Friday, April 10, 2015

Review: The Cost of All Things by Maggie Lerhman

The Cost of All Things by Maggie Lerhman
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: May 12, 2015
ARC from Edelweiss

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind meets We Were Liars in this thought-provoking and brilliantly written debut that is part love story, part mystery, part high-stakes drama.

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.

My Thoughts:

The Cost of All Things starts with Ari grieving over the death of her boyfriend, Win. Desperate to get rid of the sorrow, Ari visits the local Hekame and gets a spell that erases her memory of Win and their time together. The morning after taking the spell, Ari wakes up and soon realizes that losing the memory of Win has also made her lost other things, in particular her capability to dance, which means that her future as a Ballet dancer in New York feels suddenly very distant, when just a day earlier it already seemed like reality.

I had no idea what to expect from The Cost Of All Things. At first glance of the cover, I though it was a contemporary, and I guess it kind of is, but reading the synopsis made me question that judgement. I was glad to realize quickly that Lerhman has been able to fit the somewhat paranormal aspect, the spells and the hekame, into the plot in a way that they feel normal and thus fit well into the otherwise contemporary world of the novel. The spells and the hekame, a solution for many people and many problems, are well established concept and very intriguing to read about. Though towards the end of the novel the “magical” aspect of The Cost of All Things gets occasionally a bit muffled, in general, I really enjoyed this addition to the story.

The Cost of All Things alternates between four points of view, introducting the reading to Ari, Win, Kay and Markos and their pasts and presents. Ari, as mentioned before, is an aspiring dancer and unfortunately for her, the death of Win is not the first major loss she has experienced in her life. Several years before, her parents died in a fire and back then, Ari was given a trauma spell to make her forget the details, as a result of which she does not have many memories of her parents and the life she had with them. Win, Ari's boyfriend, has already died at the beginning of the novel, but his point of view offers a glimpse to what happened before, to what he was going through. Kay, a friend to Ari, has gotten involved with spells as well, first using a beauty spell to make herself look more attainable and then a spell called “hook”, tying her friends to her for eternity. Finally, Markos is the town “bad boy”, a bit of a player, who is going through the death of his best friend, Win, and trying to find his place and his identity within a group of brothers who seem to think they know what is best for Markos.

I think the most problematic aspect of this novel for me was the chapters that focused on the point of view of Kay. The way she has been using the spells to tie people to her, basically forcing them to be her friends, made it difficult for me to like her. But at the same time, the author treats her so honestly that at the back of my mind, I had to admit to myself that I understood why she would do such a thing.

The scenario of using spells to get rid of your sorrow and grief really made me think what I would do in such a situation, if I would have the option to take a spell and get freed from such feelings. My father died when I was 12 years old, and though at the time the prospect of feeling better would have been desirable, think about it now, I must admit that I would never give up my memories of him, even when some of them are sad ones. The way Lerhman writes about the spells and their effects is done in detail and in a way that really forces one to think about such things, thus turning the spells into something meaningful and not only something that adds a little spice to the story.

Towards the end of the book, as mentioned before, the whole spell business gets unfortunately a bit muffled. Too much happens (compared to the slow-boiling events of the rest of the novel) and I felt like the ending was a bit too “explosive” to some extent. I feel like Lerhman feels pressured to bring all the points of views together as a result of which the story gets a bit to packed up. But since the rest of the novel is really intriguing and well constructed, this little mishap in the end did not bother me too much.

The Cost of All Things is a really well written debut and it really makes me look forward to what Lerhman (hopefully) comes up with next. It is original, touching, filled with complicated characters whose actions I questioned, but also managed to understand. The multiple points of view work well until the very and with the addition of the spells into the story, The Cost of All Things is an interesting, unique read worth the time.

3.5 Snowflakes


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