When We Were Magic by Sarah Gailey
Reviewed by GGGinny
What I drank: More hard seltzer. I’m not sure how I feel about a grapefruit cardomom drink, but I drank it!
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.
Drunk Overview: Alexis accidentally blows up a boys dick, killing (I promise this isn’t much of a spoiler), and calls her friends in to help her. They all have magic (with their own strengths and weaknesses), and manage to magic up a short-term solution, which then requires them to take further steps to keep themselves from getting in trouble.
- Okay, first off, this book manages to capture teenagers so well. I legit had minor flashbacks to actually being in high school and all of the drama that goes with it.
- I think Alexis was a really interesting character. She’s a bit passive aggressive and spiteful and it’s really easy to see her weaknesses, which we don’t always get in a book about a teenage girl.
- The cast of friends was also fascinating. I really enjoyed the combination of personalities and issues and the way it made their actions make so much sense.
- Also the magic system was GREAT!
- I loved the way that the kids all had their own strengths, the things that worked for them, and the things that didn’t. And not even in a “so and so had studied this thing” but just an intuitive connection to some particular kind of magic.
- The characters all felt so full, with lives that happened outside of the scope of the book (because we have Alexis’ perspective and she’s hyper-focused on herself).
- And, omg, this is the rare book with parents that make sense. Alexis’ fathers are involved and (partially) aware of what is going on. It was a relief to have a family relationship (and the tension that exists therein) that felt normal. I say normal in that the parents weren’t completely absent, and/or completely okay with their kid doing wild things.
- Also, this book was definitely creepier than I expected.
- I mean, I knkow it’s about a murder (and frankly all of Gailey’s books end up being darker than I expected), but the kids spend so much time trying to figure out how to take care of a dead body. Really, me being surprised is my own damn fault.
- But this book was also surprisingly comforting. I’m sure it’s not going to happen because it doesn’t seem Gailey’s style, but I want a book that follows up with these kids five years later. I want to see what happens as they separate for college, as relationships work or don’t work, as they figure out who they are…
- It’s a credit to Gailey that the world feels so real that so many more stories could be set in this world. there’s a bit of a surprise reveal towards the end, and I’d love to follow that plotline as well.
What I’d Pair it With: Red Red Wiiiiiiiiiine