Book Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray

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Title: The Diviners

Author: Libba Bray

Series: The Diviners (#1)

Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: 9-18-12

Pages: 578

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Historical Fiction

Source: Library

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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.

Short and Sweet

The descriptions in this book are absolutely amazing. I’ve never read a book about the Roaring 20s before, but now I want to know everything about it. Libba Bray’s writing is incredible, and I couldn’t get over how much I loved the main character, Evie, who isn’t always the easiest person to like. But I just couldn’t get into the story of this book, and it seemed to drag on and on.

My Review

When I first started reading this book, I got really excited. A young adult paranormal thriller set in the 20s?! That sounds amazing. And it was…at first. I was so excited about the intriguing flapper girls and the amazing descriptions of New York City in the early 20th century. But as the book went on, I started to like it less and less.

First of all, this thing is like six hundred pages. I just didn’t feel that the length was entirely necessary. I really liked how everything came together, and the amazing writing that got it there, but I think that it could have been trimmed a little bit without losing those qualities. The second half of the book just really dragged for me. I was losing interest, and there were lots of switches between characters, which I didn’t really like for some reason.

A big problem that I had with this book is that it’s not a standalone. The entire book works perfectly as its own novel…until about the last 50 pages, in which the author struggles to add a few cliffhangers with newly introduced information that doesn’t really make any sense. This novel would’ve made a perfect paranormal standalone…I mean, really, how many of those have we had in recent years? I actually appreciate it now when authors choose to do one book instead of forcing it into a series. Especially because this book would’ve worked so well alone, and the weird “cliffhanger” ending was so awkward. It just felt like a manipulation, and was very forced.

The last negative that I want to mention is the fact that this book is supposedly a Young Adult novel. Really?! I am shocked. This should definitely be an adult novel (at least, in my opinion). Even though the main character is 17 years old, there are a lot of mature themes in this novel. A huge part of The Diviners is that it is set in the 20s, during prohibition. Evie is a flapper, and there is a lot of late-night drinking, hanging out with strange guys, going to illegal clubs, and disobeying her Uncle’s rules. Even though it’s realistic for Evie’s character, it might be a little inappropriate for a young audience. This book is also a thriller, and there were a lot of parts that were scary, and even had me getting freaked out when I was reading it at night alone. I’m not sure that I would’ve been able to handle the scary parts of this book very well in high school. On top of this, there is also a moderately graphic rape scene, domestic abuse, and some violence (including somebody getting shot). Maybe some of these things could’ve been okay in a Young Adult novel, but I feel that the combination of all these things makes it inappropriate for teenage readers.

All that being said, the best part of this book was the characters and the incredible writing. I fell in love with the main character, Evie, who is at times immature and annoying, but is also strong, willful, brave, and hilarious. Her flaws were part of what made me love her so much; I love well-rounded characters that aren’t black or white.

I wish that there had been more time spent on the romance in this book, though. There is a small hint of a love triangle, and she sort of picks somebody at the end of the book, but it’s barely mentioned at all. I liked the fact that the romance was part of the background, instead of being integral to the plot (or the plot itself), but I wish that there had been just a little bit more time spent on it, because I really enjoyed reading the sections in which Evie was hanging out with either of her two love interests.

I loved all of the other characters, although I didn’t enjoy reading Memphis’ chapters as much as I wish I had. For some reason, I just couldn’t connect with him and wasn’t interested in his story. It also seemed very disjointed from the rest of the book. I think he will come more into play throughout the rest of the series, but you already know how I feel about that.

What really kept me going with this book was the amazing descriptions. I absolutely loved the setting of this book, having never read a novel set during prohibition before. It’s always been something that has interested me, but I’ve never gotten this close of a look. The scenes in which Evie and her friends were out on the town at night were completely captivating, and had me wishing that I could bob my hair and go around talking in 1920s slang. I loved that the setting was such an integral part of this book as well. It really made me appreciate how sometimes it can almost be like its own character…unlike how Cassandra Clare’s tries to make the setting a cool part of the story, but doesn’t actually do anything with it and is super disappointing.

Ultimately, I loved the potential of this book, but don’t feel like it was executed as well as it maybe could’ve been. The story was entertaining and original, and the characters and descriptions were spot-on, but the novel was lacking a fast pace, more romance, and should’ve been written as a standalone. I’m just going to pretend that the story ends here, and not continue on with the series, but I’d still recommend this book to anybody who is interested in flapper culture or paranormal thrillers.

My Rating

3.5 anchors

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7 responses to “Book Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray

  1. I really enjoyed this one when I read it, though I agree with you that it would have been better if it had been written as a standalone. I agree with you completely that too much new information was given in the last part and it made the narrative seem really awkward. And it is a really bloated book. Bray could have easily cut out a hundred or so pages. I could generally overlook it though because, as you said, Evie was a wonderful character, and New York was almost a character in itself!

    • Glad you agree with me about all of that stuff! I loved Libba Bray’s writing, though, so I’ll definitely be interested in reading more of hers…maybe even the sequel, even though I didn’t want there to be one, haha.

  2. Haha, I do sort of agree that the story might have worked out better as a standalone. I mean, I have no idea how Libba Bray is going to take her story in the next installment O_O But I’m still excited to see the story continue, if only to read more about the characters 😀

    The length of this book is something that I’ve seen people view negatively, which I can totally understand, since I get bothered by unneeded length too. Though I oddly didn’t feel irritated by the excessive amount of pages in this one. I ate all the pages up 😛

    Yes, yes! I would have LOVED it if there as more time spent on the romance. The love interests were both so interesting and Evie’s interactions with them were so fun!

    On the book not being for teens: I actually think that it was right for The Diviners to be marketed as YA, though it would have been nice if there was a warning somewhere. Some of the very mature stuff did sort of just pop up at times…

    Great review, Miranda!

    • Thank you!!

      I kind of agree with you about it needing to be marketed as YA, but only because of the main characters’ ages and the fact that so many YA readers aren’t actually teenagers. I think it’s probably difficult when you have a book that’s so on the fence. And you don’t want to alienate readers, either, by making them feel like they shouldn’t be reading it or something. I don’t know…I just felt like it needed to be said.

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