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Review: The Cost of All Things by Maggie Lehrman

Tuesday, May 5, 2015


The Cost of
All Things

Maggie Lehrman


Genre: YA Contemporary, Magical RealismTragedy
Hardback: 416 Pages
Publication: May 12, 2015
by Balzer + Bray



What would you pay to cure your heartbreak? Banish your sadness? Transform your looks? The right spell can fix anything…. When Ari's boyfriend Win dies, she gets a spell to erase all memory of him. But spells come at a cost, and this one sets off a chain of events that reveal the hidden—and sometimes dangerous—connections between Ari, her friends, and the boyfriend she can no longer remember.

Told from four different points of view, this original and affecting novel weaves past and present in a suspenseful narrative that unveils the truth behind a terrible tragedy.


Review

Imagine a world where you can buy the solution to any problem you have. You want beauty, grace, friends, happiness. . . ? Just buy a spell. Of course, you have to be careful what you wish for because spells have a way of coming back to bite you. In a world where you never know when someone is spelling you, can you even trust yourself?

The Cost of All Things is a deeply thoughtful and provocative novel about the consequences of living in a world where people can get a quick and easy fix to their problems. The characters laugh about how the desperate resort to spells. However, most of them turn to spells for answers. In a world where spells can easily resolve their problems, it is easier to rely on them instead of trying to work through their problems themselves. For example, Ari chooses to forget Win instead of working through the grieving process. There are only two people in this novel of which I know that do not use a spell. Even so, they get entangled in the mess of spells bought by other people that both directly and indirectly influence their lives. Their experiences provide a great contrast to the experiences of those who rely on spells to fix their problems.

The general availability of spells raises some moral issues. Are you still the same person after a spell has been cast on you? Ari provides the strongest statement on this issue. After forgetting about Win, she begins referring to the Ari that knew Win as "Old Ari" because she has lost a whole year of her life and no longer remembers the person that she was then. She isn't the same person as the Ari who knew and loved Win. Then there is the question of hooks. Hooks will keep people close to someone. If you cannot leave a certain radius, can you be said to be the same person you would be without the hook? Or if you get a beauty spell. Or even a simple gravity-defying spell that has a time limit. Our identity is shaped by the experiences that we have. How life altering is it to have access to all of these spells?

I appreciate how the four narrators present us with different insights into the influence of living in a world with spells. The multiple POV adds more depth and breadth to the novel. Nevertheless, I did have some problems with the execution of the narration. First, the POV switches fairly often. Second, the POVs are all told in the first person. While I don't necessarily mind the constant change in POV—it was done better than others I have seen—I do mind that it was done in the first person. That said, this is a personal issue of mine. I generally prefer novels to be told in the third person. More so when there are multiple narrators. This next point isn't a huge issue but would have enriched the reading experience: the narrators' voices were not unique. Their narrations were indistinguishable outside of their different experiences.

Some other things that would have been nice to have: I would have liked for the novel to show us more of the before. For example, what about Win and Ari's relationship made it worthwhile for her to forget about Win? How was their relationship perfect? What made her so dependent on Win that she felt like she could not live with her memories of Win? Or was their another reason that she had to forget him? Also, how do the different characters blame themselves for Win's death? I could have done without the explanation for how spells work. I like the magical realism it adds to the novel. If a reason is going to be provided, however, I don't buy into the idea that the spells reorganize one's brain. It doesn't make sense to me.

Overall, The Cost of All Things is one of the best YA novels I have read thus far in 2015. I love how it explores the complexity of human relationships and that the primary characters are not two people with a romantic interest in each other. In addition, this novel presents a moral dilemma and examines it from multiple perspectives. I definitely recommend checking this one out!

A review copy was provided by Harper Collins for review

Rating: 4 stars

Series
  • N/A

Content
  • Kissing, making out
  • Alcohol
  • Language
  • Sex (not explicit)
  • Violence

4 comments on "Review: The Cost of All Things by Maggie Lehrman"
  1. This one sounds so good, I'm glad you enjoyed it. I'm definitely gonna have to read it soon. I love when books like this have alternating POVs, it adds a lot to the story to get each a little focus on each character.

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    Replies
    1. I'm delighted to hear that, Lacey. I hope you enjoy!

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  2. Ooh yeah, I can definitely see myself struggling with the quickly changing POVs in first person. I like that this book explores a lot of questions, like about morals and humanity. It's even more enlightening because there are multiple characters and you can see how it effects each one. Glad you liked this one overall!

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    Replies
    1. I agree. It's so rare that I find a YA book that explores big questions, especially through multiple characters. While the multiple first-person POVs was a bit challenging at first, it was worthwhile. I hope you check this one out, Alise! :)

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