Title: The Price Guide to the Occult Review
Author: Leslye Walton
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release Date: March, 2018
When Rona Blackburn landed on Anathema Island more than a century ago, her otherworldly skills might have benefited friendlier neighbors. Guilt and fear instead led the island’s original eight settlers to burn “the witch” out of her home. So Rona cursed them. Fast-forward one hundred–some years: All Nor Blackburn wants is to live an unremarkable teenage life. She has reason to hope: First, her supernatural powers (if they can be called that), are unexceptional. Second, her love life is nonexistent, which means she might escape the other perverse side effect of the matriarch’s backfiring curse, too. But then a mysterious book comes out, promising to cast any spell for the right price, causing the flora and fauna on the island to become vicious, and strangers and acquaintances to sprout ominous fern tattoos. Nor senses a storm coming and is pretty sure that it’s coming for her.
This novel was quite dark, yet extremely captivating at the same time. The beginning and ending were certainly the highlights of the entire book, but there were some pretty fast-paced parts as well. I especially loved the build in intensity throughout the middle of the book. All the little, seemingly unimportant clues that were present earlier in the book, all of a sudden become relevant and necessary to the well-being of the characters in the story. I also liked how Nor, the protagonist of this story, was neither truly good nor truly bad, but her desire to find herself despite her tumultuous past, was relatable and a good driving factor in the novel’s plot. Later on in the novel, this book got immensely twisted and creepy, but I had a difficult time putting it down. The writing in this novel is very beautiful and I loved Nor’s mother, Fern, as a villain.
While I appreciated the author, Leslye Walton, approaching the topic of self-harm, something that Nor heavily struggles with, it got quite dark throughout the course of the novel. However, it was empowering to see Nor overcome her struggles. Nor’s love interest, one of her high-school classmates, and her interest in one of her protectors, was too much of a love-triangle. I thought that the story would have been fine without the seemingly superficial love relationships. While this book was darkly captivating, I found the middle of the book to be uninteresting and extremely slow-paced. The majority of the action occurred at the beginning and end of the book, which made it difficult to fully get into.
All in all, The Price Guide to the Occult, is a thrilling, dark, and twisted read that would be absolutely perfect for a Halloween or fall read. I would recommend this to older young adult readers. Definitely content warnings for self-harm and lots of blood. This novel is perfect for those who read and enjoyed Leslye Walton’s other novel, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, and for those who enjoy magical realism. I give this book a 7.5 out of 10 stars.