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When We Were Magic

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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 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.

352 pages, Hardcover

First published March 3, 2020

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Sarah Gailey

94 books3,257 followers

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5 stars
937 (19%)
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1,773 (37%)
3 stars
1,412 (30%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 943 reviews
Profile Image for Chelsea (chelseadolling reads).
1,478 reviews19.3k followers
February 24, 2020
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
Profile Image for Ashley.
800 reviews441 followers
January 7, 2023
Star Rating: —> 4.5 Stars

ThisBOOKthisbookthisbookkkk !

Oh 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 culture rep... about WITCHES & MAGIC (which both the witches AND magic, in a way, are also extremely diverse ! Each girl has their own unique abilities that work in their own unique ways... it's pretty amazing).
I might as well have died and gone to heaven.


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. But sorry not
Profile Image for Kristina.
259 reviews
December 8, 2020
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 (Chapter 2). It does not occur to them until later in Chapter 5 that hey, they have MAGIC, maybe they should try to bring him back to life first (you know, before they finish getting rid of the body, since their first spell didn't get rid of everything and they have to deal with what is left of the guy, which, yeah, yikes). It never comes up to them to try to restore the boy back to life (specifically Iris, when asked, said flat out that it's not possible and everyone accepts that as a fact) 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? If it was going to be a long effort through the story to try to make things right by trying to bring the boy back to life after all, why make it start the way it did with the first spell they tried? Why couldn't they have just moved the body with their magic or hidden it (different from getting rid of it or making it disappear) until they decided they could at least try to bring him back? I'm shaking my head because the ideas with the magic were unique throughout the book. It just puts it all in a bad light when I think the whole course of the story is dependent on the words of one girl who actually made a mistake and we never see a good reason for why she did that in the first place. Iris didn't think of bringing him back until asked? Because it just had to be impossible or something? That's not how it came across to Alexis in that first conversation, with Iris giving the impression that this spell was their only option, and that's why when they change course about what to do, I'm just blargh overall about it. For all that they go through until that ending, I wanted there to be at least a reason 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. For being inside her head, we don't get enough info. There's a few quick comments that just seem too blink and you'll miss them about how not dreaming is affecting Alexis.

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.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Sharon.
1,069 reviews79 followers
May 2, 2020
Representation is always important, so the fact that this is a YA book about six queer friends, one of whom has same sex parents, is fantastic. All six girls are also magic, each wielding a different type of power. Also fantastic.

So why did a book about queer teen witches fall so flat for me?

The narrator, Alexis, wasn't someone I felt I knew despite being in her head all the way through the book. At the very, very beginning, a boy dies. This isn't a spoiler, it's the whole plot - but none of them seem particularly bothered about the actual boy? The teen drama and "Am I good enough/I'm not good enough/I wish I was good enough/does she like me/I like her/ does she like me" stuff wears really thin when an eighteen year old boy JUST DIED. Paragraphs about how lush your friend's lips are when you're sitting beside came off trivial and selfish.

I didn't completely understand what was happening with the heart, or with the girls' powers. I actually went looking for reviews in case this was part of a series and that I had come in at book 3 or 4 and missed a load of backstory. I also didn't find any humour in the book at all despite it being mentioned on the blurb that this was "darkly funny".

I can understand the high reviews, because as I said, representation matters and this ticks all the boxes - but for me, personally, the whole thing was messy and the ending didn't seem fair after everything that the girls had done. Really disappointed with this one, but I am thankfully in the minority going by the stats here and I'm glad a book like this exists.

Profile Image for Jamie Dacyczyn.
1,612 reviews89 followers
Shelved as 'did-not-finish'
April 10, 2023
DNF around 60 pages. Yep, that's right, I'm quitting this over a hole. A HOLE.

Well, ok, not JUST the hole (I'll get to that in a minute). I was also having a hard time with the story itself. The book is about a group of teen girls who can perform magic....and the book opens when one of them accidentally kills a boy at a party with her magic. Actually, she tries to have sex with him because she wants to lose her virginity to somebody, ANYBODY, and in the fumble of trying to put on a condom her magic somehow makes his johnson explode. Which kills him. So then she gets her group of witchy gal pals involved so that they can magically hide all traces of the crime. They get the blood splatter to disappear, but aren't able to make the body vanish completely, so they divvy up his remaining parts (liver, arms, head, spine, etc) to dispose of separately. That's about the gist of the first chunk of this book.

Something about this just felt...kinda dumb. Like the "exploding dick" opening scene felt like a cheap attempt at darkly humorous shock value or something? "Oooo, look how edgy this is, she detonated his dingaling WITH HER MAGICS!" The main character feels a little bit bad for killing a guy, but is mostly worried about covering up the crime. She's definitely less concerned with how her choice to sleep with some guy, ANY guy, lead to that randomly-chosen guy's death. We're constantly told how this group of friends is super tight knit and always there for each other, but it feels like telling instead of showing. Well, I mean, they do agree to hide body parts for one another, but it still feels shallow somehow? Maybe we should have gotten to know them all FIRST as a friend group, before the whole exploding-wang murder fiasco.

I started to lose patience when the girls decide to attempt to use magic to bring the dead guy back to life, so they have to re-gather the remaining body parts from the various places they'd hidden them. At this point, it felt like resurrecting him should have been what they tried tried FIRST, before making most of his body magically vanish. The whole scene felt pointless because we already know it's not going to work. When it doesn't, they go back to disposing of the body parts separately again. So what was the point of that whole scene??

After that pointless scene, the main character digs a hole in the woods in which to bury the guy's head. Ok, fine, but as I read it, all I could think about was THIS ISN'T HOW HOLE DIGGING WORKS.

First, she's digging a hole in the woods. I don't know if you've ever tried to dig a hole in the woods, but tree roots make it pretty dang hard to accomplish. Like, it's doable, but it's not easy. However, this is how it goes for her:

The ground is much softer than I anticipated. The digging is easy, and before I know it, I've got a pretty deep hole.
I jump down into it and keep going. I dig until the top of the hole is over my head, until I'm surrounded on all four sides by close walls of loose, crumbling earth....The hole is only just wide enough for me to stick my elbow out and turn around in a circle.

Wow, she dug a hole IN THE WOODS deep enough that the top of the hole is over her head? And "the digging is easy"? How?? What kinds of woods are these? How is the ground completely devoid of tree roots? Also, the earth is loose and crumbling, but doesn't cave in on a hole that deep and narrow? Really?

My next thought, of course, was how the heck she was going to get OUT of a hole that deep and narrow.

I toss up the shovel and try to jump. When I bend my knees, I find that there's barely room for even that--my butt bumps against one side of the hole, and my knees bump against the other.

Eventually she manages to haul herself out of the hole, but I'm still hung up on the narrowness of this hole that she's dug. It's so narrow that if she bends her knees, her butt hits against against the opposite side? Ok....so....like....how did she manage to dig this hole? Think about it logically: To dig with a shovel you stick the blade down into the ground and step/jump on the top of the shovel to apply pressure, but to actually scoop up the dirt you're going to need room to lean the handle to the side. How could she do that in a hole that narrow? It seems to me like all she should be able to do is stab the shovel downwards over and over, but scooping the dirt won't be possible if this hole is as narrow as described.

Continuing that line of thought, the next obvious question is how could she get the dirt OUT of the hole when the walls are that narrow? Go ahead, imagine the motions of scooping dirt in a regular shallow hole, and then lifting and inverting the shovel to fling the dirt up and out. Fine....but now imagine doing that when you're standing in a hole that's deeper than you are tall, and so narrow that your elbows can touch on either side. How do you get a scoopful of dirt onto the shovel, and then flip it up and out of the hole? The shovel would just hit either side of the walls before the blade could flip the scoop of dirt up and out. You could only do it with a really short shovel, like one of those tiny folding ones or a garden trowel, in which case the digging a really deep hole IN THE WOODS aspect gets even more unbelievable.

I feel like I want to draw a NOT HAPPENING diagram of this situation for anyone who has never dug a hole or can't visualize why this is impossible.

Now, yes, I recognize that in a book where girls can magically kablooey a guy's kielbasa, maybe the simple logistics of hole digging might seem like an arbitrary point to give up on my suspension of disbelief....but here we are. This hole-digging scene felt like a last straw to me. It's as if the author was just writing whatever, without taking the time to make sure that what she was writing actually made any sense on a tangible level.

That's just sloppy writing.

So I'm quitting because of the hole, but it's not about the hole.
Profile Image for lady h.
639 reviews181 followers
March 15, 2020
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.
Profile Image for mili •͈ᴗ•͈.
27 reviews20 followers
January 17, 2021
queer teen witches yet i don’t know why this fell so flat for me )-:
Alexis made a guy’s d*ck explode- amazeballs (pun SO intended ;). it was all fun and games until none of them cared for his death? you all got super powers but the first thing you think about is to hide the body?? how about trying to bring this poor guy back to life?? not once did Alexis feel guilty about it. she just whines about not deserving her friends’ love and support *eye roll*.

i liked how they could see each other’s magic, but couldn’t see their own. makes me think we all carry some sort of magic inside of us we aren’t always aware of🖤
Profile Image for The Nerd Daily.
720 reviews345 followers
February 23, 2020
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.
Profile Image for Laura ☾.
821 reviews270 followers
April 20, 2020
3.5 stars rounded up

I enjoyed this, this was really easy to read. But I kind of wish there had been more - the end was too open for my taste!

Profile Image for meg.
1,214 reviews12 followers
August 9, 2020
1.5. I am DNFing this at over 50%, which I think is a sufficient quantity for me to justify writing a review. I wanted to like this for many reasons, especially since the summary seemed right up my alley and I found Gailey's first novel disappointing but showed promise. But this did absolutely nothing for me. The characters were all flat and distinguishable only by their talents and physical characteristics; none of them showed any distinct personalities. Their epic friendship was told more than shown: often the narrator discusses how much she loves her group of friends and how much they love her and sure, they hide a body together, but rarely do they do more than chat politely to each other in groups of 2 or 3.

Moreover, these characters behave... reprehensibly. God knows I don't mind an unpleasant main character, even when they're at the point of committing murder. I am ALWAYS rooting for the Ripley to get away with it, for gods sake! But these girls killed an innocent boy completely on accident and seemed to feel little remorse or regret, but they also didn't commit to it and take a stand. They seemed to be convinced that they were doing what was right and were willing to do terrible things to bystanders to get away with it, and the narrative seemed to totally agree with them that these actions were virtuous and justified. I don't need angels and I don't need a moral lesson but when I read about murder I'd like it to be revenge or sociopathy, not this
meek disingenuous faux innocence.

FINALLY, I'll keep this brief, but I simply do not think Sarah Gailey is a good writer. Their sentences...are bad and the "dark humor" promised in the summary is simply not present. I like what they're doing conceptually but this is the second work by them that I've found massively disappointing from a craft standpoint (and you all see the garbage I tolerate!) I hope I learn from this to not make this mistake a third time
Profile Image for J.D..
462 reviews18 followers
October 4, 2020

Six witches struggle to come to terms with a murder that takes place on prom night leaving them to dispose of the body. The meaning of true friendship is put to the test as the group tries to finish off high school and deal with their true feelings towards each other.

Personal Opinion

I really loved the diversity of the girl group! Unfortunately I think I might have enjoyed this more as a teenager, but it was not for adult me at all for multiple reasons.
The five girls, plus the MC, were introduced in a rush and in an info dump sort of way. It was very hard to keep track of who was who. A smaller group of four girls in total would have been much easier to get to know and connect with.
Definitely relies more on telling rather than showing which tends to take me out of the story. The MC keeps telling how upset she is instead of showing it. The reader is told how good of friends the 6 girls are but it's not really shown, and so on.
There is only so much whining about insecurities a character can do before it really interferes with the story and becomes irritating. Alexis passed that point before the 100 page mark.
Also I was very underwhelmed by the ending and would have liked to see some kind of payback for the not so great things the girls had done throughout the story.

Overall, this one just wasn't for me and I would not recommend.

Profile Image for tappkalina.
650 reviews400 followers
December 15, 2022
This was one of my most anticipated books of 2020, but then it got so many mixed reviews I wasn't sure anymore.

And now I found the audiobook. (Ugh, me and audiobooks. At this point I might as well be in a relationship with Scribd, because I spend more time with it than with my family lol.) And I couldn't put it down.

I understand where the criticism is coming from. There are six girls and there was not enough time to properly establish the relationship between all of them, even if we spent every chapter as the mc with different girls one-on-one.

Even if I had some difficulty differentiating them at the beginning, I loved this book.
I'm simple. It's not hard to impress me. I don't need unique plots. All I need is chaarcters who are sweet, preferably touchy with each other, since that's my love language, and make me feel comfortable.

And that's exactly what this book did. Both with the girls and with the mc's family.
I even liked the plot and how everything turned out at the end, especially that they had to live with the consequences forever. Nothing's worse than a cheap escape to a happy ever after.
Profile Image for Charlie Marie.
180 reviews69 followers
April 28, 2020
This book, y’all! I feel like 2020 is the year of reading queer teen witch gangs (see also: The Scapegracers) and I am here for it.

This book has dark humor, talking animals, exploding dicks, the most loving friendships, a whole cast of diverse identities, the sweetest queer parents ever, rad and specific magic, an adorable falling in love with a best friend romance, and all the end of high school feels.

Sarah Gailey is magic, and I will follow them anywhere. I’m off to read their alternate history with hippos (?!) novellas next!
Profile Image for Katie T.
1,006 reviews89 followers
May 9, 2021
Granted I'm in a total rage atm but this book really isn't very good. There was essentially no plot. It seems like there was, but there really wasn't. Maybe life is different now, but when I was in high school girls were not this caring and concerned and it makes this so unbelievable that it's made me mad. That's probably insane of me. I had wonderful friends but the level of holding each other and planting a friendly kiss on the forehead and saying, hey, it's okay! is comical. Whatever, I'm in a really bad mood and this book sucked. Both are true and both are a bad combo.
Profile Image for Lea (drumsofautumn).
619 reviews627 followers
September 17, 2021
This was really good and I absolutely loved the female friendship but I've just been feeling meh about YA Contemporary in general and I just need to start coming to terms with that. This might've even been a 5-star read if I had read it a couple of years ago but for now I am going to give it 4 stars because I feel like it accurately represents the quality of the story, although my actual enjoyment would be more like 3 stars. But again, that's on me and my current reading taste too.

Profile Image for Althea.
422 reviews142 followers
September 17, 2021
If you ignore the ending of this book, this was a really great read! I listened to this as an audiobook and I loved how atmospheric it was - perfect for Halloween - and I think that the narrator did a great job in general. I loved seeing the girls using their magic and also the strong bonds between them all. The ending, however, was extremely lackluster and it didn't feel resolved to me at all, just a bit pointless. But I'd still pick myself up a physical copy of this book at some point in the future if just for the spooky Halloween-y vibes!

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Profile Image for m.
349 reviews52 followers
October 9, 2019
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
Profile Image for Meaghan.
559 reviews74 followers
April 15, 2020
I really really wish half stars existed because this book is a total 3.5. I enjoyed it and I loved a lot of it but I was just missing something. I honestly just entirely agree with Jaye's review (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...).

There is a lot of good and great about this book. The magic in this book is so loose and unrestrained and that's honestly so rare to see these days, as everyone's trying to outdo each other with increasingly complex magic systems. It was nice to see magic just exist and for the cast to have absolutely no idea what was going on either, and to see them learn more about it together/with the reader. It means there's not that much to guide readers' understanding of the magic, but honestly that wasn't too big a problem. I also just loved the group's friendship, from how they found each other to how in tune they were to each others emotions and needs, you could tell they all really cared about each other. This is what we mean when we say we want more positive, female friendships! Follow this example!

This book was also so gay and I loved and needed that so much. I also love that not everyone is labelled and boxed off either, and there's lots of room for unsurety and exploration and just, love, I guess? For that matter, I really loved Alexis's dads, and how their relationship and parenting styles were portrayed (having two dads doesn't mean you have two identical parents! and that's shown so well here), and then there was Alexis and Roya and their endless pining. It wasn't always super cute but I loved it and it was just, really good rep overall. Also... Paulie. I just love her so much (and honestly see a lot of myself in her? both in terms of personality and... general confusion about identity). I just loved reading about her so much, and how she wasn't just boxed into some identity and that was it.

But then the whole book also felt like it was missing something. The conclusion came on really fast and the resolution/climax didn't seem to fit the amount of build-up. I'm fine with the whole magic system not really being explored further or explained, but it honestly felt like it was building up to some sort of explanation, and I just felt a bit lost and confused at the end, thinking "that was it?"

Anyways, even though this wasn't perfect, it was gay and it was magic and I highly recommend it! (Though, definitely big on the gore, especially in the beginning. So keep that in mind!)

Profile Image for Jaye Berry.
1,350 reviews123 followers
March 18, 2020
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.
Profile Image for Tati♡.
50 reviews2 followers
March 19, 2020
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.
March 27, 2020
I LOVE YOUNG ADULT FICTION. I hated this book. Why? Literally the only thing the author focused on about was filling her diversity quota. But it wasn’t heartfelt at all. I know Moonlight is a movie but every minute of that movie I actually felt something, and I read that Noughts and Crosses after watching it on the old BBC (watch it, it’s fabulous) The author chats about how funny her book is and how dark it is oh my god it was the most UNFUNNY book ever. This might be because the author is American and I’m English but crikey. The only thing it sort of talked about was religion, but without getting into the depth of religion, race, without going into much depth and of course there is the coming of age lesbian romance between the two main characters which was so boring that when they actually cracked on with each other my eyes actually skipped the sentence. This book is also about the power of friendship yet it doesn’t explain their friendship, doesn’t go into it in depth and i think it’s a bit convenient how these 6 magic girls all found each other and were instantly friends like just sounded a bit fairytale like to me. I would recommend this to maybe an 8 year old but the ‘funny dark’ jokes the author tells are just full of language. I tjink the biggest joke she tried to play off was at the start when the girl exploded this guys dick and it just wasnt funny at all Hun x READ noughts and crosses INSTEAD and watch moonlight thank u next Also the ending is awful and anti climatic and the romance isnt even that good so i would give it a miss
Profile Image for James.
503 reviews
April 7, 2020
Alexis has a crush on her best friend, Roya, but when Roya goes to prom with Tall Matt (I don't actually recall meeting the less-tall Matt, so Matt probably would have been enough to name him), she decides that she needs to have sex with someone to make Roya jealous. She settles on Josh Harper, but as Josh is fumbling with the condom, her magic kicks in, Josh's dick explodes, and he dies.

Yes, the title probably caused you to think that there would be magic involved. No, it did not warn me that magical dick explosions and murder were going to included. And this isn't just something that happens along the way. This all happens by page 5 in the book, so I'm not really giving any spoilers away.

The rest of the book is about how they try to get rid of the body (body parts, really...I mean, it just makes sense to cut up and distribute body parts amongst your friends to make it easier to leave a party without anyone noticing the dead body. And a lot of questions abound, as Alexis's friends wonder exactly how this situation came to happen. But not a lot of questions of morality. They briefly debate if they should contact the authorities, but in the way of teenagers, decide that it would be difficult to explain how a dick just accidentally explodes without having to explain how Alexis can perform magic and no one ever doubts the need for the cover-up again.

So to recap: Alexis uses Josh to make Roya jealous, kills Josh by causing his dick to explode, brings in her friends as accomplices to help get rid of the body, and no one ever talks to Josh's parents or the police.

But it's okay, because Alexis and Roya will eventually have a talk about they each like the other and everyone will end up happy in the end.

Except Josh. Heck, there's a starving coyote that ends up better than Josh.

The characters (those that aren't just MacGuffins) are actually interesting, and the story of the friendship these girls share is heartwarming, except for the fact that they're all involved in a felony. I just wish the underlying force driving this story hadn't started out with an exploding penis.
Profile Image for rey.
241 reviews117 followers
May 17, 2020
this book was amazing. but amazing in a way that snuck up on me, when at first i just thought it was okay, interesting if a little strange, and then halfway through i realized i loved it, and then when i reached the end i didn’t even have words anymore.

this was a book about magic and queer witches and accidental murder, but it was also a book about friendship and everything was so soft and healthy and wonderful.

and the romance was beautiful, and it was described the same way as the magic, and it was so pure and good.

and there were those little moments throughout the story that made me feel alive, that i fully didn’t expect and that made the story real, that made me understand how much i loved it.

this book <3
Profile Image for Susan.
787 reviews5 followers
June 16, 2020
I wanted to like this book. The basic premise of six friends united by their magical gifts was a positive one. However, right from the beginning I was turned off by the death of a teenage boy, their lack of compassion and empathy for him and his family while he was missing and ultimately found dead, as well as how they only cared about hiding the fact that one of them was responsible for his death - simply because she wanted to make another girl jealous. I kept hoping that something would redeem them but in the end they moved on, while a family was devastated by the death of this teenage, though no one seemed to care. This is not a book I would recommend to anyone.
Profile Image for KA.
212 reviews7 followers
March 28, 2020
I could not get past the past where the group really didn’t care that they killed a boy (no spoilers, it’s the first few pages), and they just went on about their lives. There are other interesting elements of the story, but this one wasn’t for me.
Profile Image for thi.
668 reviews83 followers
March 15, 2020
- finally a book with phrase “darkly funny” in the synopsis and is actually ... darkly funny (without being gross or containing commonly triggering topics)
- Just a girl gang ... doing their best
- I always welcome f/f, even unexpectedly .. and under developed
Profile Image for HeatherH.
298 reviews66 followers
April 21, 2020
As I was reading the last chapter, I was thinking about what I wanted to write in my review. I was thinking how this is a story about friendship and magic. But that it is also a story about family - the kind you're raised with and the kind you chose. It's about finding love - in all the ways that love can be found. It's about doubting yourself, and feeling like a burden, but learning and growing from that and trusting that you're worthy of the support and love you are given.

And as I finished the last page and turned to the author's acknowledgements, I read this:

"This is a book 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 the hard things unalone."

The author's hopes in writing this story came through, perfectly and beautifully. This story was easy to read and easy to love.
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