September 21, 2017

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Pick of the Day: The Diviners

Book cover with blue background and eyeBRAY, Libba. The Diviners. Bk. 1. 578p. Little, Brown. Sept. 2012. Tr $19.99. ISBN 978-0-316-12611-3; ebook $9.99. ISBN 978-0-316-21464-3.
Gr 10 Up–Set in 1920s New York City, this literary tour-de-force from Printz Award-winner Bray offers grand themes, complex characters, and suspense. After her secret gift for divining information from objects lands her in trouble, 17-year-old Evangeline O’Neill is sent from Ohio to live with her uncle, who runs a museum specializing in folklore and the occult in Manhattan. Evie is a quintessential flapper: not really bad, but rebellious and yearning to fly free of her Babbitt-like existence. Although she starts out her new life like the party girl she was back home, her pursuits become more serious when her uncle is asked to help solve a series of strange murders. She crosses paths with Memphis Campbell, a black numbers runner in Harlem, whose power to heal by laying on hands failed him when he tried to save his mother. Other characters include a homosexual composer who meets people in dreams, a Ziegfeld girl with a past, a pickpocket searching for his family, and a young research assistant with his own secrets. Bray develops each of these characters and their gifts, gradually bringing them together in a chilling and thrilling battle with Naughty John, a paranormal serial killer. Over the course of the novel, people (mainly good) smoke, drink, and use other illegal substances. These peccadilloes are contrasted with the values of the hellfire-and-brimstone cult that spawned Naughty John. The compelling and dramatic supernatural plot explores self-actualization, predestination, the secrets everyone hides, and, of course, good versus evil. An absolutely terrific read and, thankfully, the first in a planned series.–Nina Sachs, Walker Memorial Library, Westbrook, ME

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