Book Review : The Diviners

Book Review : The DivinersThe Diviners by Libba Bray
Series: The Diviners
on September 18th 2012
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy, General, Girls & Women, Historical, United States, 20th Century, Romance, Science Fiction
Pages: 592
Buy on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Bookshop.org
Find on Goodreads
half-star

Do you believe there are ghosts and demons and Diviners among us? 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, Ziegfield 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.As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho hides a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened....Printz Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Libba Bray opens a brand-new historical series with The Diviners, where the glittering surface of the Roaring Twenties hides a mystical horror creeping across the country.

I wouldn’t say that I hated The Diviners, but I definitely would say that I absolutely LOATHED the main character and the love triangle. I can’t say that I really liked any of the side characters though either. I also felt like Libba Bray was trying to do too many things with her novel at once and many of them weren’t at all fitting for a young adult book. The only thing that kept me going through this book was the supernatural aspect and that too was tedious at times.

 

After Evie’s parents reach their limit with their daughter’s partying ways, she is shipped off to live in her Uncle Will’s home in Manhattan, which happens to be in the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult, aka the “Museum of the Creepy Crawlies.” Yes, this book takes place during prohibition and our “heroine” is a flapper, but does she really have to carry a flask? If this flask and Evie’s constant cravings for liquor, going to illegal clubs, getting drunk, and getting arrested along with almost always being hungover isn’t enough to remind you that this book takes place during the Jazz Era, get ready for the author to beat you over the head with all kinds of lingo at any and every nonsensical opportunity, “and how!” Yes, it makes that little sense.

 

The author also makes it clear that Evie makes other stupid decisions that don’t involve alcohol, like awakening ancient evil, betraying friendship, inserting herself in a murder investigation—the list is endless. From the first page of the book, Evie sets something into motion by purchasing a Ouija board and failing to follow its instructions for ending the ritual. It unleashes a monstrous creature named Naughty John—this is for once, a literal demon for Evie to wrestle with–that she and the other characters will face throughout the novel.

 

Evie’s other perpetual mistake is to reveal her special ability constantly. Evie has the ability to learn something about a person through an object. This “something” that she learns is a product of strong emotions too, so she doesn’t just learn something like “I forgot to buy milk at the grocery store.” You’d think a person wouldn’t want to risk bringing up such touchy subjects with people, but it’s not like she reveals her ability to one person either—not Evie, who constantly needs to be the center of attention—she uses it on everyone at a party (actually it happens at more than one party in the book), and to accuse someone of less than proprietary behavior.

 

Besides prying into people’s deep dark secrets, Evie isn’t exactly the nicest person to be around. She lies so much, to the point that I was actually shocked, if she said anything honest for a change. She also betrays almost everyone around her, tells ongoing murder investigation details to reporters, tries to corrupt her innocent friend Mable, and thinks anyone that isn’t similar to her is stuffy and immediately tries to change them to make herself feel better about her own choices.

 

What’s more is that when she first meets Jericho, her uncle’s mysterious assistant and the subject of her best friend’s Mable’s crush, she dislikes him immediately. But by the end of the book, she’s throwing her friend’s feelings to the wind and making out with him on a rooftop. At this point, I knew I shouldn’t be surprised by her actions anymore, but I was! Their tryst and her betrayal of her best friend takes place after Evie’s kiss and ongoing flirtation with Sam. It really makes her seem like even more of an unlikable jerk who enjoys playing with other people. Perhaps Evie is truly the real devil of this book?

 

To be fair, the one nice thing Evie does in this book (which does honestly feel like an exception to her character), is to try and solve the grisly satanical murders taking place in Manhattan. Implementing her special Diviner skill, she even goes so far as to break into a radical cult to try and touch an object of a suspect. But despite her attempts to solve the murder, I really feel like she inserts herself into the investigation simply because she’s bored and that it’s just a coincidence that it concerns herself and her ability.

 

With a character this flawed, Bray is forced to make the killer target Evie to make her look like anything remotely resembling a heroine. And Evie quickly undermines her success of thwarting the killer and moment of triumph for his many victims by selling out most of the people she cares about to the press and putting herself in the spotlight right afterwards! What a surprise!

 

Besides Evie’s endless shortcoming, another thing the novel suffered from was Bray’s attempts to do too many things at once—it really could have benefited from some more editing. I was shocked when Bray even brought the Eugenics movement into the book at one point. With supernatural murders, Diviners, cults, secret organizations, and steampunk elements, it was really just all too much—just like Evie’s personality! Okay, okay, I’m sorry for that jibe.

 

Anyways, I really wanted to love this book, but I simply could not get past my hatred of the main character, Evie O’Neil, with her selfish, impulsive, look-at-me nature and her other self-destructive qualities like alcoholism and the stupid love triangle. I mean, really, is there some kind of prerequisite now for every book to have a love triangle? It’s one thing if it is well-written, but it’s another if it seems forced and like it’s there to simply meet some kind of post Twilight quota.

 

Plus Evie and a lot of the other characters, as well as most of the situations read more like characters from adult books—frankly, they are all out of place in a young adult book. Initially upon reading the blurb, I wanted to lend it to a younger friend, but now I’m afraid that it’s not age appropriate. I can’t help but wonder if Bray was forced to make it a young adult book in order to appeal to her current audience.

 

Young adult book or not–regardless of being a 27 year old adult–the book still didn’t appeal to me. I barely got through this book and if it hadn’t been for the intriguing supernatural aspect, I would have put it down and never picked it back up.

half-star
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Posted October 19, 2015 in Book Reviews, Young Adult

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