By Libba Bray
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars!
The Diviners is the first book in Bray's series of the same name. Our main characters in this book are Evie (Evangeline), her uncle Will, his ward Jericho along with a host of secondary characters: Theta, Henry, Memphis, Isaiah, Sam, and so many others. Evie gets sent to New York City as a punish for what her parents deemed as bad behavior at home in Ohio. There, she is drawn into the hunt for a serial killer, as the local police ask Will to consult on it given the symbols left on the body. Evie and many of the other characters in this book have special abilities such as using an object to learn about someone's past, remembering numbers, healing, seeing into the future and more, the people that have these unusual abilities Evie comes to find are call Diviners. And while they may not realize it, they will all be put to the test with their abilities and what they believe at the same time.
Set during the 1920s when prohibition, flappers, and corruption reigned, Bray does a good job of introducing readers to the time period that is almost a century away from today and so different from what teens experience in normal everyday life. (For more about the time period, see the author's note at the end) While this is a hefty book at over 500 pages, the pacing keeps the story going moving from murder to murder and their hunt for the clues. Throughout all of this, Bray introduces to all the characters and gives us glimpses into their past along with their unique abilities. I feel she did a good job keeping the readers engaged in the stories, rooting for the characters to overcome their challenges while leaving us intrigued to their abilities. Evie at times comes off spoiled and self-centered in the beginning, but what I enjoyed is seeing the arc her character makes--she ends the book a more mature and reasonable but not so much so it seems false and insincere. It will be interesting to see how she is with the attention focused on her and her part in the ending of this book during the next book in the series: Lair of Dreams. Bray does a good job of introducing threads that have not been woven together yet and I am anxious to see what happens with those too.
I elected to listen to this book, and I am so glad I did--it is well worth the over eighteen hours. Right from the start the music really sets the tone for this book, giving the listeners an entry into the mindset of someone living in the 1920s. January LaVoy did a fantastic job balancing the range of voices, pacing, and all that goes into the rhyme of this book. She expertly transitions from speaking to singing in the character's voices, not matter which character. The personality of each character comes out clearly in her voices: bright bubbly Evie, serious Jericho, mysterious and alluring Theta, and the street wise kid Sam, just to name a few of them. I look forward to continuing the series as audiobooks, it the hopes that she is able to maintain these voices throughout (and I did confirm she narrates the remaining books in the series thankfully). LaVoy also balances the range of emotions throughout: laughter/happiness, sadness/grief, conveying being scared and many others without falling flat or resulting to gimmicks. One last element of the audiobook is after the author's note, the music plays the listener out of the audiobook, leaving the listener with one last element of the 1920s.
The Diviners weaves together elements from historical, mystery, and paranormal fiction with a splash of horror thrown in for good measure. With all of these elements done well, this is not a book I would hesitate to recommend to my students. I would caution those who have not read it and certainly my students that can be turned off by some gore, this book may not be for them. It reads older too, so in my school setting, I would lean towards recommending this book for my high school students and not my middle school students, unless I know they can handle some of the more mature topics present. An eclectic cast of characters, a tension building plot, a mystery that unfolds at a great pace, The Diviners is a treat for listeners and readers alike.