Review: When We Were Magic by Sarah Gailey

When We Were Magic by Sarah Gailey // VBC Review

When We Were Magic
Sarah Gailey
Published: March 3, 2020 (Simon Pulse)
Purchase at: Amazon
Review Source: Copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Reviewed by: Amy

Rating (out of 5): 4 stars

In theory, Alexis knows that she can rely on her friends for anything. I mean they’ve all been keeping their magic a secret for years. Putting that theory to the test, when that same magic results in one dead body, Alexis truly knows who her best friends are: they’re the ones that help her hide the body.

As Alexis, Iris, Paulie, Maryan, Marcelina, and Roya struggle with everything they still don’t know about their magic as well as the consequences of trying to right the wrong their magic wrought, they’ll learn that the best chance they have of getting out of this mess, is together.  

When I first read the premise for Sarah Gailey’s When We Were Magic I immediately thought that it sounded like an awesome contrast to their book Magic for Liars, which released last year. While it’s not officially, I do like the idea that this time around Sarah Gailey is writing from the perspective of the magical students, in this case specifically from Alexis’s point of view. At various points I got major The Craft meets Heathers with some Big Little Lies thrown in vibes.

And I just absolutely love how magic is such a metaphor for almost everything. Here it works in a literal sense in that they all have magical abilities, but it’s also the idea of this part of yourself that doesn’t fit into what is considered “normal.” Something that you feel you have to hide, but then you find other people who are like you, who also have magic. And it’s about this wonderful, unbreakable, unshakeable bond that forms. This love that forms.

This kind of universal idea of figuring out where you fit—who you are and who you want to be—also plays out over the most tumultuous time in many a teenager’s life: when they’re getting ready to leave home on their own and start adulting. For Alexis this means, hopefully, finally telling Roya how she feels about her.

Alexis was an interesting choice for narrator, I think, because she kind of starts out very unassuming. And I mean that she can clearly see her friends and their abilities, but she doesn’t see herself clearly, she doubts herself a lot. She doesn’t believe that Roya can have the same feelings for her, she doesn’t believe her magic shines as bright as everyone else’s. So besides showing readers this awesome group of young women supporting and being there for one another, we get to see Alexis start to fully realize how much power she holds in the weight of her decisions whether good or bad.

Honestly, I really wanted more time spent with the girls and their magic. I loved the way it manifests differently with each girl. They all have a general ability, but also something that is their strong suit. Because there’s still so much about their magic that they don’t know, I often felt like the exploration aspect of their abilities gets overshadowed by what they already know they are capable of in trying to rewrite the wrong done.

Also, a big drawback for me is the fact that I didn’t think the ratio of conflict to consequences was even. And when we’re talking about the loss of life, for me, the counteraction should be a pretty close equivalent, and I didn’t feel that punch as much as I think I should have.

Overall, I’ve really been taken in by the magic that Sarah Gailey has created. Offering a very real look at high school life, with wonderful and varied representation.

 Sexual Content: Kissing and references to sex

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