Brittney Morris’ new book The Cost of Knowing is a speculative fiction novel that sheds light on our contemporary reality, and most especially the reality for Black people living in America. A beautifully crafted work, Brittney Morris masterfully navigates themes of grief, healing, masculinity, and coming-of-age through the experience of Black teenage boys in The Cost of Knowing. As Morris explains in an interview with We Need Diverse Books, “this book is a love letter to Black men who have also felt like the world forced them to grow up too early, just by being who they are.”
Alex Rufus is an anxious 16-year-old with the overwhelming ability to see into the future. Ever since he lost his parents in an accident, everything he touches afflicts him with visions of its future. Living in the moment is difficult when touching his girlfriend Talia shows her disappointment in him and a looming breakup, and touching his car brings him visions of its future submerged underwater. Even trying to be a good employee at Scoop’s, the ice cream place where he works, is challenging when he is battling visions of the future from every object he comes into contact with. But everything changes when Alex sees his 12-year-old brother Isaiah’s future cut short. As Alex races against his visions to save his brother from imminent death, they struggle to come to terms with the past that brought them to their current moment, especially as Black boys in America.
Through Alex’s character development, Morris explores oral histories, identity, and perceptions of masculinity especially for Black boys and the ways in which they are forced to grow up quickly because of how others perceive them. Alex struggles with the ways in which he has been taught to see his worth as a man-—one contingent upon his position as a financial provider.
The relationships between characters also show growth, in all its painful glory—the complex relationships Alex has with his brother Isaiah, his Aunt Mackie, his girlfriend Talia. While Alex attempts to reckon with the grief he carries for traumatic events of the past and the weight of knowing the future, he struggles to understand how to navigate his relationships in the present.
As a coming-of-age story centering around Black boys, The Cost of Knowing depicts how they deal with the weight of their identity in a contemporary American setting. Racism in the book is portrayed at various levels—through the regular microaggression, the deadly violence that the ugly fears produce, and the way these manifestations of racism all contribute to violence.
I was unsure what to expect when I picked up this book, with minimal to no background information on its contents. However, I was blown away by how masterfully written The Cost of Knowing is. The writing is beautiful, the characters are well-developed, and the central themes are conveyed with resonance. I was completely, emotionally invested in the plot and the characters. The Cost of Knowing is a timely and compelling novel, one that should sit atop your to-read pile.
The Cost of Knowing by Brittney Morris was released on April 6, 2021.