Friday, July 12, 2013

The Diviners by Libba Bray

Reviewed by Christy Herndon  

     Flappers! Speakeasies! Jazz! A murderous dead man hell-bent on bringing on the Apocalypse! The Diviners by Libba Bray is a nice little something different in the Young Adult genre. Although, yes, fantasy YA seems to be the biggest trend at the moment, the summary for Bray’s book caught my eye more than most. Maybe because it combined my teenage-interest of the 1920s and my forever-interest of the supernatural. Either way this book had my name all over it.

    The book centers on Evie O’Neill – the quintessential 1920s vamp. After getting into repeated trouble in her hometown, Evie is shipped off to New York City to spend time with her uncle Will, curator of the the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult (or as it’s more commonly known around town: the Museum of the Creepy Crawlies). Pretending to be devastated at this news, Evie can hardly contain her excitement at the chance to be in the Big City where she can drink, dance, and generally be her fabulous flapper self. Soon after she arrives, however, strange murders begin happening. The murderer’s MO points to something occult-related so Will (and consequently Evie) are brought in to help the investigation. But something even more sinister than serial murders is taking place, and it’ll be up to Evie to help stop it before it’s too late.

    The very first thing I noticed about this book was how atmospheric it was. It does a wonderful job of introducing Evie and her almost dizzying approach to life in the Roaring ‘20s. Writing an historical fiction is not easy, I’m sure, but to do so in a way where the reader feels like she’s smack dab in the center of it all must be even more difficult. But Bray seems to do it effortlessly. This goes for the creepy sections as well. On one page we’re feeling the giddy after effects of Evie’s move to the Big Apple and the next we’re in a dark basement with a terrible sense of foreboding. It’s enough to give you whiplash! (But fun whiplash!)

    I also enjoyed that the protagonist wasn’t necessarily a “Good Girl”. I’ve noticed in many YA books female protagonists are generally well-behaved and quiet, and their only apparent faults are their clumsy feet. This is not the case with Evie. She’s rowdy and sarcastic and, although she has a good heart, she can sometimes be selfish and unwittingly hurt her friends. It was quite nice to have such a three dimensional character.

    I do have a few nitpicks, however. While I enjoy slow burn stories there were times where I felt it was just a little too slow. Not enough to turn me off, just enough to notice. However, the major thing I disliked was the hinting at an ever present YA trope: the Love Triangle. While it’s not fully fleshed out in this first novel, I’m sure it’ll be explored further on in the series. I just don’t see the point. I’m sure most people like a little romance thrown in for fun (including myself) but why must it be a triangle? There are plenty of other things going on in this novel to capture a reader’s attention. It’s a tired concept in general but it has exploded in recent Young Adult fiction.

    That being said, I loved this book. I highly recommend The Diviners to anyone who is a fan of historical fiction, horror, crime novels, or young adult fiction. It’s got a little something for everyone.

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