When We Were Magic by Sarah Gailey
A sly, witchy dark comedy 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.
This book really surprised me. I knew I’d love it because of the magic. But this book is about so much more than magic. I found the focus to be on friendship, family, falling in love, being insecure, and trying to figure out who you are and where you fit in.
I have to start with a quote from the beginning of the book. I knew right away that I would enjoy it.
I didn’t mean to kill Josh Harper.
Really, I didn’t. It’s just that I was nervous, and condoms are more complicated that I was expecting, and one thing led to another and-well.
Now there’s blood everywhere and he’s dead.
Alexis decided to lose her virginity after prom to Josh Harper, a boy she didn’t even like. Something went wrong with her magic, his penis exploded, and he died. She immediately gets her friends to help. The group decides to try to perform a spell they’ve never done before to try to bring Josh back to life. It didn’t go well.
This group of friends all have magic. They don’t exactly understand why or how it all works, but each one has a specialty. It bonded them and they are like sisters. Except for the crushes. Iris is the brains of the group. Her magic is different and she’s the one who takes notes and studies the magic.
When things go wrong with the magic, everyone needs to take body parts and dispose of them. The blood is cleaned up by the spell, but Josh is in pieces. Something is really off with the spell though. As they start burying parts, Josh’s heart starts beating. Slowly at first and then more as parts are buried, destroyed, or eaten by animals. They all have to use their magic to help the disposal. Iris feels things first. But then each of them starts to lose something from themselves. Magic needs balance. Their hope is that after the parts are gone, maybe the heart will bring Josh back. The police are around and one girl at school is very suspicious.
There is a lot of stress on everyone, but not just because of Josh. They’re almost done with senior year and they’re not all going to be together. Alexis is in love with Roya, but is afraid to tell her. We see a lot of insecurity from Alexis. She’s afraid her friends don’t love her the way she is. She’s afraid of what will happen in college. She’s afraid that’s she’s never good enough. Her dads adopted her and then her little brother later on (they aren’t blood related siblings). I love the blended families in the book. There is a ton of diversity. Not just the sexuality, but race, religion, blended families, etc.
The bonds of friendship were just amazing in this book and I love that it was such a big focus. It can be hard to form those bonds, especially with a larger group. They had fights and issues, but nothing would ever come between them. They came first. Always. I loved Alexis’s family which is the one we saw the most focus on. Her dads were so kind and supportive.
We have to wait until to the end to see if Josh comes back to life or not. We have to wait and see how things change, but we watch some growth from each character. Overall, I just really enjoyed this book. It’s a little more mature with the blood and sex, but the kids are all seniors and almost done with high school.
I gave this book 4 1/2 stars, rounded up to 5. Thank you to the publisher for e-mailing me a netgalley link for download. Quote taken from arc and may change before publication.
Is this book on your TBR? Did you get a chance to read an ARC?