Every time I read a book featuring a queer, anxious teen girl, a part of me comes alive.
In When We Were Magic by Sarah Gailey, Alexis and her magical friends must come together for damage control when Alexis accidentally kills a guy on prom night. But their solutions quickly go awry, and their failures have consequences: the spell comes back at them like the snap and recoil of a rubberband. Luckily, teen girls are magic. And these girls will stand by each other no matter what.
I fell in love with tough Roya, with anxious Alexis, with gender-bending Paulie and hesitant Maryam and tree-loving Marcelina and willowy Iris. They all have their own specialities, and they’re all fully realized characters with their own insecurities, worries, and precious abilities. Gailey’s novel brought me back to my own high school friends, of that too-brief time when we would meet before and after school, closely linked at the arms, of scenes in the local park or after school, where I would watch a friend’s hair brush across her lips as we lay in the grass and think about how beautiful she was but never register what my feelings meant.
When We Were Magic sits on my growing shelf of YA I needed when I was a teenage girl, a book about anxiety, about feeling like you aren’t enough, about feeling as though you’re a burden, about what friendship truly looks like, about young queerness and friendship. Sarah Gailey remains one of my must-buy authors.