I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. The scheduled publication date for this book is October 4, 2016.
To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town. But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.
This book . . . oh this book. It was beautiful and enchanting and a little confusing and oh, I just loved it so, so much. I was in a bit of a reading slump when I started it so I didn't have very high expectations that it would be able to capture my attention. But I was just sucked in right away with the characters and the writing.
The diversity in this one was awesome. Sam is Pakistani and he is transgender. He was born as a girl and he is trying so hard to live the life he feels he is meant to, as a boy. The problem is that he is in a bit of denial about his gender identity. I guess in Pakistani culture, there is something called bacha posh. Basically, this is when the daughter in a family with no sons decides to live their life as a boy. I looked it up and it's a real thing. Girls do this so they can live their lives with the freedoms that boys have, but then they go back to living life as women once they pass puberty and are approaching marriage. Sam lives his life as a boy and tells himself that he will grow out of it, that it's a phase, that he will feel more like a girl as he grows up. It's so heartbreaking because he is so confused and so lost. I loved his mom in this. His mom was so supportive and she gave him so much freedom and space to determine what it was that Sam wanted. I loved that. There were so many rich elements about Sam's culture and his identity and how his culture helped shape who he was.
Then there was Miel. Miel suffered a tragedy and was found in the town's water tower. A local woman, Aracely, takes her in and raises her. There are rumors and stories floating around about both Aracely and Miel. Miel has roses growing out of her arm and there are stories about what those roses can supposedly do. Aracely works to remove love sickness from the brokenhearted people of the town. There is something so freeing about the idea that a spell could remove those feelings of love you have for someone who doesn't feel the same way. That spell could have come in handy a lot when I was younger.
Miel is the only one who knows Sam's secret. They have been best friends since they were little and Miel tumbled out of that tower. They also love each other. Their relationship is so beautiful and there is so much acceptance there on both sides and it just made my heart happy. They protected each other and accepted each other completely for who they were. The romance and the chemistry and the friendship were all so captivating.
I will say that the Bonner sisters confused me a bit and there were a few times when the prose confused me a bit. There were also times when I couldn't tell whether something was real or magic. But that did not stop me from loving this book and loving the world that the author created. At the end, the author's note said that the author married a transgender man and she knew him and loved him even before they knew what transgender meant. You can really tell the author respected that struggle and there was so much heart to Sam's story so it didn't surprise me that some of it was based on the author's own life. This book was just so incredibly beautiful and I can't rave about it enough. Just read it already.
Buy/Borrow/Skip: Obviously, I am saying that you need to buy this one.