So, as promised last week, I am devoting today’s post to Libba Bray’s epic historical paranormal YA novel The Diviners. Here’s the first thing you have to know about this book: I LOVED IT. The other thing you should know before jumping in is that it’s long. My friend Michael, who reviewed the book for io9.com (read her excellent review here!), recommended it to me as both a fabulous read, and as a doorstop. Basically, not an easy standing-in-the-subway read, unless you have strong wrists.
This book is so worth the potential wrist pain. It’s a jazz-age murder mystery/ghost story with a creepy and horrifying villain and a cast of characters from all walks of life who make 1920s NYC come to life. Teens with paranormal powers go to speakeasies and the Ziegfield Follies and flee from bad guys in crank-powered automobiles. Hair gets bobbed, money gets pinched at Grand Central Station, and slimy reporters flirt with the feisty blonde ingenue. The period-appropriate slang is pos-i-tute-ly the cat’s pajamas. Also, there’s a hint of a broader government conspiracy having to do with paranormal powers and World War I.
Here’s the basic synopsis: Aspiring flapper Evie O’Neill has been sent from her sleepy hometown in Ohio to Manhattan after a party trick — she can “read” objects and learn secrets about the people who own them — turns her into a pariah. Not that she minds going to New York City to live her dreams. She moves in with her Uncle Will, who runs the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult (also known as the Museum of Creepy Crawlies). Not long after she arrives, intending to take the city by storm, a murderer hits the streets of New York, leaving gruesome and supernaturally significant crime scenes in his wake. Evie’s uncle is consulted, given his knowledge of the occult, and Evie decides she can help by using her power to see if she can learn anything from the objects worn by the deceased. Unfortunately, what she discovers is that they’re not dealing with any ordinary serial killer.
The main thrust of the story is finding out who’s committing the murders, and why. But the book also looks at an array of characters’ lives, from a Harlem numbers-runner who wants to be a poet to a Ziegfield chorus girl on the run from a troubled past. They each get sections told from their point of view — and the kicker is, almost every featured character has a supernatural power of their own. Of course, they all think they’re alone in having a terrible (though sometimes useful) secret. How all of their powers fit together seems to be where Bray is heading in Book Two, and beyond — and I CAN’T WAIT.
If you like historical fiction, or mysteries, or ghost stories, or breathtakingly lovely writing, or just really good books filled with characters that jump off the page and stick with you, you won’t regret picking up this book.
Enough gushing! Anyone else read anything good recently? I want to hear about it!