When the American Library Association names a book on its best fiction list, the story is usually guaranteed a page turner, and Libba Bray’s The Diviners would have my vote too.
Although this young adult fiction does follow a formula with stereotyped characters and a predictable plot, Bray uses the setting to give a history lesson on Manhattan in the Jazz Age from a teen perspective. The main character, Evie, a rebellious yet charming seventeen year old, who is banished from a small town in Ohio to the big city to live with her bachelor professor uncle, encounters the joys of the Ziegfeld Follies with Eddie Cantor, secret clubs with forbidden booze, music at the Hotsy Totsy club, and Clara Bow haircuts. Bray weaves the seamy side of numbers runners, the Eugenics movement, and the Chinese Exclusion Act into the horrors of a monster returning from the dead and a spooky house on the hill.
Evie’s supporting cast includes two love interests, one a steady hunk with a strange past and the other a rakish thief with the power to disappear; the others – her supportive unpopular friend, a gay piano player, a black numbers runner who writes poetry – follow the star seventeen year old flapper into solving the case of a serial murderer who plans to eat his way to redemption and a new world order – think “Silence of the Lambs” crossed with “Seven.” Although some of the scenes are gory, Bray keeps the action moving quickly to the inevitable satisfying ending, when the world is saved – for a while anyway.
The last few chapters are strained as they establish the premise for the sequel, but to her credit, Bray does tie up the loose ends of the initial plot in this first book. Teens who follow vampires and zombies may find another set to track in these superheroes (Diviners) with Mentalist powers. One was enough for me, but I had fun with this quick diversionary read.
Other YA Books Recommended by the Librarian:
Young adult books are fun and quick reads – some better than others. My friendly librarian recommends these debut novels:
A Girl Named Digit by Annabel Monaghan
With current events focusing on a computer nerd who can crack codes, this timely teen novel’s heroine, Farrah “Digit” Higgins is a high school genius bound for MIT. After this daughter of a UCLA math professor unknowingly cracks a terrorist group’s number sequence, she is recruited by the FBI, running from terrorists, faking her own kidnapping, and romancing a handsome agent.
Poison by Bridget Zinn
When medieval sixteen year old potion maker, Kyra, tries to protect her kingdom, the plan backfires and she becomes a fugitive in this fantasy adventure. Although the premise has the possibilities for sequels, this young author died before her book was published.
Between the Lines
Samantha Van Leer collaborated with her famous mother and author, Jodi Picoult, to write this fairy tale that has a character from a book come alive and yearn to escape his story prison – a teen reader and her Prince.