The Diviners by Libba Bray
Evie O’Neill is too boisterous and wild to be contained by her boring old hometown. Following a crazy night of drinking, she is exiled to live with her Uncle Will, who runs a museum of the occult in New York. It feels like the opportunity of a lifetime, a chance to meet up with her old pal Mabel, not to mention the speakeasies, the Ziegfeld girls and the never ending parties spilling out across the city. 1926 in New York is a dream come true. At least, it appears that way at first. But it seems like life in the city that never sleeps might not be perfect after all. Soon after Evie’s arrival, Will and his assistant Jericho are called on to attend the scene of a murdered girl who has been branded with a cryptic symbol. Evie goes along for the ride, thinking it will be another story to tell her jealous friends back home. But soon she realizes that she’s entangled herself in a dangerous game of cat and mouse with a killer, and the dark secret she’s been fighting to keep quiet may be her salvation or her downfall.
This book has been on my shelf for about four months now. I bought it in my post-birthday book buying spree, since I’d heard bits and pieces about it over social media, but I always found an excuse to pick up something else. There was always, always another book I just had to read first. So instead, The Diviners has sat patiently on my shelf, gathering dust and awaiting the day when I would pick it up (well, not really. I mean, who doesn’t dust their bookshelves?!?!) That day finally came.
It took a little while to get into. There are actually several POVs throughout the novel, and it switches from Evie to Jericho to Naughty John to Sam to Memphis to Theta and then flips around some more. It is a little confusing, and I wasn’t always sure where I was at. I mean, Bray does name the character at the start of the chapter, and each does have a fairly distinctive voice, and since it is in 3rd person it doesn’t take too long to catch up, but I just… don’t always like switching POVs. There, I said it. Honestly though, sometimes it does really bug me when all I want to do is find out what happens next to character x and instead you have to read about 50 pages of characters y and z, even though their arcs aren’t that interesting right then. I definitely found that with a lot of the outsider character’s POVs. I thought Evie was always super interesting, and I liked the majority of Memphis’ chapters later on, and Theta’s too, but for the most part I was just pretty underwhelmed.
What I did find very interesting though, were the characters themselves. Evie is most definitely a flapper girl, living it up and partying until dawn. I loved her character, she was just so alive and dazzling and she really seemed to stand out. There aren’t that many characters that I find myself instantly drawn to, but Evie has to make that list. Sure, she has her flaws: she’s pretty selfish throughout the whole novel, and she does a lot of reckless things without considering the consequences, but I did think that only added to her character. Will, Sam, Mabel, Memphis and Theta and Henry also struck me as pretty interesting individuals. The only one that I ever really had an issue with is Jericho, and that’s because he just seems so very very very very very very dull. He’s given backstory, but no real character. He’s just there as a kind of plot device thing which will come to light later in the series and be sure to cause needless teenage drama along the way [no spoilers, but honestly, if you read it, you’ll realize this is such an overdone trope at this point].
The plot was also pretty awesome. I haven’t read too many YA books like this, and I thought it was basically a mix of the movie Seven [Se7en] and Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunters books. The murders were very graphic, and for those of you who are easily put off by gore should definitely avoid them, but I also thought this added to the tension of the novel. The killer, Naughty John, is a ghost (not really a spoiler since we get this from the first few pages) who is capable of unspeakable evil, and I think seeing what he is willing to do definitely amps up the stakes in this supernatural thriller. I loved seeing all the supernatural knowledge threaded through The Diviners, and there were moments when I couldn’t help but get a chill down my spine. Maybe read this one and then sleep with the light on, if you scare easily.
If anything was a let-down in the book, it was the ending. Unfortunately, I felt as though it was rushed, and the eventual confrontation takes place over only a handful of pages. It’s all over so quickly, that I didn’t really get that sense of relief you get when a book resolves itself. More, I was still hanging on the edge of my seat waiting to see if I’d missed a spot somewhere. I get that there are some things in this ending that will be explored in books two and three, but it wasn’t satisfying. I thought it was too much set-up, not enough resolution.
I’m not so certain about the sequel though. As of yet, I haven’t actually read any descriptions of it, and I know a lot of people love these books, but right now I think I liked this book as a kind of standalone. No doubt I will end up reading the rest of the series somewhere down the line though. It was one of those books that grips you tight and just doesn’t let go again. Just a shame about the ending, but honestly, I’ve read much much worse.