“Naughty John, Naughty John, does his work with his apron on.
Cuts your throat and takes your bones, sells ’em off for a coupla stones.”
– The Diviners, Libba Bray
The Diviners is a Young Adult novel by Libba Bray and was originally published in 2012. It is the first novel in the Diviners Saga. This novel perfectly blends historical fiction with the paranormal. Set in New York City during the 1920s, there are plenty of flappers, bootlegged alcohol, and slang to make the reader feel as if they are truly in the 1920s.
The story primarily focuses on Evie O’Neill, who has moved from a small town in Ohio to the Big Apple. She has caused a scandal in her hometown, so as punishment, her parents ship her off to live with her Uncle Will in New York City. Will just happens to be the curator of the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult. Unfortunately, this museum does not actually exist, which breaks my paranormal loving little heart.
Once in New York, Evie immediately falls right into the flapper way of life. This book does an amazing job of capturing the slang used by the younger generation during the 1920s. Evie is joined with a cast of rag-tag characters including her childhood best friend Mabel, a thief named Sam, a Harlem poet named Memphis, her Uncle’s assistant Jericho, a Ziegfeld Follies girl named Theta, and a piano playing native Louisianan named Henry.
As the gang falls in stride with the New York way of life, Will is approached by police for help investigating some mysterious murders that have been happening throughout the city. Of course, ever curious Evie decides that she is also going to help investigate these murders. She believes she will be able to help the case because Evie is a Diviner, meaning that she possesses an unusual, almost supernatural gift. Her gift is being able to read objects to gain insight into the past events that surround the object or the person who once owned the object.
One of the most unique aspects of this novel is that there are chapters from murderer’s point of view. That’s right folks, you read correctly, you get to see into the mind of this mysterious murderer. I found this to be so well written that it is truly scary to read. Libba Bray’s writing is so phenomenal and, well, creepy. (It is a compliment, I promise, Libba.)
Another amazing thing about this story and all the following novels is the representation. This book features many different characters and each chapter is from a different point of view, so readers really get a glimpse into the character’s lives. Memphis is a young African American who lives in Harlem and wants to become a writer. We have Jewish characters in this story, as well as homosexual characters. And I can guarantee that the representation only improves in the second book Lair of Dreams.
TL;DR: The Diviners is an amazingly spooky story set perfectly in the 1920s. There is an entire cast of characters that come from all walks of life and may teach you something about how life was for them during this turbulent time period.
Let me know if you have read The Diviners in the comments and what your thoughts were!