Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Cost of All Things, by Maggie Lehrman

What if I told you all it took to give you your heart's desire (beauty... love... popularity... happiness... anything!) was to purchase a magic spell from the neighborhood witch? Would you do it?

All right, then...

But what if you learned the side effects of that spell could be life-altering, dangerous, or catastrophic? What if the fallout from the spell ended up hurting those you care about? Would you still go through with it?

Ari, Markos, Kay, and Win each have their reasons for visiting the town's hekamist (witch) for spells they hope will make their lives better. Ari wishes to forget past tragedies, Markos wants to find meaning in life, Kay desires beauty and popularity at any cost, and Win hopes to find the answer to his crippling depression. But sometimes one spell can lead to another...and another. And with each spell, the characters lose something important. With each spell, their lives become more complicated and less like what they were hoping to find. 

The premise of Maggie Lehrman's The Cost of All Things was intriguing, and it's repeated comparison to another book I really liked (E. Lockhart's "We Were Liars") was what prompted me to read it. What I discovered was a story that was dark, disturbing, and impossible to put down. Alternating viewpoints with cliffhanger chapters are what drive the story, making the reader desperate to find out what happens next. Characters, although unlikable, are sympathitic, and the reader will genuinely feel for them and maybe even understand what motivates them to do what they do. The big reveal/twist at the end may surprise, but only if the reader isn't paying close attention to details. (so pay attention)

The moral of the story is a simple, if cliche, one: Be careful what you wish for, because you might get it.

The Verdict: The jury is still out on whether I liked The Cost of All Things or not. Yes, I think it will be popular among teens. I'm just not sure it was the right book for me. --AJB

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