Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray

Title: The Diviners

Author: Libba Bray

Publisher:Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Release Date: September 18th, 2012

Interest: Historical Fiction / Supernatural / Ghosts

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads): 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-toot-ly thrilled. New York is the city of speakeasies, shopping, and movie palaces! Soon enough, Evie is running with glamorous Ziegfield girls and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is Evie has to live with her Uncle Will, curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult–also known as “The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies.”
When a rash of occult-based murders comes to light, Evie and her uncle are right in the thick of the investigation. And through it all, Evie has a secret: a mysterious power that could help catch the killer–if he doesn’t catch her first.

I’ve never read any of Libba Bray’s books before, but after watching the trailer for her newest book, The Diviners, I knew I had to read it.  The 1920s is one of my favorite time periods, and I love a good ghostly mystery.  It’s exciting when books like The Diviners release in the fall because the setting and tone fits the fall weather perfectly, especially if you choose to read this on a dark, stormy night 😉

In a nutshell, I enjoyed The Diviners and I’ll read the sequel.  The story is engaging, and the characters are interesting.  Unfortunately, the writing itself kept me from enjoying Libba Bray’s new novel as much as I hoped to.

My first roadblock was Evie’s constant 1920s slang.  It’s important to make the language fit the time period when writing historical fiction, but the heavy use left me with the impression that Bray wanted to show she did research.  When it becomes that distracting, then it’s not done very well.  Evie uses the slang the most, which fits her character wanting to be a Flapper; she’s trendy, vivacious, and energetic.

The biggest roadblock is the constant jump from character to character.  I love reading novels with multiple points of view; I love reading novels written in third person which switch between characters.  Libba Bray included too many characters and didn’t write them cohesively.  The Diviners would have benefited from a set up like Neal Shusterman’s Unwind where each character jump is marked by a section header with the character’s name.  While reading I had a better understanding and visual of the setting than the characters, so it was hard to figure out right away which character was the new focus.  Considering the amount of details written into the story, I expected to have a better picture of Evie.  I kept picturing her like a little girl, not an older teenager.  Think Shirley Temple.  Maybe it’s how naive she is, or because so many people around her keep treating her like a child, but I had a really hard time visualizing her.  The only character I could picture clearly was Memphis and he has significantly fewer scenes than Evie.  I found Memphis and his brother Isiah to be two of the most interesting characters in The Diviners.

On a more positive note, the suspense and mystery is excellent in The Diviners.  So many scenes had me holding me breath and racing to get to the next page.  I love it when an author builds up the suspense like that because it keeps me reading and engaged.  The degree of creepiness is perfect.  None of the scenes are too graphic (for me) and they’re not too scary either.  Libba Bray has included an excellent blend of creepy, mystery, and humor.

Even though the writing didn’t work out as well for me as I wanted it to, I still think The Diviners is worth reading.  It’s awfully long at over 570 pages, so some of my students may be wary of reading it.  I hope the second book cuts down on the overwritten scenes and is clearer when switching characters.  I especially hope to learn more about what the purpose of the Diviners is going to be.  We met them, and we know their abilities, but it will be great to know how they might all come together.

Book Pairing: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson


  1. I’ve read a few reviews on this book and it is clear that most walk away with mixed feelings. I think you captured the good and the not-so-good the clearest. I’m still looking forward to the read, but know to work through the frustration 😉

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