Review by MacKenzie Sewell
Walker Books US, 2021
384 pages, hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 9781536213942
Ages 13+, grades 8-12
No one has ever looked at me with the kind of hatred Lily O’Callaghan is looking at me with right now. I can feel it burning through my bones like acid.
“Flip over the last card, Maeve,” she says tightly.
I flip it over. At first, the letters don’t even make sense. They take a few seconds to fit together in my head, and I’m momentarily transported back to being six years old and sounding out every letter of boat.
My mouth opens and closes in complete shock. How can the Housekeeper card be here when I know for a fact it’s at home?
When Maeve Chambers discovers a deck of tarot cards in the basement of her Catholic school, she decides to give them a try. Unlike English or Math, reading the tarot comes easily to her: what each card means, how they fit together. With her new friend, teen actor Fiona, Maeve starts a business giving tarot readings to every girl in her grade in the basement closet whence the cards originated. Every girl but one.
The previous year, Maeve betrayed her best friend Lily to get into a more popular crowd. Needless to say, Lily is not interested in receiving a reading from Maeve. But bored in a teacher-less class one day, she is goaded into it. When the ominous Housekeeper card appears in Lily’s reading (when Maeve knows for sure she removed it from the deck), the girls get into a nasty argument in which Maeve wishes for Lily to disappear. The next day, Lily doesn’t show up to school. Maeve, Fiona, and Lily’s genderqueer and bisexual older sibling Roe must figure out the witchy stuff quickly in order to find Lily and bring her back home.
In All Our Hidden Gifts, Caroline O’Donoghue gives us an honest protagonist, a queer romance, and an introduction to occult magic that transcends any barrier that lack of prior knowledge might present. Maeve Chambers is a very selfish and flawed character, but as a reader, I had no problem letting her take me along with her on her journey. Her narration is hilarious and frank, and the relationships she has with the other characters (Roe and Fiona, mainly, but also her sister Jo) show us how much love she is capable of. The moments of vulnerability she shares with her loved ones keep the reader invested throughout her ultimately satisfying character arc, even when she makes poor choices.
O’Donoghue gives readers a slow but thorough introduction to tarot and occult magic along with Maeve. The flashback to witches of the nineties, complete with the mystery of the cassette and the shopkeeper’s sister, adds a generational element that puts the magic of the world into a larger, environmental perspective. As each piece of the puzzle comes together, we start to realize just how powerful and disastrous the magic that Maeve has uncovered can be.
All Our Hidden Gifts is a beautifully written and illustrated novel that would be valuable for readers of any age (above 13). The relationships are just as compelling and complex as the witchy mystery that drives the plot forward.
MacKenzie Sewell lives in Coquitlam, BC with her girlfriend and their two cats. Somewhere in between studying creative writing at UBC and working as a barista, MacKenzie loves to read — novels, cereal boxes, you name it.
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