Book Review: The Cost of All Things by Maggie Lehrman
Origin: Browsing goodreads
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Magical Realism
“To fear change is the most hopeless fear one can harbor”
The story begins from the perspective of a young, heartbroken ballerina named Ari. She makes the quick decision to visit a hekamist, or rather, a witch, to purchase a spell that will erase any memory of her late boyfriend only a day after his death. The spell doesn’t come free, setting her back five thousand dollars, as well as her ability to dance forever.
The story is told from rotating viewpoints belonging to Ari, Kay, Markos, and the deceased boyfriend, Win. Win is well-liked and respected by his friends. He was head-over-heels for Ari, and between her and his bestfriend Markos, he had a solid support system. Win tells the story leading up to his death, and eventually connects the past to the present. Markos, Win’s best friend, falls in love with Ari’s best friend Diana following the death. Diana helps Markos break his cynical philosophies. She softens Markos and unexpectedly helps him recover from his loss. The last perspective you hear from is Kay. She is “third-wheel” to Diana and Ari. She holds no substantial connection to either of the girls. She suffers from major insecurities and abandonment issues, and reveals that she casted a hook spell on her friends so that they can never leave her.
For Ari, the mourning ends as soon as it begins. After she obliterates her memories of Win, a new challenge arises as she tries to keep the spell a secret. She pretends to grieve over his death, but really she is grieving the loss of her talent, and ashamed to tell anyone what she’d done. Before Win’s death, she was invited to join the Manhattan ballet junior corps, and now she wonders how the pain of losing Win could compare to the pain of losing what she thought meant most to her. As she tries to backtrack and figure out what it was about her relationship with Win that made life so unbearable without him, she discovers that she can’t just pick up and go on like he didn’t exist. Apparently, Win was her life.
The story unfolds, showing us what happens when people try to manipulate the natural order of things. There is a certain beauty to embracing change, because without it, how do we grow?
I was drawn to this book due to it being compared to E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars. There’s something about magical realism that captivates my attention in an expectant way. The novel has a prominent supernatural theme surrounding the hekamists, a dying breed of magical folk who take money in exchange for magic spells. The plot is original, but it was more juvenile than I would have liked.
The teenagers come with a lot of drama, and there is no doubt that this is a page-turner, keeping me on edge in anticipation of whose secrets were going to unfold next. I enjoyed getting to know the main characters and they were relatable for the most part. The development of the supporting characters in the story is shallow.
The recurring theme in the novel is a persons struggle to embrace inevitable changes. Some people use magic to avoid the pain of life’s curveballs altogether. Others look to their friends for comfort, familiarity, and support. It was interesting to see the death of one character affect each and every other character, and to watch the repercussions unfold.
All in all, this was a quick read. If it sounds interesting to you, I would recommend it. It is a nice in-between story to help keep the brain chugging.