The Diviners by Libba Bray
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2012
Genre: Mystery, Horror, Supernatural, Historical
Reading Level/Interest Age: Grades 9-12
Libba Bray was born in Alabama but grew up in Texas. Her father was a minister and her mother was a high school English teacher. Shortly after high school graduation, Bray was in a serious car accident that destroyed her left eye and required a large amount of reconstructive surgery. Once she recovered, Bray attended college at the University of Texas in Austin. From Austin, Bray moved to New York City in hopes of becoming a successful playwright. Her career did not blossom, even though one of her plays won an award. Bray went on to write A Great and Terrible Beauty (2003), the fist book in the Gemma Doyle trilogy. Since then, she has focused her career on writing novels.
Once she completed the Gemma Doyle trilogy, Bray wrote Going Bovine (2009). Going Bovine won the Michael L. Printz award in 2010 and showed a completely different writing style from the Gemma Doyle trilogy involving tongue-in-cheek humor. Following the success of Going Bovine, Bray wrote another comedic novel, this one satirical in nature, called Beauty Queens. Finally, this past September Bray released her sixth novel, The Diviners (2012), which is the first in a series.
One final fun fact: Bray is in an all-YA author band called Tiger Beat. Information retrieved from Libba Bray’s website.
Evie moves to live with her uncles after her psychic powers got her in trouble. Now she is living in New York City in the middle of the 1920s juggling dance clubs and helping her uncle solve a creepy string of murders.
What’s better than a creepy horror story about a vicious murderer terrorizing the streets of Manhattan? You take that murder mystery, throw in some ghostly badness, add supernatural powers, and set the whole thing in the Jazz Age where flappers rule, Ziegfeld shows and speakeasies were the hotspots, and slang was whatever you wanted it to be.
Evie knew in her heart that she belonged in Manhattan, dressing up in her glad rags and hitting the elite underground clubs to dance until dawn. Unfortunately, she was stuck in Ohio. Things started to look up for Evie. One evening, a disastrous party was sure to tarnish Evie’s reputation. In order to save the party, Evie decided to show off her special gift; her ability to learn one’s secrets by holding onto a personal item. After disclosing some very sensitive information about one of the town’s wealthier inhabitants, Evie’s parents elected to punish her by shipping her off to her bachelor uncle. One girl’s punishment is another girl’s celebration. Evie’s Uncle Will lives in Manhattan.
Will is the curator of the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult, also known as the Museum of Creepy Crawlies. Evie’s first impression of Manhattan is a poor one, due to the sly pickpocket Sam who continues to come around like a dog searching for scraps. Once she reaches the museum, Evie realizes that Will, along with his bookworm assistant Jericho, are sure to put a damper on her fun. Evie collects her longtime friend Mabel and meets Theta, an actual Ziegfeld Girl, and sets out to explore the nightlife.
All the while, a darkness is taking over Manhattan, preceded by an eerie whistle. A number of bodies, marred with spooky symbols of the occult have been discovered around the city. Will has been tasked by the police department to assist in the investigation. To Evie, solving a murder and getting her face in the papers is an opportunity that cannot be passed up. Unfortunately this serial killer is more dangerous than anyone expected.
Bray allows readers the possibility to experience life in the 1920s with a comprehensive vocabulary of slang that may soon find a new popularity by fans. She obviously did a lot of research to accurately represent the time period and it paid off. Honestly, I felt like Bray’s incorporation of the Jazz Age was like an additional character to the story. Her descriptions of the atmosphere, the dress, and the speakeasies were so lifelike. Speaking of characters, I loved every single one. If I didn’t like a character, it was because Bray wanted me to dislike them, not because I didn’t like the construction of the character. The bad characters, like Naughty John, were executed in a way that I knew I was supposed to dislike them but still admired their evilness.
Bray does include a bit of romance in this book, but it is not necessary to the story. I wouldn’t classify this as a romance at all. The romance between Evie and the two boys is realistic. No one falls head of heels in love with one another. There is awkward interactions and the questioning of truth behind actions. The romance is expertly woven into the story as a part of the development of the characters rather than something slapped on top to attract the romance fans.
The Diviners is creepy and fun. This book is obviously the first in the series as some of the secondary characters are only briefly introduced.
- It’s the TV show Heroes during Prohibition.
- Show Libba Bray’s brief introduction to the book.
- Controversial Topics: Occult, Teen drinking
– Libraries are one of our great democratic institutions. They provide freedom of choice for all people.
– Familiarize yourself with the library’s policy so that you can defend the initial purchasing
– Read the book to familiarize yourself with the material. The topics mentioned above need to be understood in the context of the story.
(Information received from ALA’s Using the Strategies and Tips for Dealing with Challenges to Library Materials webpage)
Why This Book?
Libba Bray is an outstanding author and writes about a variety of genres. The Diviners represents the need for more horror and historical novels.
Bray, L. (2012). About Libba. Retrieved from http://libbabray.com/about-libba.
Staino, R. (2012, April 13). Libba Bray’s The Diviners. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysllHCaWRro.