“There is no greater power on this earth than story.”
A few weeks ago, right before the hurricane, Dan and I investigated our local library and I picked up Libba Bray’s new book. I’ve only read the first Gemma Doyle and Going Bovine (which I’ve been meaning to rave about since I read it two+ years ago but could never quite explain myself), so I knew it would be well-done even if the particulars weren’t really my taste.
And that right there is the thing about Libba Bray. As far as The Diviners is concerned, I really couldn’t give two flips about the 1920s. I’m also not really into what YA is classifying as “paranormal lit” either, which I guess this falls into. And Going Bovine? I’ve never read Don Quixote (and it’s not on my short list either), and I’m not into New Orleans or Miami or half the places they wind up. But that’s something against labels too – you can put these tags on these books, but that doesn’t mean that what’s inside doesn’t spread so far beyond the implied scope of those little words that you can’t help but enjoy these things you were pretty sure you didn’t. She’s got that gift, and I love it.
The Diviners takes a handful of disjointed threads at the start – the main ones being stories about different young people who are at odds for some reason with their current life situation – and adds in seemingly smaller threads and characters until all of them are woven together in ways that how could you not see this coming but you never would have seen this coming. Some characters have a strange power or two, and others might have one and others maybe had one once but maybe don’t now. And there’s a level of prophecy making itself known to some (but whether they even realize that is another thing entirely). And oh – there’s a horrific serial murderer roaming Manhattan under the pretext of some convoluted ‘religious’ authority.
All of this takes place in those roaring twenties, with flapper girls and numbers runners and chorus revues and speakeasies. And the sadder stuff is there, like racial inequality and domestic abuse, so while it’s a work of fiction it truly doesn’t feel like a fictitious, nostalgic view of the past. And perhaps the decade feels more appealing to me post-Diviners because Bray doesn’t leave that stuff out but still manages to write a New York full of possibility and potential and hope. And holy crap can she write some dialogue! I can’t remember the last book that was this fun to read.
And it’s a series! I had no idea until I was done, which might have attributed to my enjoyment, oddly enough. I’m not against series – and I very much want more of this one – but there’s such a boner for trilogies in the book industry lately, especially in YA lit, that they can’t stop themselves from marketing the stuffing out of them. Like they’re so sure you’re going to love the first one that they’ve already decided they’re entitled to your attention for the next two, and there’s a big shiny 1 on the side and seeing that makes me so exhausted before I’ve even opened the thing.
In short, read this freaking book. Or anything else she’s written, basically, because I haven’t been let down yet. (Seriously. Going Bovine. Do it. Who doesn’t want to read about slowly going insane or maybe it’s a quantum roadtrip adventure? Or something.)