Despite my best efforts at remaining separate from the sick people surrounding me, I started 2013 off with a wicked cold that left me too dazed to read or to even watch a movie. Instead I spent most of the first week of the new year slumped on my couch, grimly watching How I Met Your Mother reruns. But I finally appear to be pulling out of it, demonstrated by the fact that I managed to actually finish a book! A big one, in fact: The Diviners by Libba Bray.
Bray is a popular YA writer and The Diviners is the first in her new series about teenagers with special power living in Jazz-age New York. And even after reading all 500+ pages, I’m not quite sure how I feel about it. As I was reading, I kept just coming up with a continual list of pluses and minuses that seemed to balance each other out.
Plus: It was a fun look into 1920s New York! Remember way back in the summer when I mentioned The Rules of Civility, and how I was still looking for a better book about the glittering 30s? Okay, the 20s are not the same as the 30s, but this met my needs. Bray did a great job creating a past-New York that felt real and alive.
Minus: The main character was weirdly flat. The reader was clearly supposed to identify with this young girl who comes to New York from small-town Ohio, ready to have fun and make her mark, but she came across as a brat with no depth or internal monologue. I got tired of her very quickly, and she felt like a character in a middle-reader or kids book.
Plus: While the main character left me cold, the supporting characters were really interesting and much more complex. Specifically, a showgirl with a history and a numbers runner in Harlem.
Minus: It was dark. Like, really, really, creepy Criminal Minds kind of dark. I generally don’t get too up in arms about kids reading adult material and I’m not easily spooked myself, but I am not sure I was old enough to read this. That, combined with the weird flatness of the main character, made me wonder who the audience for this was supposed to be.
Plus: This initial story in the series was wrapped up quite neatly and there was a good sense of closure.
Minus: Despite being a long, looong book, character reveals were made super-slowly and a few really major pieces of information were tossed out at the end and not really followed up on. I’m assuming these threads will get picked up in future installments, but it still felt like I had made a pretty sizable investment of my time to end up with so many unanswered questions.
Final verdict? I’m still in. I wouldn’t recommend it to younger readers (super creepy!), but I was intrigued enough by the setting and some of the side characters that I’ll read at least one more to see where this is going. I’m just going to hope that the next book focuses on the showgirl, because she was aces.