Book Review | The Cost of Knowing (ARC)

Why does no one talk about Brittney Morris more?! If you haven’t read her work, you are missing out!

I received an advance reader’s copy (ARC) of The Cost of Knowing by Brittney Morris. Since this version is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.

In Morris’ second novel, Alex Rufus has lost both his parents in a car accident and now he and his little brother Isaiah live with their aunt. But ever since the accident, Alex has a strange power—or perhaps a curse. Whenever he touches something, he can see into that thing’s future. If he touches his phone, for example, he sees himself unlock it and text his girlfriend. It’s an overwhelming ability, and he can’t figure out how to turn it off. But one day, he touches a photograph, and through it, sees Isaiah’s impending death. So Alex is now in a race against time—to connect with his brother again, to face the traumas of their past, and grapple with realities of their present.

So, Morris’ debut Slay was incredible, but this is just as impactful. This book is going to make you feel things. I’m still a little devastated. Okay, maybe more than a little.

I loved Alex and Isaiah. You really feel sympathy for Alex as he tries to navigate life with this strange power, especially when he’s already been through so much and lost so many people close to him. And Isaiah is similar—you just want to see this boy have a chance to be a carefree child, despite the tragedy in his past. So the moments when these brothers can make a real connection, or better yet make each other laugh, are beautiful. They have such a complex and realistic bond, and that’s what really shines here.

The other characters, like Talia and Aunt Mackie and Mrs. Zaccari are also excellent. Those relationships are complicated and well written as well, and overall the entire cast is great.

As the plot progressed, I couldn’t put it down. It’s not exactly heavy on action in the first two thirds, though there is plenty of character work going on. I had to see what the boys were going to discover next, how they were going to react to the next revelation, whether or not they were going to free themselves of their powers. It was really interesting, and I loved the way Morris has woven real life elements of what it’s like to be a Black boy in the United States.

Those aspects of the plot—the ones that deal with microaggressions, profiling, and police brutality—are not easy to read about, nor does Morris shy away from the effects of these on people. There is passion, anger, and pain behind these words, as well as a stubborn sort of determination, even hope. It’s tough to read, but incredible. Everyone who’s compared her to Angie Thomas definitely has good reason.

And Morris explores other things that Thomas hasn’t really tackled (at least in the two books of hers I’ve read). Morris explores the way trauma ripples throughout the generations, the way the past can affect people. Knowing both the past and the future can be painful, but also can be empowering. It’s complex themes she incorporates into this book, and with great skill.

I didn’t find this a perfect book, though. I wanted a little bit more resolution with a couple of things, like with Mr. Zaccari and his son. What happened to them after the concert? We got a single sentence, but I wanted to make sure a certain thing happened to those [censored]. The ending, while definitely powerful, could have gone into more depth overall, maybe. I wanted us to linger, not only on those two characters’ fates, but also on a few other scenes. Of course, that’s just my first impression as I write my thoughts here shortly after finishing the book. This is still a fantastic novel.

In the end, The Cost of Knowing is a heartbreaking, nuanced, emotional journey through brotherhood, grief, and love. It tackles topics like toxic masculinity, systemic racism, and generational trauma with insight and brilliance. The sad moments are deliberately devastating, just as the happy moments are purposefully hopeful. The characters are wonderful, and though you’re left with a real sense of grief, you’re also left with a sense of determination. There’s a real fight going on against racism out there, for all the real life Isaiahs, so let’s go.

Overall rating: 8.8/10

The Cost of Knowing will be published on April 6th, 2021!

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