When We Were Magic
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 Details

TitleWhen We Were Magic
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseMar 3rd, 2020
PublisherSimon Pulse
ISBN-139781534432871
Rating
GenreFantasy, Young Adult, LGBT, Paranormal, Witches

When We Were Magic Review

  • Chaima ✨ شيماء
    January 1, 1970
    queer teen witches involved in some kind of murder? its like Sarah Gailey knows all my heart's desires or something... queer teen witches involved in some kind of murder? it’s like Sarah Gailey knows all my heart's desires or something...
  • Chelsea (chelseadolling reads)
    January 1, 1970
    This was my first Sarah Gailey book and I totally understand the hype now; I gobbled this entire thing up in basically one sitting. This gave me all of the friendship / queer girl feels and I liked it A LOT. It wasn't an absolutely perfect read for me (I felt like the ending wrapped up a little blandly if I'm being honest), but the writing and the characters definitely made up for that and I cannot WAIT to go back and check out the rest of Gailey's backlist. GIMME ALL THE QUEER MAGIC-Y THINGS
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  • ellie
    January 1, 1970
    queer witches + me = match made in heavenside note: you have no idea how fuckin happy i am right now. all ive ever wanted was a unstoppable girl gang who kiss each other sometimes but are unashamedly themselves. GOD IM SO EXCITED!!
  • Elise (TheBookishActress)
    January 1, 1970
    "in which a group of high school girls face up to the consequences of a disastrous magical accident resulting in a dead boy on prom night" and also there are girl friendships and gay witches. and also I love this authors short fiction. hm. yes? "in which a group of high school girls face up to the consequences of a disastrous magical accident resulting in a dead boy on prom night" and also there are girl friendships and gay witches. and also I love this author’s short fiction. hm. yes?
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  • Ashley
    January 1, 1970
    Star Rating: > 4.5 StarsOh my God, you guys. This was absolutely everything. I love this group of girls so f*cking much.I honestly am not sure of what words to use to describe what, and just how much, I feel about what I just read.This was such an incredibly fun ride. < (massive understatement)First off, I just have to say thank the universeeee for a YA novel that is so truly, richly diverse, both through queer rep AND cultural rep... about MAGIC (which is also extremely diverse ! Each Star Rating: —> 4.5 StarsOh my God, you guys. This was absolutely everything. I love this group of girls so f*cking much.I honestly am not sure of what words to use to describe what, and just how much, I feel about what I just read.This was such an incredibly fun ride. <— (massive understatement)First off, I just have to say thank the universeeee for a YA novel that is so truly, richly diverse, both through queer rep AND cultural rep... about MAGIC (which is also extremely diverse ! Each girl has their own unique abilities that work in their own unique ways)/witches no less! 🙏🏻I might as well have died and gone to heaven.SERIOUSLY, this BOOOOOK!• THE MAGIC! • THE MAYHEM!• THE CREEPY!• THE UNCONDITIONAL LOVE IN FEMALE FRIENDSHIPS! • THE FAMILY DYNAMICS! • THE LOVE!• THE “DAMN, WELL... THAT’S DARK” LAWL WORTHY SENSE OF HUMOR! • THE DIVERSE CAST OF CHARACTERS!• EVERYTHING ELSE!The light of this novel outshone the dark tenfold, but the dark was still so much freakin’ fun,The magic was officially the most unique & exploratory kind of magic i’ve read about, or seen for that matter, with the BEST abilities, that I have had the luck of stumbling upon in a long while. It was truly beautiful to experience, imagine, & appreciate what these girls could really do. This story is about self discovery & loss & growth... and those that are there to support us through it all.This probably makes zero sense because my brain decided to try to throw up my emotions all over the place without thinking it through much. So... more RTC ? Maybe? ;-)
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  • rachel ☾
    January 1, 1970
    this book opens with a boy dying because his dick literally explodes, and a girl calling her magical, witch friends to help her hide the body... i have a good feeling about this one.◯ Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Blog Goodreads Twitter Instagram this book opens with a boy dying because his dick literally explodes, and a girl calling her magical, witch friends to help her hide the body... i have a good feeling about this one.◯ Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Blog • Goodreads • Twitter • Instagram
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  • The Nerd Daily
    January 1, 1970
    Originally published on The Nerd Daily | Review by Ankara CI finally get it. I trust her. I trust her with my secrets, and I trust her with my friendship, and I trust her with my gratitude. I dont need to apologize for being thankful for her. I dont owe her an apologyjust gratitude.Winner of the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer in 2018, Sarah Gaileys trajectory does not seem as though it will stop soaring any time soon. Even though Gailey only published Magic for Liars, their first full-length Originally published on The Nerd Daily | Review by Ankara C“I finally get it. I trust her. I trust her with my secrets, and I trust her with my friendship, and I trust her with my gratitude. I don’t need to apologize for being thankful for her. I don’t owe her an apology—just gratitude.”Winner of the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer in 2018, Sarah Gailey’s trajectory does not seem as though it will stop soaring any time soon. Even though Gailey only published Magic for Liars, their first full-length book in 2017, they had been truly prolific in the field of short stories and comics, including a few Steven Universe works, one of the most beloved cartoons in the last few years. This year, Gailey keeps going strong. They published a new novella in February titled Upright Women Wanted, and now their first YA novel: When We Were Magic.Easy to follow and straightforward, When We Were Magic is a beautiful—and very much needed—exploration of female friendships and the deep bonds that tie friends together through the thick and thin of high school. In this case, exploring it through a very special group of friends who are in the process of understanding their ever-growing magical powers. Making use of a lighthearted narration, Gailey doesn’t rely too heavily on metaphors and other stylistic devices, as we follow the story through the protagonist’s eyes. With a simple first-person narration, Alexis’ words and narrative style is quick and sharp, yet considerate, matching her mental process. At the same time, through her eyes and thoughts, we get to understand her deeply rooted insecurities and the painful way in which we sometimes overthink everything that happens to us, to the point where we even doubt whether we are worthy of the support and love our friends and families offer us. In contrast to these recurrent aspects in her personal behaviour, the most engaging element in the narration is the fierce love Alexis has for her friends, which is ingrained in every single one of her thoughts.However, this undying love does not only go one way. The driving force of the novel is the undying affection Alexis and her friends—Roya, Iris, Paulie, Marcelina, and Maryam—constantly show for each other, never faltering for a single second. Following these lines, trust and accepting help are the two core themes in their story, and Sarah Gailey even says so themselves in the acknowledgements section of the novel. Despite being fully aware of the support we have around us, our insecurities sometimes blind us and don’t allow us to accept the love and caring our friends and family offer us. Nonetheless, we are social animals after all, and we need other people to grow and feel secure. Accepting help is not always easy, but we have to let others lend us a hand, both for our sake and theirs. Relationships are a symbiotic union, and it is only natural that if we help our friends and family, we should also let them do the same for us.The topic of friendship and the insecurities that commonly come along with it are a breath of fresh air. For the most part of the YA literary production, friendship tends to be relegated to a second plane. Friendships are taken for granted as something that the characters don’t have to cultivate and nourish at all. On the contrary, romantic relationships take the lead and become the focal point of most narratives. This is not the case of When We Were Magic. Their friendship is beautiful, they are all honest with each other, even when they have to call out a wrongdoing. They respect each other’s opinions and feelings, and give each other space when they need to do so. Also, Gailey explores the subtlest forms of affection, which tend to go unnoticed, like learning the patterns of your friends’ personalities, hence knowing better than anyone else when to act and when to support each other, and even when and how to calm them during a crisis. When We Were Magic gifts us with the purest and most magical friendship, while also being 100% realistic: they scream at each other, and steal the other’s food, and make mistakes. But, at the end of the day, none of that matters, because they love each other above all things.Despite this diversion from the mainstream, romance also plays an important part on the novel—as Alexis is secretly in love with her best friend, Roya. Nonetheless, friendship is still the powerhouse of the novel, and it does not get overshadowed by romantic love. Both types of relationships are perfectly balanced, and nourished with the same amounts of dedication and affection. As a result, Alexis and Roya’s oblivious mutual crush is delightfully cute and realistic. Along with their beautiful friendship, this slow-burn w/w romance is all we needed to make our hearts melt.There is no doubt that the six girls and their interactions are the highlight of the novel. Each girl complements each other both in terms of their personalities and magical abilities, while also remaining perfectly unique on their own. Their identities are polished and defined, in such a beautiful display of diversity that all readers can find some form of representation to feel identified with. Alexis and her friends are all such round characters that none of them gets overshadowed by the rest and you get attached to all of them. Furthermore, they deal with very relatable topics—apart from the murder, of course…or so we hope—both for teenagers and even some older audiences.Even the secondary characters are lovable and relevant enough for the reader to get attached to them. This is especially the case of Alexis’ dads, who, throughout the entire novel support their daughter through thick and thin. In YA novels, it is not unusual for parents to be completely absent for their teenage children, often showing very little support or attention towards them. Contrarily, in When We Were Magic, Gailey presents an extremely loving pair of dads, who listen to their daughter and give her space to grow, but who also reprimand her when she’s done wrong. Parental love is extremely rare in YA, so it is truly charming to read about positive and supportive parental figures for a change.Obviously, When We Were Magic is a character-driven novel, where the growth and emotional landscape of the characters takes the spotlight, rather than the plot. Consequently, not much happens action-wise apart from the big murder that jumpstarts the story —with no less than an exploding penis—, or the gang’s attempts at getting rid of the body. The main focus is placed on the girls discovering the consequences of their own powers and learning how to deal with mistakes together. Notwithstanding, the plot doesn’t get repetitive or boring at any point.Due to the overall positive undertone of the novel, the reader might expect everything to turn out okay—meaning that the girls are able to bring the murdered boy back to life. Nonetheless, Gailey teaches Alexis and the reader a lesson: there are certain mistakes that cannot be fixed, but we have to learn to live with them and try to become better than the person we were when we did such a thing. At the same time, while the ending is perfectly coherent and offers quite a reasonable conclusion to the girls’ problem, it also leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Hence, the ending feels a bit rushed and rather incomplete. Maybe it would be nice to read a sequel in the future, where we are able to learn a little bit more about how everything got sorted out and see how the girls are managing their magic.All in all, When We Were Magic is a charming first dive into the world of YA literature. If you are looking for a refreshing read full of magic and wonderful characters to whom you can relate, this may be the perfect pick.
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  • ☾ h a d e e r ☽
    January 1, 1970
    This is the kind of book Teen Me would have loved, but that sadly left Adult Me feeling a bit underwhelmed. It's nothing to do with the book, which is wonderful and full of diverse characters and shades of queerness and cool magic and an interesting plot. But I think I've just reached an impasse with the tone of most YA books. However, I would recommend this book to teens in a heartbeat, and I will say that my favorite thing about it was the depiction of female friendship and support.
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  • E.
    January 1, 1970
    queer witches and an accidental murder A.K.A. sign me tf up ✓✓✓✓✓ __________________________ insta | twitter | blog | booksirens | duolingo
  • anna (½ of readsrainbow)
    January 1, 1970
    i trust sarah w my gay life & this sounds delightful
  • Jaye Berry
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 stars??? I guess??? This was WILD but I was mostly into it.When We Were Magic begins with a girl named Alexis accidentally killing the boy she was about to hook up with at an after-prom party. Alexis and her girl squad friend group are magic though so they cast a spell to fix it, but it backfires. When they cast another spell to fix that one, it makes everything worse. So now each girl has a piece of the dead boy to magically dispose of in hopes of fixing everything. "It's gonna be okay," 3.5 stars??? I guess??? This was WILD but I was mostly into it.When We Were Magic begins with a girl named Alexis accidentally killing the boy she was about to hook up with at an after-prom party. Alexis and her girl squad friend group are magic though so they cast a spell to fix it, but it backfires. When they cast another spell to fix that one, it makes everything worse. So now each girl has a piece of the dead boy to magically dispose of in hopes of fixing everything. "It's gonna be okay," she says. "I know it doesn't feel like it's gonna be okay, but it is.""But what if it's not?" I ask, burying my face in Handsome's fur. I feel Marcelina's footsteps behind me, soft and patient in the grass."Then you won't be alone with it," she says. "We'll all be not-okay with you." This book was really strange, and I'm not sure if I liked the writing. The most of what I liked is that this has a cute f/f (with tons of other queer characters!) and the entire book is about girls being ride or die for each other and supporting each other through hardship. Which are both things I am absolutely TRASH for. There is no girl on girl hate and this group of friends were just so wholesome and good?? I mean they are getting rid of a dead body but like they are doing their best okay!!I really liked the friendship between them, so much. Even though there were a lot of girls in this squad it feels like they each got their time to shine on page. All of them are magic (ugh please why couldn't you have just said witch ;-;) but their magic is complicated and they each have different things they are good at. Their magic was unexplained, made no sense, and was so, so messy but I liked that??The last quarter and the ending is where things kind of go south a little for me. The entire book is building up to one thing happening and when it did, it was just so minor and such a let down. The thing happened and then everyone was like "ah, okay" and they moved on without further explanation? And then the book ended and it was just so quiet.I feel weirdly conflicted but I read it, I liked it, and that's that.
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  • Anna ☾
    January 1, 1970
    Okay. Cozy and Cute + murder. It was more about coming of age & lgbtq. I thought it was going to be more about murder and what not. It did have some thriller aspects but its mostly about friendship. I did love the magic part of everything. The whole system. I mean if you want to call it a system but I loved the uncertainty. It kinda carried on but I enjoyed it. Okay. Cozy and Cute + murder. It was more about coming of age & lgbtq. I thought it was going to be more about murder and what not. It did have some thriller aspects but it’s mostly about friendship. I did love the magic part of everything. The whole system. I mean if you want to call it a system but I loved the uncertainty. It kinda carried on but I enjoyed it.
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  • dani
    January 1, 1970
    did someone say magic and queer combined????????????????????? I AM HERE FOR IT!!!!!!!!
  • mahana
    January 1, 1970
    review on my blog ✧When We Were Magic was a book I was expecting to give 5 stars, but it ultimately didnt mesh well with me. The premise had the potential to be a new favourite a full cast of women, diversity in sexuality and ethnicity, magic, tight-knit, loyal, loving female friendships, and dark humour but the execution and misleading marketing made it a lacklustre read for me.Alexis and her five friends have one unique thing in common: they all possess magical powers. On prom night when — review on my blog ✧When We Were Magic was a book I was expecting to give 5 stars, but it ultimately didn’t mesh well with me. The premise had the potential to be a new favourite – a full cast of women, diversity in sexuality and ethnicity, magic, tight-knit, loyal, loving female friendships, and dark humour – but the execution and misleading marketing made it a lacklustre read for me.Alexis and her five friends have one unique thing in common: they all possess magical powers. On prom night when Alexis accidentally murders the boy she’s trying to sleep with, Iris, Paulie, Roya, Marceline, and Maryam come to her rescue. However, the spell to remove his body backfires and they leave the prom afterparty with his body parts in duffle bags. One by one, they destroy the pieces of his body, but the girls soon discover the magic has equal consequences and they begin losing parts of themselves.I was expecting this to a 5-star read because of the promise of a dark comedy in the same level of Heathers. But, of course, it’s American humour that isn’t really funny to anyone other than that country’s inhabitants. It’s dry, sarcastic, and not laughter-inducing in the slightest. Though, it definitely holds the same dark comedy qualities as something like Heathers possesses – a girl in high school doing immoral things accompanied by the heartbreak of teen angst. Think of the quote: “my teen angst has a body count”. When We Were Magic begins with Alexis killing a boy after she becomes frustrated with a condom, causing his dick to explode. You read that right. The book begins with our protagonist blowing someone’s dick off. Thus, a promise of hilarity and urban fantasy with characters who don’t take themselves seriously was promised. However, the remainder of the humour relied on being sarcastic instead of being genuinely funny. The main character will say something like “I want to hold her hand, but I don’t. Because that would be inappropriate. So I definitely don’t hold her hand. Okay, I’m holding her hand. Anyway”. And that’s the extent of the humour for the remainder of the book.The main reason I enjoyed When We Were Magic was the depiction of a loving, loyal group of friends. These girls all love and support each other unconditionally, even after one of them kills another person. It’s the epitome of “if my best friend killed someone, I’d help them bury the body. No questions asked”. I appreciated how they never had idiotic fights or clashed for no reason and stayed loyal no matter what. Even when Alexis was insecure about their support with the disposing of the body, thinking there was no reason for them to help her, they reaffirmed they loved her unconditionally.I was only interested in this book because of the promised f/f romance (since I don’t understand the appeal behind witches like everyone else). The romance is best friends to lovers between Roya and Alexis, but it doesn’t come into fruition until around 85%, which was incredibly disappointing. I understand it wanted to focus more on the friendship group, but the relationship and complication between the two were established in Chapter One, and then placed on pause until the very end. Twitter marketing also suggested this was about “friends who sometimes kiss each other”, but Alexis kisses one of her other friends once and then decides to stop. Again, false advertising.My main issue with the writing was the fact that it was in first person and addressed the audience for a failed comedic effect. Whenever we get the first POV, I despise when the narrator refers directly to the reader with something like “before you roll your eyes at me”. I find it cringeworthly, even though its purpose was surely to add more humour to the story. Though this is a personal preference and I find it difficult to enjoy anything written in this perspective, so take that as something I personally didn’t enjoy instead of a fault in the narrative.Consequently, When We Were Magic was disappointing, but its merit is in the rich, wonderful diversity it brings to the Young Adult paranormal genre. I’d still recommend since others love witches and magic, but it’s unfortunate it wasn’t a hit for me.rep: adopted sapphic main character with two dads, sapphic Afghani main character, f/f romance, Muslim main character, sapphic main character, and sapphic minor character
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  • Michael Araujo
    January 1, 1970
    **Originally posted on The Fandom**Alexis has everything she could possibly want in life. She has her amazing group of friends. College is right around the corner as she counts her days to graduation day. She has magic that can help make her life easier and can even kill a boy accidentally. Wait that was never part of the plan! When her magic goes awry, Alexis and her friends realize that they might not have that much control over their magic (and their lives) as they once thought. Together, **Originally posted on The Fandom**Alexis has everything she could possibly want in life. She has her amazing group of friends. College is right around the corner as she counts her days to graduation day. She has magic that can help make her life easier and can even kill a boy accidentally. Wait… that was never part of the plan! When her magic goes awry, Alexis and her friends realize that they might not have that much control over their magic (and their lives) as they once thought. Together, they attempt to right their actions and try to make life go back to how it was.When We Were Magic by Sarah Gailey was the first book I read in this new year, and it started with a bang! You’re automatically hit with a powerful sentence that gives you no other choice but to continue reading. It makes a statement, makes you ask questions, and has you demanding answers before you can even finish the paragraph. Which only goes to show what raw talent goes into writing. They know exactly what they’re doing. The author brings you into the middle of the action from the very start and has you feeling as if you’re actually in the book.At the very beginning, it was a bit hard to remember who was who out of the big cast, which showcased the urgency in the situation involving the dead boy, but the author quickly fixes that by providing natural one on one conversations between Alexis and her best friends in the following chapters. At times I felt as if I had stumbled upon this group of friends by accident and knew nothing of them until they let me in little by little until the end, where I felt like I knew them my whole life. We got to learn about each of their personalities and who they really were as well as their different styles of magic they possessed.The cast of characters was full of diversity. From race, to sexuality, to lifestyles and identities, it felt like everyone was there but in a natural way. It didn’t feel as if the author forced these friends together simply for being different, but that they naturally found their way to each other because they were different. It felt refreshing to read about friends who were able to tell each other off and not sugar coat anything, yet they still love each other and respect each other. It showed the lengths these friends went to help each other in dire situations.The magic was also really cool to see in action. We got to learn how each of them favored a different side of the magic, whether it be learning about new spells or dealing with nature. The novel sometimes hits us with huge instances of the magic, but at other times sprinkles in tiny bits of it that add depth. The only thing was that it almost felt like there was no system nor limit to their magic. It felt as if anything could happen and that anything would happen. It also left me with questions: Where did this magic come from? How did they each discover it? But maybe that’s just me being nosey.Being my first f/f romance, I was expecting to see sparks flying before the flame. While sparks did fly, I was expecting it to be a bit more. Don’t get me wrong, I was super happy for the couple, but I just thought the journey there would’ve been a bit more full of fireworks. For that reason I took this more as a book about friendship that had a side of romance. I was drawn to the interactions between the members of the group and found myself wanting to know more about each of them individually.While the book isn’t full of action, it does give you questions that fill you with need to find the answers to and it gives you so much more than a story. It teaches you about the innocence of teenagers. How teenagers (and many other YA characters) think that something is going to work simply because they said so. But unlike many other YA novels, this cast of characters have to face the reality of their actions, ultimately coming to the realization that their actions have consequences that impact everyone’s lives, including the ones around them. Once I learned my lessons and finished the book, I found myself thinking that this would’ve made a perfect sequel in a series. I wanted to know more of the “before” as well as the magic but honestly, I’d be happy with this standalone as the start of a series, too.
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  • Maraya21 (The Reading Dragon)
    January 1, 1970
    Photo by Sarah GaileyExploding Penis(?)*Adds to TBR*
  • Amelia Oswald
    January 1, 1970
    This was such an amazing read !!
  • Amber (The Book Bratz)
    January 1, 1970
    The full review + more can be found at The Book Bratz *Thank you so much Simon Pulse and NetGalley for the advanced copy of WHEN WE WERE MAGIC. All thoughts and opinions are my own!* When We Were Magic was the first book I finished in 2020 and I am so happy it is. This book is full of such a diverse cast of characters who love and support each other no matter what. Plus this book and its cover scream girl power! This story is about a group of witches, like cmon!All Alexis wanted to do on prom The full review + more can be found at The Book Bratz *Thank you so much Simon Pulse and NetGalley for the advanced copy of WHEN WE WERE MAGIC. All thoughts and opinions are my own!* When We Were Magic was the first book I finished in 2020 and I am so happy it is. This book is full of such a diverse cast of characters who love and support each other no matter what. Plus this book and it’s cover scream girl power! This story is about a group of witches, like c’mon!All Alexis wanted to do on prom night was to lose her virginity, maybe it wasn’t for the best reasons but that was her plan. But when she is in the moment and her magic backfires causing a certain part of Josh explode which ends up killing him. Alexis calls her best friends to the rescue. Alexis, Roya, Pauli’s, Iris, Marceline and Maryam all have one specific thing in common: they are magic. After a spell goes wrong and their backup plan fails even worse, they must find a way to deal with the problem. But when their magic begins to punish them for the failed spells each girl must make it right.I expected When We Were Magic to go in one direction BUT it actually went in a whole other direction that I didn’t think it was going to go. I expected it to more or less to just address the issue of Josh and whether the group of girls where going to be able to bring him back to life. When We Were Magic was so much more then that. It address Alexis’ friendship with each other girls, her growing feelings for Roya and her own insecurities that she doesn’t deserve the love and support that her friends are giving her.I really enjoyed Alexis’s character and getting to be inside her head. I loved her rationale on certain things and her side comments, it made her feel more real to me in a way. Through out the novel we see Alexis dealing with the fall out of her decision, the regret, trying to defend it and in the end the tough love that she gets from Maryam about the whole thing. Throughout When We Were Magic we see her struggle with the idea that she doesn’t deserves her friends help and how they are sacrificing so much for her when they don’t need to be. I saw a lot of myself when Alexis would think these things because I think the same exact way sometimes.I really enjoyed When We Were Magic and the dynamic of this witchy friend group. I’m sad to see that their story is over, but I feel like Sarah did a great job in wrapping it up and giving both Alexis and the reader the closure that was needed.If you are looking for a book with a diverse cast, queer girls and some steamy moments, magic and witches then this is the book for you!
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  • Louise
    January 1, 1970
    When We Were Magic has one of the most explosive, most darkly funny openings Ive ever read. You definitely cant say that Gailey doesnt know how to throw you straight into the action.The book follows Alexis and her five closest friends as they deal with the fallout from a little accidental magical murder. The number of main characters plus Alexs dads and brother, plus a handful of side characters meant that it look me a little while to initially get a handle on each of the girls. Gailey does When We Were Magic has one of the most explosive, most darkly funny openings I’ve ever read. You definitely can’t say that Gailey doesn’t know how to throw you straight into the action.The book follows Alexis and her five closest friends as they deal with the fallout from a little accidental magical murder. The number of main characters — plus Alex’s dads and brother, plus a handful of side characters — meant that it look me a little while to initially get a handle on each of the girls. Gailey does really well though, and each character has a distinctly memorable character early on. The girls are such an amazing, perfect friend group — with different dynamics between the different girls — you’d definitely want to have hung out with them in high school. Alexis also has the sweetest, most wholesome family ever: her little brother, Nico, and her dads are absolutely adorable.The characters and characterisation in When We Were Magic was absolutely steller.I loved the witchy side of the story too. I definitely got The Craft vibes from it, but without the bitchy, girl-against-girl aspect. In When We Were Magic we get girls supporting each other, working together and looking out for each other. The girls can work together with their powers — as they do at the start of the story — but each girl has her own, specific and distinct speciality e.g. Alexis can talk to animals. What’s really cool is that the powers are really unusual, not just the usual superpower tropes.The only — tiny — issue I had with the book was the way the gang treat another girl who starts sticking her nose into Josh’s disappearance. The treatment of her — which felt like bullying — honestly felt cruel in a way that murder didn’t.
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  • Jen Ryland
    January 1, 1970
    Wow - really enjoyed this! It was unique and interesting and very memorable. Loved the female friendships. It had a darkly humorous tone but was also psychologically complex. It felt like magic was being used allegorically and maybe as connected to sexuality (?) will have to think on that more and look at other reviews to see if anyone agrees with me. I do wish the magical elements had been explained a bit more, but I feel like this was more of a friendship/coming of age/coming out as queer Wow - really enjoyed this! It was unique and interesting and very memorable. Loved the female friendships. It had a darkly humorous tone but was also psychologically complex. It felt like magic was being used allegorically and maybe as connected to sexuality (?) will have to think on that more and look at other reviews to see if anyone agrees with me. I do wish the magical elements had been explained a bit more, but I feel like this was more of a friendship/coming of age/coming out as queer book that was interwoven with magic/supernatural elements. Review on my blog Feb 21st!Read more of my reviews on JenRyland.com! Let's be friends on Bookstagram! Thanks to the publisher for providing an advance copy for review!
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  • Sara (A Gingerly Review)
    January 1, 1970
    There were so many things about this story I adored:the importance of friendship and family, and the importance of being true to yourself. Plus the wit and snark was awesome.Frtc
  • Kristina
    January 1, 1970
    I must have missed something.That's the only explanation I have for why it seems like there are so many glowing reviews for this book and I am sitting here thinking about how many things I just could not stand about this story.First of all, for a book that is supposed to be about friendships, I was constantly TOLD that these girls are the absolute definition of the best of friends but I wasn't actually SHOWN that there was any truth to that statement. What readers are given in the synopsis is I must have missed something.That's the only explanation I have for why it seems like there are so many glowing reviews for this book and I am sitting here thinking about how many things I just could not stand about this story.First of all, for a book that is supposed to be about friendships, I was constantly TOLD that these girls are the absolute definition of the best of friends but I wasn't actually SHOWN that there was any truth to that statement. What readers are given in the synopsis is the bare basics of what is given in the novel. Main character Alexis makes a mistake on prom night, asks her friends for help and when things just get worse, they declare that they will all help Alexis to make it better. And that is it. There is no true background given to explain the devotion between these girls. The only thing that seems to bind them together is their share in the talent of magic but in my mind I was waiting for the why about how they stay linked, how they truly depend on one another, how they truly support each other. They agree to hide what Alexis did and protect her at all costs but other than that, they do not actually seem to be all that close as friends.I think the main reason why the friendships never landed for me was because of the horribly weak lead, Alexis. This girl drove me crazy. Every other thought in her head is about how she wishes she was enough to deserve the loyalty of her friends and the love of her family and the constant barrage of despairing thoughts made me want to wring her neck. For example, Alexis has a crush on her best friend and has spent years pining away for her. Over the course of the book, several of her friends in the group point out that not only are Alexis's feelings noticeable to everyone but the object of her affections feels the same about her. She was explicitly TOLD that her crush cares about her and yet, when the two of them get together, the next day Alexis is going on about how she knows the girl does not truly care about her, not like Alexis feels about her, she was only trying to make Alexis feel better, and on and on and on.Gag me with a spoon.Alexis is like this the entire book. I can't for the life of me figure out if the author was making fun of the melodramatic leads of other Young Adult books because good grief, I wanted this girl to stop sticking her head in the ground and own up to what was happening in the book. Even when she was told off for the way she was acting, the takeaway she got was that she did not want to make her friends mad, she was going to try harder, oh goodness, Alexis does not deserve their love, how can Alexis make herself worthy AND PLEASE JUST MAKE HER STOP.And I honestly don't think these girls are good people. At one point, a classmate of theirs approaches Alexis and basically tells her that she knows that Alexis can do magic and she knows that Alexis was the last one seen with the boy that seems to have gone missing and that it is suspicious that Alexis has not come forward, and so on. So what does Alexis do? She helps one of her friends put a horrible spell on the classmate, something that can seal her mouth shut if she tries to tell anyone about them. And then things go on, the girl approaches them a few times but Alexis and her friends don't want anything to do with the classmate, it is her fault this has happened, Alexis and her friends warned her. And in my head I am thinking, these girls are hurting an innocent classmate because she thinks Alexis had something to do with a boy who has gone missing, which is all true except he is not missing, he is actually DEAD, but hey, they are protecting their dear friend, everyone else is the enemy.Give me a break.But the worst for me was the main conflict of the story. Alexis made a horrible mistake and she killed a boy with her magic. It was an accident but she can't go to authorities and explain what happened because the circumstances actually make absolutely no sense. Alexis texts her friends for help and they agree to help her get rid of the body using their magic. And this is where I was left shaking my head. They immediately think they need to get rid of the body. It does not occur to them until later that hey, they have MAGIC, maybe they should try to bring him back to life first. It never comes up to them to try to restore the boy back to life and I am left wondering, is there a reason for this? Have they tried something similar in their youth and there were consequences? Did they try to bring someone back and it didn't work and they suffered for it? As is, they are suffering for the magic they tried in just getting rid of the body and in the long run, each girl loses something in themselves. One loses childhood memories of a sibling, another loses the ability to cry, someone loses the ability to forget and her ability to see the color green. And Alexis? All she loses is the ability to dream, which just seems really meh to me because the reader is not told if this affects her day to day life, if it makes her feel lost without the ability to dream, if it affects her ability to truly rest after falling asleep.In fact, not only do I feel like Alexis did not lose much, she ends up with a version of a happily ever after with the girl she has loved for years. None of the girls regain the bits they lost but hey, they have graduated and they are going in different directions, and this is their last chance to be kids together before they leave the next day on new adventures and they are going to be better people, Alexis is going to live her life and make herself worthy because she is not only living her life for herself but is somehow making her life mean something because the boy she killed does not get a future because of her.What then is the point of the accident to begin with?By the end of the book, I was grateful that I did not bother picking up a physical copy. I probably would have thrown it across the room when I finally got to that ending. Basically, definitely not a book for me or something I'll try again in the future. For a book that started out with a bang, literally, it never cemented itself as funny, charming or even that interesting. I'm sorry I could not find anything worth praising about the book. Hopefully Gailey's Magic for Liars is more my speed since I have a copy of that and plan to read it soon.
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  • Marzie
    January 1, 1970
    How much would you be willing to give up to help your dearest friend? Would you give up your dreams? Your color vision? Your memories? Your tears?I've had a growing love for Sarah Gailey's writing ever since I read Magic for Liars and some of their short fiction. (Though I wasn't much of a fan of their hippo novellas, I must admit.) When I read their Magic for Liars I immediately felt it had a kinship with Alice Hoffman's look at sisters and magic. Not derivative mind you, but as skilled in How much would you be willing to give up to help your dearest friend? Would you give up your dreams? Your color vision? Your memories? Your tears?I've had a growing love for Sarah Gailey's writing ever since I read Magic for Liars and some of their short fiction. (Though I wasn't much of a fan of their hippo novellas, I must admit.) When I read their Magic for Liars I immediately felt it had a kinship with Alice Hoffman's look at sisters and magic. Not derivative mind you, but as skilled in looking at the sharp and soft edges sisters have for one another, and about the vagaries of life that pull us apart and draw us together again. In When We Were Magic, her first young adult novel, Gailey only deepens my appreciation for her vision of friends, family, lovers, and how we are greater than our worst mistakes and can be loved for exactly who we are, not in spite of who we are.Alexis and her friends Roya, Maryam, Iris, Paulie, and Marcelina are magic. By which I mean they can do magic. (More on how they actually ARE magic below.) The six young women (one might be nonbinary, she's still kind of deciding her pronouns) stick together when prom night goes very wrong for Alexis and a boy named Josh dies when he was alone in his bedroom with an ambivalent Alexis who asked him to be there with her. At the time, Alexis was upset, confused, hurting, maybe horny, and did I mention upset, all because Roya went to the prom and after-party with Tall Matt. When Alexis heads off to Josh's room during the after-party, her world goes sideways and Josh is, um. never the same. Rather than facing it alone, Alexis has her five best friends to help her in a dire situation.The real magic of this story is in the strong friendships. And the fact that this strong group can make room for more friends, and room for their families. I love the fact that Gailey is not afraid of magical disasters and sees it as a proving ground for who is really in your corner. And that their protagonist Alexis finds that there are always people in her corner, whether she feels she deserves them or not. Alexis, like many a young person, is figuring herself out. She's made mistakes, and they do define, or at least, re-define her. But rather than breaking her down, they make her stronger and wiser. Gailey shows the reader that with honesty, support, and love, you find you can thrive in spite of your worst mistakes. This is a wonderful book that I have recommended to my female and nonbinary friends- young and older adults alike. I received a courtesy copy of this novel from SimonPulse in exchange for an honest review.
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  • kai
    January 1, 1970
    3.5* this was a pretty enjoyable read overall, just a few things:i think the characters were kind of underdeveloped because there were just too many of them imo. they all had their own personalities except Maryam and Marcelina, i got them confused the whole time and i still have them confused.- Iris wasnt in the story much after the first half, and neither was Paulie after her and Alexis kissed.- Roya was barely in it during the middle- idk what really happened with M&M throughout 3.5* this was a pretty enjoyable read overall, just a few things:i think the characters were kind of underdeveloped because there were just too many of them imo. they all had their own personalities except Maryam and Marcelina, i got them confused the whole time and i still have them confused.- Iris wasn’t in the story much after the first half, and neither was Paulie after her and Alexis kissed.- Roya was barely in it during the middle- idk what really happened with M&M throughout everything, they were just kinda there to lecture Alexis about stuff? even though what they said was valid, it’s just kinda all that they were there for.there aren’t much backstories for any of the characters other than their diversity, which is great that the cast is so diverse, but the characters themselves didn’t pull through so much.the romance was kinda slow burn at the beginning, but just kinda plowed through at the end and that was a little boring how predicable it was.on the other hand, the way magic is depicted was interesting for being in a modern world setting and i kind of like how none of it was really explained. it also wasn’t exactly a soft magic system, which is always a plus in my book.also the story was entertaining and i related a lot to Alexis, who was definitely the most fleshed out because we’re kind of in her head the whole time.
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  • Keri
    January 1, 1970
    I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it. The book starts off with a PUNCH and I thought it was going to be dark humor and a lot of fun...but it wasn't. I also didn't really feel a connection with any of the characters. They each get a few pages of description so the reader can "get them" but I was still getting all of them mixed up by the end.The love story is a slow burn but you know it's coming and literally every character except the POV knows its coming which I found frustrating. But it still I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it. The book starts off with a PUNCH and I thought it was going to be dark humor and a lot of fun...but it wasn't. I also didn't really feel a connection with any of the characters. They each get a few pages of description so the reader can "get them" but I was still getting all of them mixed up by the end.The love story is a slow burn but you know it's coming and literally every character except the POV knows its coming which I found frustrating. But it still doesn't happen until there's like 75 pages left at most. Also needed MOAR MAGIC.
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  • sarah
    January 1, 1970
    like 3.75
  • Leah (Jane Speare)
    January 1, 1970
    Alexis and her friends are magic. Their magic is mysterious, enchanting, helpful...usually. But when she gets in a bind on the night of prom, her friends loyalties become as stretched as the upcoming summer days, and they all find themselves in the middle of a situation soaked in murky moral waters. Every teenager will benefit from reading this book. It deals with the uncertainties life discourteously throws at you, and the messy (but necessary) ways youll inevitably have to cope with them. For Alexis and her friends are magic. Their magic is mysterious, enchanting, helpful...usually. But when she gets in a bind on the night of prom, her friends’ loyalties become as stretched as the upcoming summer days, and they all find themselves in the middle of a situation soaked in murky moral waters. Every teenager will benefit from reading this book. It deals with the uncertainties life discourteously throws at you, and the messy (but necessary) ways you’ll inevitably have to cope with them. For Alexis and her friends, they are navigating the complicated but powerful dynamics of friendship—like helping with relationship troubles, and disposing of a dead body when needed.
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  • Lina
    January 1, 1970
    The first paragraph of the 'Acknowledgements' perfectly summarises this book:'This book is about the friends and family that hold us together. It's about uncertainty. It's about learning to accept love and support. It's about how scary that can be, and how hard a skill it is to learn. It's a book about doing hard things unalone.''When we were magic' was such a light read. I absolutely loved the message this book carried, it left me with a smile on my face.Of course, I have a few criticisms, such The first paragraph of the 'Acknowledgements' perfectly summarises this book:'This book is about the friends and family that hold us together. It's about uncertainty. It's about learning to accept love and support. It's about how scary that can be, and how hard a skill it is to learn. It's a book about doing hard things unalone.''When we were magic' was such a light read. I absolutely loved the message this book carried, it left me with a smile on my face.Of course, I have a few criticisms, such as:* it felt like there were way too many characters introduced at once (character profiles below)* it was quite predictable* even though the book starts with the girls trying to cover up a murder, there was almost no tensionBUT the positives definitely outweigh the negatives and my overall experience was enjoyable.An important message (e. self-acceptance) that it carries, the diverse and well-developed characters, the fact that the book touches on many relevant and important issues (paedophiles, police brutality, gun violence etc.) - those definitely were this book's strengths.It might be not as suitable for an older reader, but this book is perfect for teenagers and young adults.I truly was able to connect with the characters (which doesn't happen very often),hence, 3,75* Main characters:MarcelinaFilipinaTiny and plumpCute Goth (don’t call her goth)Long black hairBadassTanStrongest magic: Plants (trees specially)Not an introvert but sometimes needs to just be alone with her plantsMaryamAmbitiousGold flash tattoosEmerald-green eyesMuslimStrongest magic: colorPaulieCoolPaleTall and willowyThin straight blond hairCheerleaderCan make water into shapesRoyaFunnyhot-headedBlack hairLong-limbed'Fixing things': Healing +cleaning and fixing enginesPOCIris'the brains' of the groupFrecklesRed curlsUnites all their strengthsKind of like Will in W.i.t.c.h.Alexis (the narrator)Talks to dogs and other animals (+bugs)Has 2 dadsBrown curly hairDark brown eyesHas a brother Nico, 2 years younger (both of them were adopted)Magic: (view spoiler)[ blood magic (hide spoiler)]
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  • Geoff
    January 1, 1970
    Every book I read by Gailey keeps showing improvement. In this one, here usual interesting high concept and world building was matched by fully fleshed out characters who all had room to breathe. Although I'm not a teenage girl (and never was), I loved the strength of the bonds between the main friend group. Sure this is a book about the power (for good and bad) of magic but it's really about the power (for good!) of friendship. As a side note, I loved the portrayal of the protagonists parents Every book I read by Gailey keeps showing improvement. In this one, here usual interesting high concept and world building was matched by fully fleshed out characters who all had room to breathe. Although I'm not a teenage girl (and never was), I loved the strength of the bonds between the main friend group. Sure this is a book about the power (for good and bad) of magic but it's really about the power (for good!) of friendship. As a side note, I loved the portrayal of the protagonists parents as clued in, emphatic, kind, and loving. And this book had one of the most interesting (and touching) coming out scenes you will ever read.**Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest reveiw.
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  • Heather H.
    January 1, 1970
    3.75 ish? Okay, so I did like the concept behind this - the fact that all the girls were bonded by magic and had losses as a result of magic was intriguing to me, but I dunno - I struggled with this one for a bit. None of the characters super stood out to me, and I wanted to like it more than I did. It's not a bad book, not at all, just fell kind of flat for me. I just perhaps wasn't in the right mindset or mood when I read it, and may have liked it more if I had consumed it via audio. -le 3.75 ish? Okay, so I did like the concept behind this - the fact that all the girls were bonded by magic and had losses as a result of magic was intriguing to me, but I dunno - I struggled with this one for a bit. None of the characters super stood out to me, and I wanted to like it more than I did. It's not a bad book, not at all, just fell kind of flat for me. I just perhaps wasn't in the right mindset or mood when I read it, and may have liked it more if I had consumed it via audio. -le shrug-
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