Published: 29th October 2012 by Allen & Unwin
Format: Paperback, 578 pages
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1920s New York. A teen clairvoyant. An old evil. It has begun...
Evie O'Neill has been exiled from her boring old home town and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City - and she is pos-i-tute-ly thrilled! New York is the city of speak-easies, rent parties, shopping and movie palaces, and soon enough Evie is running with glamorous Ziegfeld girls and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that Evie has to live with her Uncle Will, curator of the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult - also known as 'The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies'.
When a rash of occult-based murders comes to light, Evie and her uncle are right in the thick of it. Even Evie's new pals - hoofers, numbers runners and activists, but all swell kids - are drawn into the investigation. And through it all, Evie has a secret: a mysterious power that could help catch the killer - if he doesn't catch her first...
Deliciously creepy and entertaining, The Diviners is not a book I’ll be forgetting any time soon. At just under 600 pages, it’s a long, spine-tingling read that will impress even the most discerning readers. The skill with which Libba Bray has executed this unique novel is to be commended, and I am glad that there is plenty more where this came from!
Bray brings 1920’s New York to vivid life in her novel, and I think the setting is what I enjoyed the most about it. The book touches on a lot of the issues that were of importance in that time: not only does it comment on the place of women within society, the Prohibition, and the relationship between the ‘white’ and ‘black’ societies, but it also touches on homosexuality, gang culture and religious fervour. It took me a little while to get used to the slang and odd turns of phrase that Evie and her companions use, but once I got used to it I loved it!
Evie is a wonderful character, and I liked that Libba Bray never pretends that Evie is perfect. Evie is selfish, and although intelligent, severely lacking in common sense. She rarely behaves with decorum and is constantly pushing the boundaries that society has set out for her. Once her parents despair at her attitude and shenanigans, she is sent to live with her uncle, Will. In New York Evie is able to live as a flapper and indulge her every desire, but she soon learns that it comes at a cost. Her best friend calls her out on her self-centred behaviour, and this really wakes Evie up. She doesn’t lose her daring or tenacity, but she does start to think of others more often and think out her decisions with more care.
The story is also told from the view of Memphis, an African-American teenager working as a runner for a crime lord. I think Memphis is a lot more likeable than Evie but lacks her spunk, he provided a good contrast to her character and I liked seeing events from his point of view. It took an unusually long time for the two protagonists to meet, but I think it was perfect and more natural than having them randomly bump into each other or something. I also like that they have separate and interesting lives, and even after meeting one another, one’s story is dependant on the other’s. The secondary characters all deserve mention because of how engaging and realistic they are, but I think my favourites are Jericho and Theta!
A few words have to be said about the book’s villain, Naughty John. There is really no describing how truly scary he is: he is genuinely psychotic and there’s absolutely nothing redeemable about him. His house of horrors was equally terrifying, especially because it seemed like the house was alive! I don’t think I have read a more brilliantly realised bad guy in a long time, and had chills any time the action switched to show us what he was doing.
The Diviners is a wonderful read that I encourage fans of YA, historical fantasy and thrillers to read – it really has something for every reader. It is engrossing, well written, and very eerie. I’m glad that this is only the first book of a quartet: this means there’s a lot more to look forward to in the future!