Posted by : Deborah Takahashi Saturday, January 18, 2014

Plot Summary:
It's 1926 and Evie is among the hustle and bustle of Manhattan, New York. After being sent to live with Uncle Will, after revealing a dirty secret that could easily put her father's business in jeopardy, Evie is quire excited since she never fit in with other guys and gals of Zenith, Ohio. What people don't understand is that Evie has a gift and, when under the influence of Giggle Water, this gift comes to life. Although she refuses to say how she knew the terrible secret, she know in heart that what she was the truth. When she arrived in Manhattan, Evie is smitten and convinced that this is where she is meant to be. However, there are a few things she didn't anticipate was getting mugged and she would be living in a broken down complex near a  museum nickanmed the Museum of Creepy Crawlies. Evie never really understood what her uncle did for a living and, now, she learns that her uncle is a bit of an expert when it comes to legends, folklore, and the occult. After meeting his assistant, Jericho, Evie is doesn't exactly get the warm and fuzzy vibe from her uncle and assistant, but Evie could care less because she is amongst the glitz and the glam and ready to have the time of her life (at least for the next four months). However, what Evie doesn't realize is the dark side of New York embroiled in scandal, mystery, and horrors. While Evie explores the wonders of New York City, a serial killer is loose and there is nothing no can do to stop him. The thing is, this killer is not of this world and the police has no idea where to start. When the first body shows, NYPD enlists the help of Uncle Will and Evie insists on going. Well, much to her dismay, this murder is not only gruesome, but Evie inadvertently channels her power to see something that only lives in nightmares. As for Memphis, not only is he running from his special gift, he wants nothing more than to escape the life of racketeering and find peace. However, when he meets Theta in at the Hotsy Totsy, they learn that there are actually others who have been having the same nightmare, which not only terrifying, but sends a warning that something evil is on its way and Evie knows it's time for her to start using her powers for something good or people may die.  

Critical Evaluation:
This is probably one of the best books I have read in my entire my life. Not only is the story captivating, readers will stay up all day and all night to see what unfolds. Libba Bray is an artist when it comes to storytelling and this is, in my honest opinion, her best work yet. Although the book is rather intimidating in size, I couldn't imagine the story without all of the intricate details since it is the little details that shed light on the Diviners and the evil they are about to encounter. By setting the story in the height of the Roaring 20s is absolutely brilliant. This era is known for it's rebellion and decadence, but also for it's violence and oppression. The whole John Hobbes story arc is perfectly set amongst all of the craziness of the time, especially since it's during and after the height of the Spiritualism movement (i.e., the Fox sisters). Furthermore, Bray's description of Manhattan in 1926 is absolutely alluring because of Evie. Evie experiences tremendous growth throughout the book and I am so excited about the sequel. In the beginning, Evie was bored and discontent with the simple life in Zenith, Ohio. Furthermore, besides her boredom, Evie never felt like she fit because of her powers. In many respects, Evie's powers are what fueled her passion and desire to go to New York simply because New York may give her what she needs to not feel ostracized. Well, New York not only did that, but gave her the opportunity to use her gifts for good and not as the usual parlor trick. Granted, Evie has a tendency to be selfish, inconsiderate, and rude, she learns that with this power comes a great responsibility, especially now, that she outed herself as a Diviner.

There is a whole slew of supporting characters who not only special powers like Evie, but are suffering from their own personal demons that will bring all of them together. Memphis, for example, used to be able to heal people until he used his power to try and save his mother, which resulted in disaster. Furthermore, his younger brother, Isaiah, has the gift of sight, and it's his abilities that are foretelling the future for the Diviners to unite.  Theta, who was abused all her life, found out she has the power to kill and was saved by Henry, who also has the ability to walk into dreams. Sam, who has the ability to disappear when desired, is in search of his mother who mysteriously disappeared and pronounced dead, but, consequently, was not since he received a postcard with his mother's handwriting. Jericho, who is a result of an experiment that left him as the lone survivor, was taken in by Will as an act of mercy and he has been nothing but loyal to Will ever since. Along with all of the young characters, are adult characters such as Addie and Lillian (the sage-like characters) who revel to readers dark events, Uncle Will, Miss Walker, Aunt Octavia, and Blind Bill also know more then they are letting on, which will more than likely reveal themselves in the sequel because after Naughty John, they are about to encounter an evil like no others. Like most stories, it is the youth that will have the fight the events of the past and we can only hope that the Diviners can hone and utilize their abilities to save the world, yet again.

Amongst the chaos of a serial killer, there is definitely a romantic story arc that involve unrequited and forbidden love. For Memphis, a young black man, falls for Theta, a young white woman. Mabel, Evie's best friend, is in love with Jericho, but is falling for Evie. Sam, who robbed Evie in the beginning of the book, has strong feelings for Evie, but Evie is on shaky ground over her feelings for Jericho. There's Uncle Will who is still reeling over lost love and even Naughty John was loved. Despite feeling like outcasts, the Diviners are struggling more than before because they now have so much more to lose, which will either motivate them  to fight or force them to run. As a reader, it is heartbreaking to read about the difficult pasts of the Diviners, but if there is a common thread, they all know what its like to lose someone they loved dearly, but found the will to love again. I am really, really, really excited about the sequel and I will be waiting on pins and needles until then. Now, I must go to an independent book shop and purchase this book because it is worthy of a place on my bookshelf.

Information about the Author:
According to her website:
Libba Bray is the New York Times bestselling author of The Gemma Doyle trilogy (A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, The Sweet Far Thing); the Michael L. Printz Award-winning Going Bovine; Beauty Queens, an L.A. Times Book Prize finalist; and The Diviners series. She is originally from Texas but makes her home in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband, son, and two sociopathic cats.  You can find her at…oh, wait. You already did. Nevermind—you are a genius!

Teen Mysteries, Teen Fantasy

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 9 & up

Books Similar to The Diviners:
Awards & Recognition:

* "1920s New York thrums with giddy life in this gripping first in a new [series] from Printz winner Bray...The intricate plot and magnificently imagined details of character, dialogue and setting take hold and don't let go. Not to be missed."
(Kirkus Reviews, starred review)

* "The compelling and dramatic supernatural plot explores self-actualization, predestination, the secrets everyone hides, and, of course, good versus evil. An absolutely terrific read and, thankfully, the first in a planned series."
(School Library Journal, starred review)

"The Diviners delivers an addictive and terrifying story of young New Yorkers investigating a rash of occult-based murders. Bray sustains a breathless energy throughout this ambitious series-starter, deftly evoking the exuberance of 1920s city life and the evil lurking beneath it." (Entertainment Weekly)

" [A] lavish supernatural thriller...Wisecracking Evie is a likable heroine, and all signs point to intriguing complications and more malevolent spirits on the rise in succeeding books."
(The Horn Book)

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Deborah Takahashi
Pasadena, CA, United States
My name is Deb and I am a Librarian who absolutely loves to read and recommend books to teen and tween readers. In this blog, you will find reviews on a variety resources ranging from books, movies, video games, and much more. Please feel free to leave any feedback, especially book recommendations!
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