Reader Response: The Diviners by Libba Bray
This post is a reader’s response to a book read for the 2013 Hub Reading Challenge.
I was going to write about Code Name Verity. I wanted to write about how wonderful the two main characters and their friendship are, how well-plotted it is, how long it stayed with me after I finished listening to one of the best audiobook presentations I’ve heard. I wanted, and still want, to praise Elizabeth Wein’s amazing book because I feel like it should have been the book that affected me the most. It definitely deserves all the accolades it gets.
But instead, I’m going to write about The Diviners by Libba Bray.
When I first started it, I wasn’t expecting to love it. I wasn’t expecting to finish the book only to pick up the audio and listen to that, only to buy the book and read it again (and again, and again…). I wasn’t expecting to grow to love the characters so much they would move me to tears even on the third and fourth time through the book. As a whole, I love everything about the book, from the characters to the full immersion in the Roaring Twenties setting, from the creepy moments to the fun ones. Even when the book is scaring me, it’s still making me smile.
Specifically? I love Evie, especially that she isn’t always lovable. Her flaws make her who she is, and I wouldn’t have her any other way. She shows that you can mess up, that you could be thoughtless and stupid, and still be good and real and strong in the end. I love that (unlike so many characters in similar situations), she’s mostly pleased to have her “Diviner” gift, both for the fun and for the good she can do with it. I love the other characters too, especially Theta, who escapes a bad marriage to make a bond closer than that of lover with Henry, and Will, whose stoicism seems to be a cover for something deeper. I loved every bit of twenties slang (though I can see how it might seem oppressive to others!), the descriptions of New York, even the slow pervasive horror of the Brethren’s offerings of murder and, even more, the beliefs that led to it. The book may be set in the twenties, but it’s all still applicable to today, even the worst parts of it.
Perhaps especially the worst parts.
And when it comes down to it, that’s why I chose The Diviners of all the books I read to write about. Books can be an escape, but they can also teach, and this one does both. It lets me escape to the glittering world of twenties New York on a whirlwind and frightening adventure, but it also shows that even a good-time party girl can be strong and fight for what’s right, that everyone has hidden depths to them, and that friendship and love are the most important things and can help fight the darkness all around us.
Plus? It’s just really fun.
— Leanna Chappell