All Our Hidden Gifts, by Caroline O'Donoghue


All Our Hidden Gifts, by Caroline O'Donoghue (June 8th 2021, Walker Books US, YA), is a story of magic and growing up/friendship/love all twisted together with darkness....It is an excellent read!

Maeve is a rather difficult teenager.  The youngest of a large Irish family, she feels that she's a failure--she's not particularly gifted, and isn't doing well at the small and expensive Catholic girls school she goes to, partly because academic work doesn't come easily, and partly because she's uncooperative.  She's barely part of a medium- grade social level at school, and this she only achieved by cutting off, very cruelly, her best friend from childhood, Lily.  Lily's eccentricities made her unacceptable to the other girls, and by extension, to Maeve as well (and indeed, the "licking strange things" game took weirdness to a level I'd have been uncomfortable with too when Lily, no longer a little kid but a young teenager, licked a boy's neck...).

The story begins with Maeve being punished by the school with the unpleasant task of cleaning out a basement storage room.  There in the junk she finds something that changes her life--a deck of tarot cards.  Maeve, intrigued, studies tarot, and finds she has a gift for seeing the connections and meanings in the cards.  Soon all her classmates are hounding her for tarot readings.  Fiona, a theater girl who Maeve had never given much thought to, takes an interest, and soon is acting as Maeve's booking agent and is becoming a real friend.  

But when the other girls pressure Maeve into doing a reading for Lily, who doesn't actually want anything to do with it, things go terribly wrong.   A truly disturbing card that shouldn't be in the deck, the Housekeeper, shows up.  Lily demands Maeve tell her what it means, and when Maeve can't, the tension builds.  "I wish I had never been friends with you," Maeve snaps.  "Lily, I wish you would disappear."  

And that is just what happens the next day.

Maeve, Fiona, and Lily's non-binary older sibling, Roe, set out to work through the dark magic at work and bring Lily back.   But this isn't the only darkness that's entered their lives--a fundamentalist cult is at work in town, violently preaching a return to "values."  And complicating things still further, Maeve and Roe are falling in love....while Maeve keeps from them all the cruelty she's dealt Lily over the past few years, and her final words.

As they plunge deeper in the the mystery of the Housekeeper card, and her own dark history, the truth of what they must do emerges, and it is terrible....

While all the while being a tremendously gripping read!  There was much I enjoyed and appreciated.  Maeve isn't exactly likeable, but she grew on me, and she and her friends are vividly real and engaging.  The tarot cards and Maeve's readings were fascinating.  The bigotry (Fiona is half Filipina, and this has presented challenges) and violent homophobia (not only impacting Roe, but also Maeve's lesbian older sister), though magically fueled, heighten the tension of their quest beautifully (and I appreciated that this realistic part of the story isn't magically fixed at the end).  The hidden gifts referenced in the title didn't quite work for me, because they seemed unearned and to inexplicable, but they do set the stage for more about these four kids, and that's a good thing.

If you are a fan of teenaged girls in the real world acquiring magical powers and having to learn quickly how to use them in desperate circumstances, or a fan of girls who have been really, deeply unkind to people during dark young teen times and then work hard to make up for it, or a fan of kids who don't follow the neat path of parental/societal norms, and find each other, or a fan of love stories between difficult girls and beautiful non-binary musicians, or tarot cards, or all of the above, this is one for you!

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher


  1. Ooh, I love a book that explores the ways in which teenage girls are dark and weird and mysterious. This sounds great! I looked up the author and discovered she's the author of the book Promising Young Woman the movie is based on, which makes sense as I'm reading your description of this one. I can't wait to read it!


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