Review – When We Were Magic

Posted December 5, 2020 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of When We Were Magic by Sarah GaileyWhen We Were Magic, Sarah Gailey

Sarah Gailey has a gift for writing books I can’t put down. I steamed through this one in two sittings, and read the whole thing in an hour and a half. Since my attention’s been awful lately, for most books, that’s enough for me to rate this pretty highly on enjoyment, even if I have a lot of lingering questions.

It starts with Alexis accidentally killing a boy she’s trying to have sex with at a party, and calling in her friends to help her fix the problem. They jump somewhat awkwardly to the idea of just getting rid of the body — and they have a somewhat unique method to do that, because they can all do magic, and they know how to work together. It doesn’t go as planned, though, leaving them with pieces of his body and his weirdly ice-cold, very slowly beating heart…

The rest of the book follows them as they get rid of the pieces and cope with the consequences of their magic: each of them loses something as they get rid of the pieces of the body, and of course, the boy’s absence is quickly spotted and the cops want to talk to everyone who was at the party, and also they all have their own little dramas. I have some questions about their reaction to the boy’s death — they don’t really know him, so it makes sense that they’re not distraught, but it felt like they were shockingly put together for a bunch of kids who had to dispose of pieces of a peer’s body. Not one of them seemed likely to crack under the strain. And yeah, I get that their friendship here is meant to be unshakeable, but it kind of made them sound like sociopaths, too.

I also have questions about what exactly happened to change Alexis’ magic. It’s clear it’s the first time her magic has got out of her control like that, and they never really do much about figuring it out. How do we know she isn’t going to endanger people more?

Overall, though, it was a lot of fun. I sped through it, and I loved that Alexis has two dads and a crush on a friend who happens to be a girl, and it’s just all part of these girls’ lives. I adore the tiny glimpses we get of what her parents were like when they met, and the fact that the family background to Alexis’ life feels real; they have a history that’s played out in the book, even though it is not the focus of the book. I’d have loved a little more of that for other characters (some of the group of girls, even), but I deeply enjoyed that it was there for Alexis’ family. That’s what makes characters feel real to me.

Rating: 4/5

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