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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Review: THE DIVINERS by Libba Bray

 Title: The Diviners
Author: Libba Bray
Pub info: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2012; 578 pp
Genre: YA historical paranormal

The glitzy streets of Manhattan may be the duck's quack to Ohio native Evie O'Neill, but a restless spirit has her fighting for her life before you can say sloe gin fizz. This book is a must-read if you love your thrills mixed with a bit of history. Welcome to April! It's Yippee! YA! month on the blog.

Goodreads summary:
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.
Status: finished 4/2/14

My impressions:
Okay, I was a little biased going into this book. I love Libba Bray's writing, so I was prepared to enjoy the book. I also love the 1920s time period. And I love New York City. So, win-win-win.

But wow.

Part of this book is like cruising through a noisy speakeasy, meeting character after character who you'd love to know better. You get just enough of a taste of each life to become invested, and then you're whisked away to the next. Each character is interesting and multifaceted; each is linked to the others. All of them kept me turning pages, from gutsy flapper Evie to the scholarly Uncle Will, orphaned poet Memphis Campbell and his psychic brother, and Ziegfeld Follies girl Theta Knight and her sweet piano man, Henry.

Then there's Bray's stunning, detailed picture of 1926 New York, from fashions to cigarette ads to catchy slang and hot jazz. This tumultuous time period--a whistle in the dark between the tragedy of the Great War and the devastating Depression to come--is the perfect setting for the rise of an evil spirit.

And that's the final piece: The ghost story. This isn't a pretty haunting, and the murders are quite grisly, but they're kept firmly in PG-13 realm. (Picture a ghoul coming at a young girl with a bloody hatchet, and ... fade to black.) The creeps are genuinely chilling, and the story flies by as if unencumbered by its massive page count. I stayed up late several nights to finish it and now absolutely can't wait for the sequel. Additional plus: This story is self-contained and completely stands on its own--no cliffhangers here--but the stage is set for more evil to sprout in the next volume.

About Libba:
Libba Bray is the New York Times-bestselling author of The Gemma Doyle trilogy (A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, The Sweet Far Thing); the Michael L. Printz Award-winning Going Bovine;  and Beauty Queens, an L.A. Times Book Prize finalist. She is originally from Texas but makes her home in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband, son, and two sociopathic cats. The sequel to The Diviners is called Lair of Dreams and is due out from Little, Brown in August 2014.

Catch Libba online at her website here and the separate website for The Diviners series. She is also active--and very funny--on her Twitter account here. You can see two fantastic trailers for The Diviners: The official one is here; this other one was created by a fan but is absolutely fantastic. (I know it looks like a movie trailer, but as of this writing, The Diviners has not yet been produced for the big screen. Paramount Pictures has optioned the book, which Libba will adapt, but no word on a release date yet.) 

Want to win a free copy of this book? The first Monday of each month features a giveaway of any of the titles I've reviewed the previous month. Pick your fave, enter, and win!  Next giveaway: May 5.


To follow my progress as I bulldoze my way through a stack of 51 to-be-reads this year, search for the tag 2014 TBR Shelf. Read all the reviews here.


  1. First, I LOVE historical fiction AND the 1920s is my favorite period AND I love murder mysteries, so this book is going right up to the top of my TBR. Wow. This sounds terrific. Thanks for the review.

    1. I know! This book touches all the right obsessions for me too. :)

  2. Claire, I read an ARC of this before it pubbed and I still remember the chilling mood of the story. I love that time period too, probably because my grandmother was a flapper (I have photos!). I've read all of Libba Bray's books and especially loved GOING BOVINE. But this is a close second.

    1. Yes, GOING BOVINE was probably my favorite of hers. This one was just loads of fun. My grandmother was a bit of a flapper--at least, her wedding dress was fashionably short! How fun that you got to read this early. Hopes for the second one?