All Our Hidden Gifts by Caroline O’Donoghue

All Our Hidden Gifts by Caroline O’Donoghue. Walker Books, Candlewick, 2021. 9781536213942

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3.5

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Fantasy

What did you like about the book?  In this supernatural tale set in contemporary Ireland, a 16-year-old misfit named Maeve discovers a deck of old tarot cards in a musty school storeroom. Maeve’s the youngest in her large family and a loner, having distanced herself from her odd BFF Lily last year in a bid for slightly more popular friends. Maeve feels an immediate connection to the cards and proves to have a gift for interpretation, which brings her social cachet and a new friend, Fiona, who’s dramatic, loyal, and Filipino. After an intense card reading, Lily goes missing and Maeve begins to suspect supernatural forces as a strange Housekeeper card creeps in and out of the tarot deck. Lily’s older sibling Roe, who is nonbinary, grows close to Maeve and the three teens begin an increasingly eerie and magic quest to bring Lily home. I really liked witchy Maeve, who was prickly and funny. Fiona also had a lively presence, and the romance with Roe seemed realistically sweet and awkward. Very cool black-and-white tarot card images occupy whole pages in the book and illuminate and foreshadow the plot.  With the exception of Fiona, all characters are White.

Anything you didn’t like about it? As long as the book stayed focused on the three principals and their search for Lily, I was happy. Even discovering that Maeve’s private school harbored a mystery from the past and that it’s tied up with a magic store in town was fine. However, O’Donoghue started to lose me as she unrolled a U.S.-funded plot stirring up trouble against the LGBTQ+ community, all under the direction of an evil fellow “sensitive” named Aaron. Once the supernatural strangeness of Lily’s disappearance and the fascinating Housekeeper drifted down to a secondary plot point, my interest flagged. As it became clear that this is the first book in either a series or duology (hence All Our Hidden Gifts), my shoulders slumped.

To whom would you recommend this book?  The tarot card element and Irish setting were fascinating and unique, so teens interested in either. With its mix of fantasy and (light) horror in a contemporary real-world setting, fans of Cassandra Clare are a potential audience. The gorgeous cover art will draw in interested readers and teens may relish the thought of another adventure with the four (spoiler alert) now-revealed-to-be-magically-endowed friends.

Who should buy this book? High school and public libraries

Where would you shelve it? YA fiction

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: September 25, 2021

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