Book Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray



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.


Book Review: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr



In case you haven’t heard, All the Light We Cannot See has won a crapload of awards, including the Pultizer. Why? Hell if I know.

Not saying this isn’t a good book. It’s totally fine. But it’s unremarkable.

I have read SO MANY books that take place during World War II, and will probably read many more in my lifetime. Why are there so many popular books about World War II? Because it was recent enough that we feel a connection to it, but it’s long enough ago that it’s not too depressing? Because between the Holocaust, and the soldiers, and German citizens, and the Japanese, there are so many story possibilities? Because as Americans, World War II fits our ideal notion of a war: one that’s justly fought and won by the obvious “good guys”? Probably all of these things. A lot of World War II books are on my favorites shelf, (The Book Thief, Maus, Sophie’s Choice, Slaughterhouse-Five), but a few World War II books kind of suck (like Sarah’s Key. Don’t even get me started.). All the Light’s is an in-between kind of thing.

I gave this 3.5 stars (rather than 3) because the writing is beautiful. There’s some gorgeous imagery and great metaphors, (with a few stupid ones here and there). And for the most part I cared about the two main characters and their families. I’ll admit that part of the reason why I didn’t love this was because I expected the plot to go in an entirely different direction. And other than that, for a war novel, it just wasn’t gritty enough for me. All the Light is World War II as approved by a conservative 9th grade English teacher. It didn’t help me think of the War in any new way. It didn’t make me squirm. It didn’t make me cry (or laugh). It was decent. But I’m going to forget about it in a few years.

So why all the hype? I guess because it’s well-written and non-threatening. It’s G-Rated and conventional enough that parents don’t mind giving it to their teenagers to read. As opposed to something like Middlesex, the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winner in 2002. My mom would have been horrified if she knew I was reading Middlesex when I was only 14. Yah… this makes me kind of mad. Not to say that every great book has to be “controversial,” but to me, remarkable authors are those who are willing to take a risk in one way or another. Sure, give safe things like this the bronze. But not the gold.