Sunday, January 12, 2014

Book Review: "The Diviners" by Libba Bray

"The Diviners" by Libba Bray
First published in 2013
578 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5
(image source)

I'm happy to report that for the first time in months I've come across a young adult book that I thoroughly enjoyed, with a page-turning plot, interesting characters and fairly well-done writing.

Set in New York City in the 1920s with 17-year-old Evie O'Neill at the helm, "The Diviners" is a light paranormal thriller with some humor and a bit of romance thrown in. Evie is a diviner, someone who has some form of extra-sensory perception, such as the ability to see the future or talk to the dead. Evie can see into a person's past and discover their darkest secrets by touching an item of his or hers.

After a debacle at a party in her Midwestern hometown in which Evie drank too much and displayed her "party trick," inadvertently revealing something nasty about a town golden boy, she's sent to live with her Uncle Will, proprietor of the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition and the Occult, in Manhattan. Evie, a flapper in the '20s, is thrilled to be sent to the nexus of it all and has high hopes of making a name for herself in the big city. Shortly after her arrival, her uncle is asked to consult on a grisly murder case, and Evie realizes she can use her gift to help identify the perpetrator -- who just so happens to be a serial killer come back from the dead to usher in the End of Days.

There are other characters and diviners in the tale too, and their stories all begin to intertwine at the end and set the stage for the next book in the series, like Mabel, Evie's conservative best friend; Theta, a beautiful performer in a famous revue; Memphis, an aspiring Harlem writer whose power to heal people with his touch vanished suddenly after his mother died.

I found "The Diviners" to be a sort of cross between the Fox TV show "Sleepy Hollow" and the movie "The Bone Collector." None of the ideas in the novel were particularly original -- special powers, the coming of the Antichrist, serial killers working from a book -- but nevertheless I enjoyed the way Bray put them together.

I did have a few complaints about the novel, though. After the excitement and thrill leading up to the climax, I found Evie's (inevitable) confrontation with the killer pretty underwhelming. And, while I really liked the atmosphere the 1920s setting lended the story, I thought Bray went a bit overboard with the (endless) '20s cliches: "She's the elephants eyebrows!" "You bet-ski!" "It must be the duck's quack to be famous!" etc., etc. ... etc.

Favorite quote: "I'm a librarian, not an oracle!"
Oh, how many times I wished I could say that to patrons at my last library job, where we all filled the role of reference librarian!

*I'm using "The Diviners" to fufill the Young Adult Fiction requirement in the Reading Outside the Box book challenge.

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