The Diviners by Libba Bray
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy, Supernatural, Historical
I was fourteen when I was introduced to Libba Bray. It was there that I met Gemma Doyle, and quite frankly, I developed a small obsession for her story. Over a decade later, I decided to pick up another one of Bray’s books because I so desperately wanted to be swept away by another story.
But The Diviners is no A Great and Terrible Beauty. Not for me at least. Did I like it? Yes. Was it well written? Yes. But I didn’t love it.
The year is 1926. After a drunken mishap, Evie O’Neill has been “forced” to move from her hometown in Ohio to New York City with her uncle Will, who runs a museum that specializes the occult. But it isn’t all fun and games. When the police find a girl murdered and branded with a strange symbol, they contact her uncle to help investigate. Evie soon finds that her supernatural powers might aid in the investigation…
The Diviners has everything in it that should have made this a five-star-I’m-going-to-read-this-again book for me. There’s an interesting system of magic, it takes place in the roaring twenties, there’s murder and mystery, and there’s a little bit of romance. It’s exciting and scary. But then there’s the but…
The Diviners has multiple perspectives. This might be a plus for some people, but I hate it. It’s hard to really become invested in a character when we’re thrown into another character’s story in the next chapter, especially when those stories aren’t clearly connected yet. It just doesn’t do it for me. And it wasn’t that it was switching between two main characters, it was that Bray was switching between several main characters. I can handle two. More than two? Not so much. It’s hard to pull off, and quite frankly, I think Bray would have been more successful with less.
It also felt really long. I read this on my kindle, so I didn’t know how long it really was. But according to amazon, it’s 496 pages. So really, it was long but it shouldn’t have taken me a week to read it. This ties back to my previous complaint. I hate multiple perspectives. I’d rather stick with one character (maybe two) and really connect with that one character. With The Diviners, I found myself struggling through chapters where I didn’t really care about learning about that particular character. I wanted to skip ahead to another character’s story, but I was afraid of missing something important so I trudged through.
And then there was the dialogue. I get it. It takes place in the 20s. So yes, the characters use 20’s slang. But sometimes it was a little forced. I’m not a teenager now, but I work with them, and really. How often do they use “fleek” or whatever in daily conversation? Seldom. So why are the characters in this book using “Jake”, etc. all the time? No one does that. It just felt so unreal. A little goes a long way.
But enough of what I didn’t like. I did like the book. It was scary. Seriously. I had nightmares while I was reading this thing. Not that that says much…I mean, Hocus Pocus gives me anxiety. But I do think it’s hard to scare readers without your novel being cheesy and Bray managed to do just that.
Furthermore, the characters weren’t one-dimensional. They all had a story. A sob story, yes, but a story nonetheless. Even though some of them were selfish (I’m looking at you, Evie), there was still a reason to like them or at least understand them. They were real people.
The writing was lovely. Bray had these moments where her prose was almost poetic, and sometimes I feel like that happens so rarely in young adult literature.
And the subtle and unexpected romantic twist….Ah! I’m always a sucker for that.
Even though I ranted about what I hated and gave little space to what I enjoyed, this wasn’t a bad book. It was enjoyable. But there were a lot of things that just weren’t my cup of tea. So if you don’t mind multiple perspectives, appreciate a small dosage of romance, and magic catches your fancy, you’ll probably like The Diviners. And if you are a fan (or if you hate it), let me know in the comments below.
-“So long, and thanks for all the fish.”
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