Dear Martin meets They Both Die at the End in this gripping, evocative novel about a Black teen who has the power to see into the future, whose life turns upside down when he foresees his younger brother’s imminent death, from the acclaimed author of SLAY. Sixteen-year-old Alex Rufus is trying his best. He tries to be the best employee he can be at the local ice cream shop; the best boyfriend he can be to his amazing girlfriend, Talia; the best protector he can be over his little brother, Isaiah. But as much as Alex tries, he often comes up short. It’s hard to for him to be present when every time he touches an object or person, Alex sees into its future. When he touches a scoop, he has a vision of him using it to scoop ice cream. When he touches his car, he sees it years from now, totaled and underwater. When he touches Talia, he sees them at the precipice of breaking up, and that terrifies him. Alex feels these visions are a curse, distracting him, making him anxious and unable to live an ordinary life. And when Alex touches a photo that gives him a vision of his brother’s imminent death, everything changes. With Alex now in a race against time, death, and circumstances, he and Isaiah must grapple with their past, their future, and what it means to be a young Black man in America in the present.
The Cost of KnowingFeatured
It is difficult for him to get close to others knowing that he might accidentally see their future. He knows, for instance, that his girlfriend is going to break up with him. The visions always come true - even when he tries to stop them from happening, the things he does contribute to what he saw. When he holds a photo and sees a horrible new vision of the future - one where his younger brother dies, Alex decides to change. He begins to reconnect with his 12-year-old brother, Isaiah, and he learns that Isaiah has his own form of the curse. Through their discussions, they learn more about their family history and what being Black has meant historically. In the present, they experience it with their neighbors, who view them as different and every other Black person as a criminal.
As Alex navigates his visions and his relationship with his brother, he must also decide how he wants to live, knowing all the things he does and seeing the way others treat him.
What I loved: Emotional, moving, and riveting, this was a book that grips the reader from the start and keeps them hooked throughout. Alex and Isaiah were really compelling characters, and it was easy to fall in love with them - and experience heartbreak with them. The world that they live in is one that most people in the US will recognize. I found these themes around modern racism to be really powerful. This is a story that needs to be read.
The supernatural element of the powers/curse added something extra to the story, and it gave it time pressure and mystery about whether Alex would be able to change anything from what he saw. The pace felt faster due to these suspense elements, particularly in the last parts of the book. The powers also connect the present with the past and Black history in the US/generational trauma to add to these powerful themes.
Final verdict: An emotional and heartbreaking read, THE COST OF KNOWING is a powerful YA contemporary about family and what it means to be Black in the US. Highly recommend for fans of THE HATE U GIVE, DEAR MARTIN, and THE POET X.