Review: The Cost of All Things by Maggie Lehrman

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Cost of All Things by Maggie LehrmanThe Cost of All Things by Maggie Lehrman
Published by Balzer + Bray on May 12, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Magical Realism, Mystery
Pages: 416
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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four-stars

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind meets We Were Liars in this thought-provoking, brilliantly written, and totally original realistic contemporary debut about three teens who must deal with the consequences of spells cast on them in the wake of their classmate’s sudden death.

In all of my time blogging, except for the very beginning before I discovered NetGalley, I’ve struggled to balance the number of books I request with the number of reviews I can realistically post per week. As such, egalleys tend to fall by the wayside. Thanks to embracing DNFs and not fully reviewing everything I do finish, I’m getting to a lot more stuff, in one fashion or another. Even so, choices have to be made. I almost skipped The Cost of All Things, because I have way too many YA review books. The cost of reading this book will likely be missing another, but I feel like this book was worth that.

gif anxious to live life to the fullest eternal sunshine

My expectations for The Cost of All Things were pretty close to non-existent. I’m honestly not even sure what made me download it. I didn’t have a conception of what it was about, and I wasn’t particularly drawn to the cover. I hadn’t heard any buzz either really. Still, I downloaded it, and I love to try all sorts of novels. The Cost of All Things grabbed me from the first chapter, and I didn’t want to read anything else until I finished.

The Cost of All Things strides that line between urban fantasy and magical realism really beautifully. I think readers can probably take the story either way in their interpretations, giving the novel a broader appeal. If you’re into fantasy, the witchy world building is definitely present and fascinating, if not a huge aspect of the story. For contemporary readers scared of fantasy, Lehrman uses magic as a commentary on modern society and mental health beautifully.

gif constantly talking isn't communicating eternal sunshine

Using four perspectives and time hops, Lehrman presents the lead up to and aftermath of one boy’s death. Interestingly enough, Win, the boy who has died, is one of the four perspectives, his story unrolling like a small mystery underlying the larger plot. Lehrman does a nice job with the four first person perspectives. Though this wasn’t a book with voice to the max, I also never had trouble distinguishing the narrator at any given point, which is damn impressive. The only thing that bothered me was the way that Win would sometimes break the fourth wall; that threw me out of the book a couple of times.

In the world of The Cost of All Things, witches, known as hekame, can make spells to improve people’s lives. These spells, though, have clear, but somewhat unpredictable, consequences. A spell to improve your physicality will take a toll on your mental faculties. Precisely what toll remains to be seen, but the magic doesn’t work for free. Life, obviously, works in a similar way. The choices that we make are going to impact us, though generally in a less clear fashion.

gif i'm erasing you eternal sunshine

Ari, Win’s girlfriend, goes to a hekame in order to forget him, because she doesn’t want to handle the grief. The spell works, but, combined with a similar spell to forget her parents’ deaths, Ari loses her gracefulness and promising career as a ballerina. Once she’s made the choice, she regrets it, because she no longer is the person who made that decision, but she’s lost something she now values more highly than the person she doesn’t remember.

Another main character, Kay, has turned to magic twice. Once, she had herself physically transformed into a beautiful girl. When that didn’t make her life what she imagined, she went back. She dreamed of having friends who would never leave her, so she got a spell to make sure they never good. Kay’s a really interesting figure, because I found her largely unsympathetic. Even so, she does develop realistically, and you can see her motivations clearly. The decisions we make might not be remotely healthy, but we choose them because they seem right and logical at the time.

gif adults are this mess of sadness and phobias eternal sunshine

The Cost of All Things is very much about the importance of actually dealing with things. I mean, magic doesn’t exist, but we have the technology to make ourselves fit more with the beauty standards of the day. People turn to drugs and alcohol to forget. People will do a lot to not have to actually face up to their problems. Lehrman really captures the appeal of the magic, I think, because, despite all the shit, there were still certain magics where I really thought the person should just go for it. There’s a lot of depth to the story. On top of that awesomeness, I really thought the plot was compelling. In no way did I see where the story was going, but it was super intense.

The Cost of All Things is a dark, high-concept book populated with deeply flawed people. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about everything that happened, but I love the way that Lehrman’s making me look at life from a new angle.

Favorite Quote:

“You don’t get to choose to escape something like this, Ari. You can’t swallow and push through it. There are always consequences.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 gif i'm just exactly where i want to be eternal sunshine
Me, with The Cost of All Things

2 responses to “Review: The Cost of All Things by Maggie Lehrman”

  1. Meg says:

    you had me at your first eternal sunshine gif bc i am weak and really, really love that movie

    also the fantasy and witch world-building

    basically i want it, i really like consequences of magic, be careful what you wish for stuff and this sounds kind of awesome as fuck
    Meg recently posted…Blog Tour Review: Black Iris by Leah RaederMy Profile

  2. Layla says:

    Ohhh, I saw this and passed it up, but I’m regretting that now – this sounds actually pretty awesome. (I didn’t realize that it involved magic … and magic as a way of thinking through how we’re transformed through the choices that we make.) Plus, though I wasn’t a fan of We Were Liars, I do quite like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Color me intrigued, anyway. Great review.
    Layla recently posted…Saint Anything: book launch + Sarah Dessen interview + giveaway!My Profile

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