I love that this novel works on so many levels. On the surface, it is a fun paranormal story with a breezy tone (and a genuinely creepy reveal regarding the source of the magic), but beneath that it is a thoughtful examination of free will with incredibly high stakes.
Aspen has gone through life with a gift of "reaching" - that is, if he touches something that belongs to someone, he can see inside them and take away anything from motivations to aptitudes for math or even physical markers like freckles or burn scars. Because of this, he's quite selfish and entitled. He uses his power for his own gain without much thought of the consequences to others, despite evidence that his magic has caused people serious harm. He doesn't know them personally, so he thinks "so what?" His justification lies in a family secret: they are the protectors of the town, and if they don't perform a ritual to keep a magic cliff satisfied, the cliff will crumble and the town will be crushed. It's the sacrifice of a few for the greater good argument - but is that what is really going on here? Aspen starts to have his doubts after questions arise about the truth of his cousin's death ...
Ribar has a gift for banter and writing complex relationships between flawed, authentic characters. The magic system is imaginative and logical. I loved the parallels between his romance with Brandy and his parents failed marriage, and the examination of how even our negative qualities are necessary to shaping our identities.
Reminded me a lot of Maggie Lehrman's The Cost of all Things, which I also highly recommend.
And guess what? It's out today!
Buy it on Amazon.