Ways in which The Diviners is so much like A Great and Terrible Beauty:
-Historical fiction + fantasy
-The young female protagonist has a special gift
-The young female protagonist has two female friends- one who’s a loser and one who’s beautiful and popular but very troubled
-The young female protagonist is mourning the loss of a family member
-The authority figures are constantly telling the young female protagonist that she needs to behave
-There’s some sort of weird cult involved
-There’s an interracial romance
-It’s a time of women’s sexual liberation and that’s part of the problem for the bad guys
-There’s an lgbt character
-The book is huge for YA and there are a lot of characters and plot lines to keep track of
–I love love loved it!!
When I was in about 9th grade, the Great and Terrible Beauty trilogy were my favorite books, other than Harry Potter. They were so unique—a blending of all of my favorite genres (historical fiction, horror, fantasy, and girl power). They were also well written, and they made me feel a little dirty and grown-up because were a bit sexy at times. (With hot guys, of course.) After the series ended, I longed for more stuff like that from Libba Bray, and was then devastated to find out she was taking her writing in an entirely different direction. I get it now. I can’t even imagine how difficult it much be to construct a series as complicated GTB. But I’m sooo glad she returned to the yummy trail-mix of a genre that made her popular. Yah, The Diviners came out way back in 2012, and I’ve owned it since about then. I’m actually glad that I waited 3 years to read it, because now I don’t have to wait another 3 years for the sequel, which came out just a few weeks ago. Yaaaaaay!
While A Great and Terrible Beauty takes place in late 19th-century England, The Diviners is set in mid-1920s US. One of the biggest criticisms I’ve read of this book is that Bray never lets you forget that it’s the 1920s. It’s true. The book is packed with ’20s slang, and references to the clothes people wore, and pop culture, and the biggest news stories. It didn’t bother me that much. I bought into the idea that the main character, a bratty 17-year-old troublemaker named Evie, would be obsessed with everything trendy—just like how most 17-year-old girls today say “bae” every other word and often talk about what One Direction is like post-Zane. I also learned a lot about the 1920s that I didn’t know (even after watching hours of Downton Abbey), and I’m sure younger readers would learn even more.
And these characters are so great. Evie might seem like a Mary Sue at first, but early on you realize that she’s hiding under a lot of pain. She’s also very funny, and smarter than people give her credit for, and I think her spunk and confidence is admirable. I wouldn’t feel uncomfortable with my younger sister reading books featuring main characters like Evie. Her friends are great too. I loved Theta especially, and I want to learn more about her. But hell, I want to learn more about everyone. I’d forgotten how good Libba Bray is at constructing back stories for minor characters without making them too obvious, cliche, or taking anything away from the main plot. I’m also giving the romance a big thumbs up. It was appropriately subtle for the first book, and I believed the chemistry between *spoilers* and *spoilers.* I even managed to start crushing on one of the guys… like I did in the freaking 9th grade… I am now 8 years older… and these boys are barely 18. #old. #ug. In my defense, the guy looks a lot like my boyfriend.
So grab some gin and tonic and pick up this book if you haven’t yet! Actually, please don’t drink gin if you are a child. Also, don’t drink gin if you hate gin. I personally don’t actually care for gin… But if I lived in the 1920s I guess I would have had to drink gin instead of vodka. In a secret place with the blinds drawn. What a dark time.