Book Review – The Diviners by Libba Bray

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I’d only read one other book by Libba Bray before I read this one: Going Bovine, which I remember really enjoying.  It didn’t leave that much of an impact on me, but I still thought it was a good book nonetheless. So, how did Miss Bray do the second time around?

Well, first of all, The Diviners is looooooong. Part of the reason that it’s been so long since my last review is because, between my busy schedule and my chronic laziness, this book took a while to read. The thing is, it doesn’t feel that long while you’re reading it. The Diviners is a very engaging, fun, and suspenseful book. I liked it very much.

It’s not going to appeal to everyone. First of all, you should probably be at least familiar with 1920’s America before you start reading it, because that’s where this book is set. In some way, it’s almost a love letter to the 20’s, which, as I’m sure most of my nonexistent audience knows, was a time of partying, Prohibition, flappers, the American Eugenics Movement, jazz, the Ziegfeld Follies…all of which and more make appearances in The Diviners. In fact, one of the things I liked best about this book was how well it established its setting. I really felt like I was in the 1920’s, or at least a 1920’s movie. With the exception of a few chapters, the book is very cinematic; I could see a movie playing in my head as I read. The characters’ dialogue is stereotypical 1920’s talk; probably not how everyone spoke back then, but the kind of talk you think of when you think 1920’s. If you’re not into American history or the 1920’s, though, you might find this book tedious, because setting is a huge part of this story.

Secondly, if you’re not a fan of supernatural/ghost/cult books, then stay away from this one. The Diviners is a story about a ghost who murders people based on the crazy religious traditions of a crazy religious cult.  In addition, the book’s main character, Evie O’Neill, as well as many other characters in the story, are people with special abilities, like psychics or healers. I’m a huge fan of anything to do with the paranormal, but I realize others may not be. So if those kinds of things rub you the wrong way, don’t read this book.

With that in mind…SPOILERS.

Let’s talk about this cast of characters, because there are a lot of them.

First off, we have our main character, seventeen-year-old Evie O’Neill. She is a flapper in the biggest sense of the word. She loves to party, she loves to drink, she loves to have fun, and she’s a fiery, spirited, funny person. Kind of a different main character, and what I liked best about her is that she keeps her personality throughout the whole book. Sometimes fun characters can turn into serious, contemplative, mature people after going through an ordeal, but that didn’t happen with Evie. She stayed her fun self from beginning to end. At times, she did get a bit annoying, especially with some of the things she says. But it wasn’t that big an issue, and I liked her very much.

Then there’s Memphis, who’s a seventeen-year-old boy living in Harlem. He has a special healing ability, but he won’t use it since he failed to save his sick mother. Memphis is an interesting character, but unfortunately he gets a bit flat towards the end, and his story doesn’t fit in nicely with everyone else’s. I really wish that his personality had been explored more, but his story gets pushed aside by the end.

There’s Theta, a performer in the Ziegfeld Follies, who is kind of that badass, cool girl that everyone wants to know. She, however, has a dark history, revealed all at once towards the end of the book, which I thought was interesting but perhaps a bit too much for the reader to take in all of a sudden. She kind of starts this fling with Memphis, but unfortunately neither the fling nor Theta’s character really goes anywhere. Perhaps there will be more character development in the sequel.

There’s Jericho, the really hot museum assistant. Most of the discussion about him is about how very attractive he is. And he’s boring. Very boring. He’s this book’s Edward Cullen or Gale Hawthorne, if you will. Think tall, hunky male who will undoubtedly get together with female lead in the end. The only difference between Jericho and the other characters of his type is that Jericho is a human-robot hybrid…or something. Honestly, I didn’t like Jericho, mainly because I thought he and Evie were horribly matched…but yeah, they got together.

Then, there’s Sam, a pickpocket whose sole purpose in the book seems to be to flirt with Evie. Okay, not his sole purpose. Actually, Sam is probably my favorite character. He’s funny and slick but he has a dark side to him. He is searching for the truth behind Project Buffalo, which he believes will lead him to his missing mother. Basically, think Fox Mulder if he was seventeen, a pickpocket, and spoke like a New Yorker in the 1920’s. There’s even a sentence towards the end of the book that sounds very Mulderish: “He would find his mother and the truth, no matter how long it took or how dangerous it might be.” Sam and Evie go very well together, unlike Evie and Jericho, who have about as much chemistry as a spoon and a paper cup. Speaking of which…let’s talk about the damn love triangle.

This book doesn’t have a “love triangle” in the most basic sense of the word; Sam doesn’t ever really come forth and declare his true feelings for Evie, and Evie reveals nothing about how she feels until the end, when she spontaneously falls for Jericho. And that’s the big problem with this particular love triangle. We never see the development. It all happens in the end. The only two characters out of the three that have the most consistent interactions with one another are Sam and Evie, even if they are mainly fun and flirtatious. But it works because they are both very fun and flirtatious people. And Jericho, robot thing aside, isn’t very interesting, and he adds to Evie’s character about as much as salt adds to pretzels. In other words: nothing.

I am so sick of love triangles. There does not have to be a love triangle in every single book featuring teenagers. They’ve become so predictable that it’s completely useless to include them at all. This particular love triangle ruffled my feathers a bit more than usual, though, because I honestly thought Libba Bray would have taken it in a different direction. I am tired of the brooding male hottie. They must all die.

The murder mystery isn’t really much of a mystery, but it is creepy and very suspenseful. The cult sections were actually kind of scary, and I legitimately wasn’t sure where the plot was going at some parts. It did kind of fall a little flat at the end, but that could be due to sequel syndrome, and it didn’t detract from the overall quality of the novel.

Now, what about the writing?

Well, I can safely say that Libba Bray is a very good author. She does have a nice way with words, and it was very refreshing to read the book and think, “Well, that’s a really good sentence,” or “I like the way she put that.” There are a lot of descriptive sections in the book, almost with a (fittingly) Gatsby-esque feel to the language. Bray’s no Fitzgerald, but I did like many of her sentences, and it was nice to see that kind of writing in a novel about the occult.

Overall, The Diviners is a very enjoyable read. If you like scary stories and the 1920’s, definitely check this one out. If you want to have a good time with a good story and for the most part decent characters, give this one a read. I think you’ll enjoy it.

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