Series: The Diviners #1
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on September 18th 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, Horror, Mystery, Young Adult
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Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.
Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.
As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho hides a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened.
I try very hard not to drool over the works of Libba Bray. I try, but I fail.
Having read the entire Gemma Doyle trilogy, Going Bovine and Beauty Queens, I was beyond jazzed to hear about The Diviners, but somehow (thank you, abysmal memory), it slipped my mind until I found it on the shelves of my local book store. Can you say instant purchase?
I began reading this book knowing very little, other than that it had the most be-yoo-ti-ful cover I had ever laid eyes on. Before I even opened it I just kind of ogled the design for a good long minute. Finally, with expectations running high, I began reading and BAM-
Enter Evie O’Neill.
In a lot of YA I’ve been reading recently, the main female character has often been quiet, indulgent in her inherent awkwardness, and quick to shy away from the spotlight, especially when it’s forced upon her. By the end she discovers she belongs there, gets more comfortable, and changes for the better. It makes a nice character arc, and I do like reading about that kind of character, but that’s not the only character I want to read about. Eight out of ten female MCs don’t have to fit this description exactly.
That’s why, for me, Evie was a breath of fresh air. This girl wants the spotlight, and takes steps to actively seek the adventure and glamor she craves. She has this sparkage that makes you glad to be on her side as she moves from one thrill to the next. Yes, her desire for life to be an all-fun-nonstop-party-train does lead to her downfall, but her wit and light heartedness lends an excellent contrast to the darker tones of the book.
Though Evie takes center stage, The Diviners goes from scene to scene with a roving viewpoint, showcasing a host of expertly crafted characters, each with hidden drawers of their lives that I was just dying to open and examine. Bray would often end an inner monologue of a character I thought I had figured out with a punchy sentence that would make me questioning everything. It drove me crazy in the best way, leaving me needing more.
The only downside to Bray’s use of multiple viewpoint, and the reason why I didn’t give this book five stars, was the way in which the book ended. While the final confrontation satisfied me, the resolution was unnecessarily drawn out. What could have been a snappy way of saying “Wait, there’s more!” was actually “Here’s another scene, and another. Oh you thought it was over? Back to this character now!” I was done with the book about fifty pages before it ended, not because I was fed up with it, but because the onslaught of new plot directions grew to be awkward and forced, leaving finishing it more of a chore rather than a treat.
But let’s talk setting, because holy crow, 1920s New York City was so well constructed that I felt like I was walking its streets alongside the characters. Bray employs a wealth of research to magnificent effect, making everything feel authentic and incredibly expert. She has it all down from the ritzy clubs and speakeasies to the slang that decorates the dialogue.
Something I love about Libba Bray’s books is that they give the reader a clear sense that behind the layer of excellent storytelling is a message that demands your attention. The Diviners is no exception, raising important questions about the power and cost of unrelenting belief.
I really enjoyed this read, and while it did seem to fizzle a bit at the end, it certainly didn’t disappoint. Now excuse me as I retreat into the shadows, waiting for the sequel-ski, which I can bet will be as pos-i-tute-ly jake as this one was the cat’s meow.