Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Review: The Diviners

I am just such a huge fan of Libba Bray, ever since I got stuck on her A Great and Terrible Beauty series as a kid. But other than Beauty Queens, I've not had the chance to sample much of her other work. Can Bray work the same magic into a different story? Let's find out... 

The Diviners, (the first book in the series of the same name) by Libba Bray, follows the exploits of flapper femme Evie O'Neill after one too many scandals in her humdrum Ohio society gets her shipped off to live with her eccentric uncle in Manhattan... at his museum of the Occult. Where better for a girl who can read people's pasts through their possessions? However, when spirits rise and a serial killer starts stalking the streets in an attempt to fulfill an age-old ritual, it's up to Evie and her friends to find the madman before the earth is plunged into chaos. What else is a thoroughly modern girl to do?

Classic Libba Bray, this novel is straight-up fun, fast-paced, and set in a world that's far from ordinary, but is still based on our own. If you loved the Gemma Doyle trilogy as much as I do, then these books are right up your alley, as well!

I think my favorite pieces of the whole book were the horror elements... she certainly knows how to bring on the creepy, and this book delivers in a way that won't ostracize young adult readers, but still will send shivers up the spines of thrill enthusiasts. It ups the ante on Bray's past forays into fantastical visuals established back with AGaTB, with some serious goosebump action. 

At one point while reading the story, thunder struck, and it started to rain!
And, of course, the historical accuracy was on-point. Bray is the kind of gal who knows her time periods and works 'em to her whim well. That being said, if I hear one more piece of '20s slang in the next 24 hours, I may punch out a wall. I thought this generation had it bad with "swag," I can't believe an entire decade got away with adding the phonetic "-ski" to the end of every sentence.

Unfortunately, there was this shoe-horned love triangle that I wasn't buying in the slightest, but I've got to admit, these fellas ain't cookie cutter. In fact, there weren't a couple of characters who especially stood out to me for their uniqueness. I appreciated that there was such a diverse range of people involved, and boy, were there a lot of people on top of that, too. At some point I just had to stare resolutely at a name until I could conjure up the characterization of what part they'd played thus far in the story. 

You know what makes any evening of reading better? Pie. From the farmer's market.
Especially when it's a baby pie. 
There were a couple of instances where I thought Bray's dabbles in the occult and American history - especially when it came to the more difficult-to-swallow bits, like frequent references to the inequality that lasted long past slavery for African Americans, especially in the form of the Klan, and the significant ties between the lead heroine and the terror of WWI - verged on the unsympathetic, sheerly for their inclusion. Honestly, though, while it gave me a bit of uneasy feeling, I can't think of a single example where things were treated unequally or represented unfairly. I don't know, it was a weird time in this nation's history, where like 9/10 people had ideas about the world that we'd gasp at today, but Bray still managed to keep everything, as Evie would say, "copacetic." 

In terms of how the novel stays in keeping with current trends in publishing that we've seen, the '20s period setting squares out pretty firmly. However, I actually wish that the novel had been even more hip to the times, by having a Southern setting, instead of in New York City. NYC is so over idealized in YA, and I wish they could branch out a little bit more from such a catch-all setting... focusing the story in the South would have carried the same place-out-of-time feeling, and would have lent itself to even closer ties to the occult and the Klan. But that's just my opinion!

Final Verdict: A supercharged paranormal mystery with plenty of inventive characters and plot points to make you feel like the story was brand new, even though the time period was one we've seen cropping up in plenty of YA these days. 

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