Title: The Price Guide to the Occult
Author: Leslye Walton
Genre: YA Magical Realism
Release Date: March 13th 2018 from Candlewick Press
Format: Kindle ARC
*I received this ARC from NetGalley for review. This doesn’t change my opinions and all thoughts are my own. Quotes from the book won’t be used*
DNF at 43%
WARNING: This book deals with self harm and I will talk about this subject. If this is a very sensitive subject for you, I would skip most of this review or altogether if that helps. I also don’t recommend this book if this is a sensitive topic.
Goodreads Synopsis: The Blackburn women are cursed. Ever since the extraordinary witch Rona Blackburn landed on Anathema Island centuries ago and was shunned by the eight “original” settlers, Blackburn witches have been doomed to carry out a brief whirlwind affair with a descendant of the Original Eight. The vengeful curse, however, had unintended side effects: it diluted the Blackburns’ supernatural powers. That’s perfectly all right with seventeen-year-old Nor Blackburn. All she wants is a quiet, unremarkable life—her powers are blissfully unexceptional, her love life pretty much nonexistent. Nor hopes the curse has played itself out through enough generations that she’ll finally be spared the drama. But when a mysterious book comes out promising to cast any spell for the right price, Nor senses a dark storm headed straight for Anathema—and straight for her.
I requested this book before some reviews were coming out mentioning major triggers for this book. I saw the cover, loved it and requested it after knowing that it was a story about a family story of female witches on an island. But after reading a huge chunk of it, I did not have the conscious to continue with this book at all. I also do not recommend this book at all. Here are the reasons why this book doesn’t work for me:
1. Extremely Violent/Disturbing Descriptions
If you’re not aware of this book, this centers on a main character who cuts herself. She has many scars on her body and this book is full of her thoughts (is is first person POV) where she thinks about wanting to cut. The first page mentions how she would find inconspicuous ways to cut herself. I have not had this problem in my life, but this was too much for me. I read almost half of the story and just the amount of thoughts Nor had about wanting to cut and describing her cuts almost as living things was cringy. It didn’t feel glamorized in this book, but it is never challenged with the huge amount that I read and that to me was a problem. This is a serious issue that could’ve gained some momentum in the beginning or something. Did she go to therapy for it? What happened to the family tension when they found out she was cutting? What made her want to cut? All these questions were never satisfied. I wish there was more conversation behind this issue to make it feel more well rounded instead of slightly glorified moments were putting a sharp to your skin would make you feel better. While there is some resources at the end of the novel to get help, I wish that was actually used in the novel.
There is also some very graphic scenes of violence of her mother acting towards her as a child. This type of descriptive violence towards a child, as well as her mother’s witchy ability to manipulate people is frankly disturbing. I had to look away from my Kindle and give myself a break after reading some disgustingly detailed scenes. I know there are bad examples of parenting in the world, but this was a new extreme for me. I can’t handle any kind of violence in this detail, so this was one reason I DNF’d this. I will not force myself to read something that upsets me.
This could have two different books. There’s the depth of Nor’s character and her problem with cutting and dealing with her family legacy and then there’s the magical element of this Price Guide to the Occult book that her mother writes into the world. I agree with so many other people that the plot is so off in its pacing. I was so bored with about 30% of this book out of the 43% that I read. People have said that the climax of the plot is resolved within less than 10 pages, which was disappointing for them but I didn’t finish it so I wouldn’t take my word for it. But I think that should’ve focused on the magical realism plot line and been tightened up quite a bit. If it focused on this book and her mother’s control over people and Nor having to deal with it, it would’ve been more readable. It’s interesting that this book sounds great as far as the synopsis, so much of this book was boring meandering around that gave the main plot line no substance. This does also feel a tiny bit recycled from her debut novel. She’s written two novels about a family of women who have no luck with love and cursed to never have love from another person and the current generation has to deal with that. While I didn’t finish her debut novel, they both feel too similar to each other and to me, doesn’t show the author trying something different with a new book. It’s a small preference thing of mine, but if it’s not yours, it’s cool 🙂
3. Lack of Character Depth
For so much of this book, the characters felt like cardboard cut outs. For example, Savvy is Nor’s best friend. Why? I couldn’t tell you. You don’t get any foundation for why these two girls are friends at all. Plus, Savvy, saying she’s a very nosy person, doesn’t ever address Nor’s scars. There’s never a serious conversation between them with the nearly half of the novel. They just wander around, talk about random things and eat food and I’m supposed to know that they’re such good friends? It wasn’t believable. Nor also didn’t wow me either. She’s a person who wants to make as little of a fingerprint on life as humanly possible. While I like that her crush on a boy made her happy (those small moments were really nice), that’s all that pretty much made her happy. She never seemed happy with doing much else. But I also didn’t get enough evidence or background info to why she’s more of a lazy person. Plus, all the other people on the island felt like blurry images in the background; while the island scenery is pretty to read about, it seemed a little big for an island community and the info dump in the beginning didn’t make me care more. These characters were way too simple to think that they could be fleshed out people.
Overall: I don’t think this is an author for me. In my opinion, her heavy topics just feel like an endless night of heavy rain with no sun in sight. I never feel like she puts hope or conversation in her stories. It’s very disappointing that Nor’s grandmother doesn’t actually try to be a parent to Nor when it comes to her cutting. I also think that her writing isn’t as lovely for me as people say it is. It’s not bad writing by any means (I read the 43% in one day), but I don’t think her stories are for me. I also, again, don’t recommend this book to anyone for its lack of conversation, violent descriptions and poor plot management.
Rating: No rating since I didn’t finish but I did give it 1 star for NetGalley purposes and that’s an appropriate rating for me.
Have you read this book? Were you excited for this book? Do you think you’ll read it despite all the conversation about it?