Monday, January 21, 2013

Review: The Diviners

The Diviners (Diviners, book one)
By Libba Bray
Published 2012 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Evie's parents don't know what to do with her anymore in their small-town, so it's off to glamorous New York City and the care of her uncle Will. But Will is a bit of a strange one, running The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult. What no one knows is that Evie has a secret gift of her own - and she's not the only one. Around the city, others are hiding their strange talents, but not for long. When a series of occult-based murders hits the Big Apple, Evie and her uncle find themselves mired in the investigation. Can they catch the killer - or is Evie the next victim?

Okay, I'd been looking forward to this one ever since I found out about it - 1920s New York City, spunky heroine, creepy paranormal twist. I was thrilled when it started getting good reviews, and even more excited when it landed on the shortlist over at Someday My Printz Will Come. I've been keeping up with the award chatter over there and trying my best to read along (though I'm failing pretty miserably). So, when this book made the shortlist for the Pyrite, I bumped it up in my to-read queue and tackled it (did you know it's like 600 pages long??) over the Christmas holiday.

Good or bad, I'd already seen some of the discussion over at the blog regarding the issues people had with this title. I'd like to hope that it didn't color my own reading experience of the book (though, if I were reading for committee, I would have avoided keeping tabs on the discussion until after I'd finished my own reading of the book). Initially, I have to say: I thought this book was amazing. I'm definitely a hard-core Libba fan - the only thing I haven't read yet is Beauty Queens but someday soon, I promise! - and this book had, as I mentioned, no shortage of awesome things for me to love. Evie - I adore her! She is the epitome of a 1920s go-getter girl. I love, love, love the ensemble of the book as well. In addition to Evie, we get a host of other fantastic characters to follow along - Theta and her roommate, Jericho, Memphis, even Uncle Will. There is no shortage of awesome characters to enjoy.

The setting: 1920s New York City - is there a place more glamorized in our collective minds? Everything about Bray's writing screams with the glitz and romance of the era. This is where I worried the discussion over at Someday would most impact me - a number of people have felt that Bray's overly specific descriptions and abundance of slang bog down the story and feel slightly ridiculous. I shouldn't have worried. For me, what Bray does here doesn't feel any different than any other historical fiction novel - being overly specific helps introduce readers to products, fashions, and slang that they are most likely unfamiliar with. There is A LOT of slang in the book, but it really helps evoke the time period and bring flavor to the characters and setting.

The paranormal: this may be my favorite aspect of the book. I absolutely love when something is presented so completely and wonderfully in a novel that I begin to wonder if it's true or not. Bray does that here, with her storylines about an end-of-the-world cult and Naughty John. I wanted to go do some research of my own when I finished reading. Bray enrobes seemingly every word of this story with a creepy hint of the supernatural and it works wonderfully. For maybe the first time in my life, I was unsettled by a fictional bad guy. Naughty John is the real deal, y'all.

The writing: is there anything Bray can't do? There are so many threads in this story, so much imagery, and in my opinion, it all works wonderfully. I have always loved Bray's writing, so there's no real surprise here.

I think I've gushed long enough. I adored this book and am on absolute tenterhooks for the next installment. Head over to the Someday blog for some different perspectives. Personally, in terms of Printz potential, despite my adoration for the book, I'm not sure it measures up. It's a great field for the Printz this year and I think The Diviners suffers a little from first-in-a-series syndrome. Regardless, I thought this was a fantastic read, highly recommended for everyone.

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