Title: “The Diviners”
Author: “Libba Bray”
Length of Audiobook: 18 hours 14 minutes (15 CDs)
Narrator: January LaVoy
Synopsis (from back of CD case):
“SOMETHING DARK AND EVIL HAS AWAKENED. . . .
“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-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.
“Evie worries her uncle will discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.
“As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho is hiding a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened. . . .”
Trigger/Content warnings for the novel:
- non-consensual kissing
- description of dead animals and human bodies
- racism/racial slur
- white nationalism
- character death
- Indigenous/Native slur
- domestic abuse
Representation in the novel:
- black character
- gay side character
It took me….quite a long time to get this done. But I finally did it!! I don’t know why it took me so long, either: I absolutely loved this book!
So, for those of you that don’t know about The Diviners, it follows a group of teens during the 1920s when a number of serial murders are taking place in New York. Evie, the main protagonist is living with her uncle Will, who owns the Museum of the Creepy-Crawlies, as it is named by the public, after she did a little “party trick” that angered her parents, who sent her away. But it wasn’t a trick at all: Evie actually has the power to be able to gleam a bit about someone by holding a close possession of hers. When Will is asked to help the police out with the murders, Evie is dragged in as well, along with a string of other characters.
Before I started listening to the audiobook, I wasn’t sure how much I was going to like the setting. I’m not much for historical fiction, which this was partially, being set in the 1920s and all. However, I was quickly sucked in. I don’t know if I would’ve had a different experience if I had the physical book, but January LaVoy does such an excellent job giving life to the setting, the characters, the plot, everything. I really enjoyed it, so if audiobooks are your thing, I could not recommend this enough simply because of how it was performed. Anyway, back to the setting: it wasn’t just LaVoy that brought the 1920s to life. The writing itself was amazing, crafting up a setting that felt very real without any nasty info dumps. It felt very real without feeling like I was in a history lesson.
On top of that, the characters? I loved them. LaVoy had a distinct voice for all of them, and that made me love them that much more. My top favorites are probably Will, Sam, and Theta. Sam’s voice was great, I loved Will’s character, and Theta’s backstory is both heartbreaking and amazing somehow. While I liked Evie, I thought she used 20s slang a bit too much than I thought was probable (and it also got on my nerves sometimes), and I wasn’t a fan of how she treated her friend Mabel from time to time. Overall, though, I still thought she was an interesting character.
Since it took me so long to get through it, I can’t really say much about the pace of the plot; my thoughts are a bit skewed by the fact that it took me almost three months to finish. However, I think I remember it being pretty slow in the beginning, but it picked up about a quarter or so into the book. And even before that, I don’t remember feeling bored while reading; it was just that nothing much really happened. The plot itself seemed really engaging to me. There always seemed like something was going on without being too cramped, and time went into giving some characters a little bit of back story. I do have to say, though, some of the book did read like it was obviously the first in a series. Not that that’s bad, necessarily, but there was a bit of obvious set-up for later plots, and if you’re looking for a neat tidy-up of the plot, well…. You’re not going to get it.
I do have to say, though, that there was one thing that I wasn’t a big fan of, outside of some of Evie’s dialogue. Like I said before, this is set in the 1920s, and as such, society used different terms more regularly than now, such as the N-word. And while there wasn’t any mention (that I remember) of the more “popular” N-word (n – – – – r), there was the use of the other N-word (N – – – o). I understand that in different parts of the world, the second N-word isn’t seen as a slur by the black community, but in the U.S., as far as I understand, it is. Or, at the very least, it’s an outdated term that shouldn’t be used by non-black people.
I wouldn’t be as uncomfortable if it were used in dialogue because of the “time period” argument that could be made, but it’s used in regular ol’ narration, when no one’s talking. Like, when describing someone. And, from what I remember, it’s used quite a bit. And for Bray to write it this way, when (as far as I can tell) she’s white… It’s just a bit uncomfortable. She could have easily used “black” or wrote that someone had “dark skin.” She had options. But instead, she went with N – – – o….when she didn’t have to.
Tl;dr: an outdated term, at the very least, is used when there were plenty of other words or phrases that could have been used instead.
However, take what I say on that matter with a grain of salt. I’m white, so I don’t necessarily have the in-depth perspective that black Americans would otherwise have. I just know what I’ve learned so far, and at the very least, it made me a bit uncomfortable.
But anyway, overall, I still really enjoyed the book, even with the two very specific parts that I didn’t like as much. I’ll try my best to get my hands on the sequel as soon as I can because I want to see where the series is going to go.