and whys Sam came to life are an interesting cultural odyssey. Sam isn't sure who he is or who he wants to be. One day Sam was supposed to go back to his old body. Back to Samira. But it's frightening to admit he wants to stay just as he is. Who will like him? Who will love him? Will Miel love him?
This book had so much potential. The writing is rather poetic. But perhaps a little too poetic for my tastes. The story was hard for me to follow. It was hard to know what was real and what wasn't. There's long passages full of metaphors. To truly understand it, this seems like the type of book that needs to be read twice. Despite my problems with it, I think this is a worthy read.
Rating: Give it a try
Note: I received an e-galley from the publisher (St. Martin's Griffin) in exchange for an honest review.