REVIEW: All Our Hidden Gifts by Caroline O’Donoghue
First things first, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Walker Books for accepting my request to read and review this title via NetGalley.
All Our Hidden Gifts is a book which tries to do too much, but is still very enjoyable.
Following a girl called Maeve, Caroline O’Donoghue’s first YA novel dives into female friendships, magic and the conservative nature of Ireland.
While in detention, Maeve finds a pack of tarot cards. She quickly discovers that she has a skill for tarot; a nice surprise for Maeve, who has always struggled at school and failed to live up to her successful older siblings. Maeve makes a name for herself at school and soon finds her readings in demand.
However, things take a turn for the worst when Maeve is forced to do a reading for her ex-best friend, Lily. Lily draws a card which doesn’t exist in the traditional tarot deck. The Housekeeper spooked Maeve so much the first time that she saw it that she hid it in her drawer at home, and Maeve can’t understand how it possibly appears during Lily’s reading. That doesn’t stop Maeve from saying something she regrets during the reading, which turns into a heated argument in the blink of an eye. Maeve’s comment is something that she can’t stop thinking about when Lily doesn’t turn up to school the next day, and it becomes apparent that she has gone missing.
Teaming up with her new friend Fiona, and Lily’s brother Roe, Maeve and the gang have to get to the bottom of Lily’s disappearance, even if it might put their lives in danger…
As soon as I discovered that All Our Hidden Gifts was about tarot reading, I jumped on the request button. I love books about witches and magic, but I can’t remember ever reading a book about tarot before. Unfortunately the readings are consigned to the beginning of the novel before Lily’s disappearance, but the idea of this mysterious, sinister card appearing sent a shiver down my spine.
My favourite thing about All Our Hidden Gifts was the representation throughout this novel. Fiona is half-Filipino, so there are a lot of discussions about how white-centric Ireland – and particularly Maeve and Fiona’s Catholic school – are, and the way that Fiona is demonised in the street due to the colour of her skin. Roe is non-binary (although still uses he/him pronouns) and bisexual, and throughout the novel he experiments with his portrayal of gender, wearing nail varnish and performing on stage in luxurious capes and dresses. Similarly to Fiona, Roe experiences transphobic bullying and hate crimes due to his gender identity, furthering Caroline O’Donoghue’s commentary on the regressive nature of certain members of Irish society.
This is primarily explored through a hate group called the Children of Brigid. Founded by Americans, the Children of Brigid claim to be aiming to turn Ireland back into a good old Catholic country, and they’ll stop at nothing to get their way.
The subplot with the Children of Brigid is left wide open, so I’m sincerely hoping that All Our Hidden Gifts is the first book in a series. If it is, I will be amending my rating and rating this either 4 or 4.5 stars, but as it currently seems to be remaining a standalone, I’ve had to round that rating down to 3.5 stars. As a standalone, I don’t find All Our Hidden Gifts as satisfactory as I would if it was the start of a bigger story.
Reviewing this as if it were a standalone, there is just far too much going on in this story. Lily’s disappearance becomes the least interesting aspect of the plot, and I found myself wishing there was more of a focus on the Children of Brigid. I also wanted to see more of Maeve and Roe’s relationship. She is unquestionably accepting of his sexuality and his gender identity, and the communication between the two of them is the stuff of dreams. Despite the fact that they have a lot against them – and that it takes them at least half of the book to finally admit that they like each other, because they’re far more focused on Lily’s disappearance – I think they’re going to end up becoming one of my favourite ships.
Also – without giving spoilers – something happens at the end of the book which will be completely pointless if the story isn’t continued. I was expecting the Children of Brigid story to begin to wrap up in the last few chapters, but instead an entire new dynamic gets introduced and I just want to know what Caroline O’Donoghue is planning to do with these characters next. If this is the first book in a series, I am HOOKED.
I’m not completely sure when All Our Hidden Gifts is actually being published anymore. It was originally scheduled for release in February, but now Waterstones claims it’s arriving on the 20th of May, while Goodreads thinks it’s not being released until the 1st of July. Either way, this is a book that I’d recommend keeping an eye out for.
Thank you for checking out this review,