5 Stars. Triggers for sexual assault, murder, violence.
I love Libba Bray. It took me far too long to read her work, but now I find myself in the horrible position of running out of Bray books to consume! Despite really enjoying all of Bray’s writing, and despite having purchased the first book when it came out years ago, and despite my mother and multiple friends telling me I needed to finally start reading it, I only just picked up The Diviners. I don’t regret it, though, because I’m currently suffering a pretty brutal pandemic-induced reading slump, and The Diviners turned out to be exactly what I needed. And what is even better is that I have three more books in the series to get me through what is sure to be a bleak and lonely winter.
The Diviners seems to have everything…at least everything I love. It’s set in 1920s New York City, a time in history I absolutely love to explore. It centers on a group of misfit teens who happen to have extraordinary supernatural abilities and are called upon to use those gifts (or curses) to protect the world from dangerous paranormal beings. It’s light, exciting, full of adventure, has a dash of romance, and is also genuinely terrifying at times! The Diviners is a scary-ass book!
Evie has outgrown her town in Ohio, and when she missteps at a party–using her supernatural ability to reveal an ugly truth about the town’s golden boy–she’s sent away to live with her oddball Uncle Will in Manhattan. She accepts this punishment, gladly. Once in New York City, she resolves to make the most of it. She enjoys shopping, attending glamorous variety shows, and visiting speakeasies about town! She blossoms into her true flapper self. But she can’t seem to stay out of trouble, which puts her uncle in a tough spot. His Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult isn’t exactly the hottest ticket in town, and Evie isn’t making his life any easier. But luckily, she finds a way to make herself useful to Will.
Not long into her stay in the city, Naughty John, a brutal serial killer, starts making his presence known. Will is called to consult on the case, and Evie can’t help but get involved. What they don’t know, at least at first, is that this case will put them in the middle of dangerous occult dealings. Evie, her uncle, and her unique set of rag-tag friends have to put the pieces together to stop Naughty John’s rise to power (and subsequent end of the world as we know it).
Bray’s writing is always sharp, smart, and witty. It shouldn’t have surprised me that The Diviners ended up being very political and historically detailed, having read her other work, but Bray went above and beyond with this one. I really appreciated how politically aware it was! Classism and racism are addressed head on, with generational clashes causing tensions along the way. I’m sure this will continue with the rest of the series.
Each character is well developed and a pleasure to spend time with. It’s also nice to have a relatively diverse crew. We’re still getting to know them in this first book, but I see the seeds of a deeply connected squad growing. I love found family stories, especially if there is an element of Scooby gang mixed in!
While Bray writes for a teen audience, there is nothing simplified or glossed over about The Diviners. This series is just as appropriate for someone firmly in their adult years as it is for someone in their mid-teens. I guarantee you’ll learn a little something about history as well, no matter how old you are! This book not only kept my attention during a particularly difficult and distracting time, but it also fully delighted and entertained me. Reading usually gives me a break from the world, but lately it’s been hard to escape into a book even for a few minutes. The Diviners gave that back to me, and I appreciate it. Looking forward to picking up book two: Lairs of Dreams.