Monday 15 February 2021

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Review: All Our Hidden Gifts by Caroline O'Donoghue (#Ad)

All Our Hidden Gifts by Caroline O'Donoghue

I received this eProof for free from Walker Books via NetGalley for the purposes of providing an honest review.

All Our Hidden Gifts by Caroline O'Donoghue

Published:1st July 2021 | Publisher: Walker Books | Source: NetGalley
Caroline O'Donoghue's Website

I'll give up the tarot readings. I'll apologize to Lily. But Lily doesn't come to school on Monday. Or Tuesday. It's not until Wednesday that the police show up.

Maeve Chambers doesn't have much going for her. Not only does she feel like the sole idiot in a family of geniuses, she managed to drive away her best friend Lily a year ago. But when she finds a pack of dusty old tarot cards at school, and begins to give scarily accurate readings to the girls in her class, she realizes she's found her gift at last. Things are looking up – until she discovers a strange card in the deck that definitely shouldn't be there. And two days after she convinces her ex-best friend to have a reading, Lily disappears. Can Maeve, her new friend Fiona and Lily's brother Roe find her? And will their special talents be enough to bring Lily back, before she's gone for good?
The StoryGraph

When I first heard of All Our Hidden Gifts by Caroline O'Donoghue, I was certain it was right up my street! A mystery involving tarot cards? Absolutely my cup of tea! But while the story was intriguing, I felt kind of disappointed overall.

During detention involving clearing out a storage cupboard, Maeve finds an old tarot deck, and soon discovers she has a knack for tarot readings. But Maeve is cornered by her "friends" into giving Lily - Maeve's former best friend, before Maeve cut her out of her life to be friends with more popular girls - a tarot reading she doesn't want to give, and Lily doesn't want. The mysterious Housekeeper card is pulled, which she has only seen once before - a card that doesn't fit the deck, has no meaning as far as she can see. Two days later, Lily goes missing. Certain that she somehow summoned the Housekeeper to abduct Lily, Maeve, along with help from her new friend Fiona and Lily's brother Roe, to uncover the mystery behind Lily's disappearance, and try and get her back.

I was definitely intrigued by this story, especially when it went down a darker route. When there's more to this Housekeeper card than just a random mystery card, and discover it seems to be linked to folklore in many different cultures, of different versions of the White Lady, a spirit or ghost summoned by betrayal and revenge. I loved that Maeve started getting interested in witchcraft after discovering this, thinking she might find a way to bring Maeve back. The plot was just so interesting, and I really wanted to see where the story would go. But the cards themselves don't play as huge a role as I expected. She only talks about specific cards a handful of times, and while there was definitely some research put in to real witchcraft, there were aspects that were a little off. I don't know if this was for the sake of the story or that O'Donoghue just got some things wrong.

But there isn't a massive amount of magic or tarot reading actually on the page, It's a lot of conversations, the three trying to figure things out together, the more they learn from Fiona's tita, who used to read tarot cards, and the shopkeeper at New Age store Divination. There's also a lot of angst and insecurity. My main issue was how these characters are portrayed. They're all meant to be 16 or 17, but felt much, much younger. The arguments were just so childish and immature, the reactions a little too melodramatic. They just didn't seem that believable as the ages they were. But Fiona and Roe at least felt a little maturer, more reasonable than Maeve, who just just a ball of angst and insecurity, but also feels like she's right, because she has this knack the others don't. Fiona and Roe were much more interesting characters overall. I think Maeve was just too stuck in her head with her thoughts, and again, with her seeming much younger than she is, it was just a lot. She was just so tiresome.

I also felt there were some weird aspects to the plot. Maeve has some weird dreams, and while they're disturbing, she's sure they mean something. And while in general, I can get on board with that, she just decides they are, there's nothing to say that they are. She makes connections and believes things without much to back it up. Sure, she's a "sensitive" - someone who has a natural ability for magic - but it just seemed farfetched for her to make these great leaps when there's no real evidence of anything. Why does she make these leaps? Why does she believe this to be true over something else? Why? I needed more. I just feel it needed filling out a bit, more explanation, more answers. I did love how Fiona seemed to have a head on her shoulders and wouldn't just automatically believe what Maeve did, while Roe believed anything Maeve said, but Maeve just accepted that, and took it to be a "you've got to see it to believe it" situation, and didn't try to explain her own thought process. So even though it's this perfect time for O'Donoghue to give some credence to what Maeve thinks, she doesn't.

All Our Hidden Gifts is very diverse, though. Fiona is half-Filipino, Lily wears a hearing aid, Maeve's older sister Jo is gay, and Roe - who isn't a big fan of labels - is attracted to both guys and girls, and also not cisgender. Roe is the name he has given himself, there are a number of times when he's wearing dresses and make-up, though he uses he/him pronouns. While I didn't quite believe the romance between Roe and Maeve, I really loved how Roe's gender wasn't a thing to Maeve. She doesn't completely understand early on, can be a little confused at grasping what he tells her of his gender, and she's a little shocked when she sees Roe in a dress and make-up for the first time, but she never questions her own attraction to him, is never anything but accepting, which I think is awesome. Outside of Roe and Jo's identities, LGBTQ issues are quite a big thing in this book, with a side-dish of racism. When Lily disappears, Maeve, Fiona and Roe discover the Children of Brigid, an almost cult-like religious group of teenagers and young adults, run by an American man who riles them up into hate of themselves, and of LGBTQ people, and incites them to hate crimes. There are a number of really awful scenes in this book, but this sub-plot isn't resolved, and I get the feeling this is only the beginning, and the CoB are going to become an even bigger problem in subsequent books.

All Our Hidden Gifts had so much potential; everything was there for a truly awesome story. It just fell quite flat for me in regards to characterisation and inexplicable aspects of the plot. I was so, so looking forward to this book, and I'm just so dissappointed it didn't meet my expectations. It wasn't for me, but it might be for you, so do read some other reviews before deciding whether or not pick up All Our Hidden Gifts.

Thank you to Walker Books via NetGalley for the eProof.

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