Author: Libba Bray
Series: The Diviners Series
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publish Date: September 18th, 2012
Genres: Thriller, Mystery, Young Adult
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.
It’s been quite awhile since I’ve picked up a YA thriller, and I figured, in the spirit of Halloween, The Diviners would be the perfect spooky read. I buddy read this book with Kathy at The Novelty of Life and Cassandra at CC’s Books for the 2015 All Hallows’ Read.
While The Diviners is quite lengthy at 578 pages, it was an intense, exciting read from start to finish with a variety of unexpected twists and turns. The small subtleties and nuances in the plot ensured that I had no chance whatsoever of predicted the eventual outcome, even in my wildest dreams, which is always a perk. It was also intriguing to read the narrative from a variety of different perspectives, watching how seemingly unrelated tales and characters wound together into one cohesive story. The amount of research that went into crafting a story that took place in the 1920s was incredible, contributing to the realistic and enticing world-building.
I immediately fell in love with both the horror and mystery components of this novel. As a horror movie and book fanatic, I’m not easily frightened, but The Diviners had me lurching awake in the middle of the night in a cold sweat. Needless to say, Bray has certainly mastered the art of writing chilling, nightmare-invoking horror novels. Furthermore, you ultimately realize that the solutions to the complex, multifaceted questions posed by the novel have been staring you in the face for the last 100 pages, and you’ve simply been too distracted to pick up on these seemingly minute details. Bray did an excellent job of weaving together ostensibly unconnected facts and events, resulting in a compelling, heart-pounding read.
I had only two complaints, the first of which was the seemingly juvenile characters. Evie in particular was characterized by her impulsive, immature actions throughout the novel, which tended to land her in quite a bit of trouble. She was also overly trusting and somewhat naive with respect to the normalcy of crime and deception among the populace of New York City. As children tend to do, she assumed that she was knowledgable on a vast array of topics, many of which she knew little about in actuality, which merely added to my frustration. Pile on her constant, ditzy references to everything as “the cat’s meow” and you’re faced with not only an unpleasant character but grating, repetitive dialogue to go along with it. My hopes of significant character growth and improvement were unfortunately dashed due to her relatively static personality.
Conversely, some of the minor characters, while they could have done with a bit more development early on in the book, had very distinct personalities and traits, and it was interesting to read from their varying perspectives due to the switching third person POV. Each of these characters had his or her own personal subplot which eventually tied into the overarching murders and the unruly spirit of Naughty John. While I wish some of these characters, such as Memphis, would have had some more time in the spotlight, The Diviners set these individuals up for a more prevalent role in later books.
With respect to my final complaint, I disliked the romance, or lack thereof. To begin matters, the book opens with a love triangle, which I absolutely despise (a significantly longer rant on that topic can be found here). While Evie didn’t fall in love with the most obvious character, their relationship was severely underdeveloped. They remained in that awkward, pre-dating stage where they’re not sure if it’s socially acceptable to hold hands or to kiss, which led to a few uncomfortable scenes. I held on to some small shreds of hope that their relationship would improve before the conclusion of the book, but there was minimal change. After completing the book, I would have preferred an absence of romance to the somewhat pathetic, half-hearted attempt that was included.
Overall, The Diviners definitely grew on me and has evolved into one of my favorite young adult thrillers. While not without its flaws, the novel has a host of redeeming qualities, from the intriguing plot to the varying characters and perspectives that are portrayed. The book’s historical accuracy and 1920s setting served to further heighten my initial interest and overall enjoyment of The Diviners. And now, I think it’s time to get my hands on Lair of Dreams.