The Diviners

Bray. L. (2012). The Diviners. New York: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Kindle. 

Reader’s Annotation

Evie O’Neill has been sent to Manhattan from her dull home town in Ohio at the height of New York’s Golden Age. She’s a young flapper and the world is her oyster, with the one exception of her troubling gift of reading into the pasts of people if she tries hard enough, oh… and the troubling nightmares, aaaaaand then there’s the gruesome murders all over town which seem to share a link with events from 50 years prior, but other than that Evie’s posi-tutely got it covered, you bet-ski.

Plot Summary

Told from the perspective of several characters, The Diviners is an excellent story of murder, mystery and intrigue. After Evie O’Neill uses her uncanny ability to see into the past of a well to do son of a business man she is shipped off to New York City to live with her bachelor uncle Will until the scandal, and threat of libel, die down. Manhattan in the 1920s, who could ask for more? Evie is thrilled! Uncle Will is the curator of TheMuseum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult, otherwise known about town as the “museum of the creepy crawlies”. Uncle Will’s dour moods and dull life as an academic don’t stop Evie from kicking up her heels and enjoying everything the dazzling city has to offer, not even a homicidal killer with ties to the occult and series of murders that took place fifty years ago can do that!

Unfortunately for Evie, Uncle Will takes the threat of the killer very seriously. He and his assistant Jericho are working the case, with some help from Evie and the enigmatic conman Sam Lloyd, and    after Evie lands in jail after a night of wild partying Uncle Will can’t take it anymore. He threatens to send Evie back to Ohio, if for no other reason than to protect her from herself. In desperation Evie confesses to her uncle that she has an uncanny ability to read people’s pasts and tells him of the troubling dream that’s been plaguing her all these long months. Evie wins her freedom and sets to work unravelling the mystery of this gruesome killer, hopefully before he can complete his task.

Critical Evaluation

Libba Bray creates a whole new world in The Diviners. She takes her readers by the hand and transports them directly into 1920s New York City. All of the subtleties are there: references to Sacco and Vanzetti and the New York Socialist Movement, Yellow Journalism, Ziegfeld Girls, speakeasies, and the language! Bray infuses Evie’s speech with all of the colloquialisms of the age, to the point of annoyance for some reviewers, really creating a girl and a city that is just the elephant’s eyebrows.

Author Information

Libba Bray was born in Montgomery, Alabama in 1964. After she graduated from high school she got into a serious car accident, crushing her face and losing her left eye. It was during this time that she learned that you can write yourself out of what seems unwinnable and into something wonderful. After she finished college she moved to New York and started writing with no more than $600 to her name. She wrote 5 plays, 3 of which were produced and 1 that won an award. She’s in a YA-authored band, called Tiger Beat, with Natalie Standiford, Barnabas Miller, and Daniel Ehrenhaft. She’s written 6 books, most recently The Diviners, which came out earlier this year.


Historical Fiction, Paranormal Fiction, Young Adult Fiction

Curriculum Ties

Literary response and analysis for grades 9 and 10:

3.3 Analyze interactions between main and subordinate characters in a literary text (e.g., internal and external conflicts, motivations, relationships, influences) and explain the way those interactions affect the plot.

3.4 Determine characters’ traits by what the characters say about themselves in narration, dialogue, dramatic monologue, and soliloquy.

Reading curriculum for grades 11 and 12:

1.1 Trace the etymology of significant terms used in political science and history

1.3 Discern the meaning of analogies encountered, analyzing specific comparisons as well as relationships and inferences

Literary response and analysis for grades 11 and 12:

3.3 Analyze the ways in which irony, tone, mood, the author’s style, and the “sound” of language achieve specific rhetorical or aesthetic purposes or both.

Booktalk Ideas

How does the slang from the 1920s differ from the slang young people use today?

What kind of person is Evie? Does this differ from the kind of person that she wants to be?

How did you find the historical representation of the time? Does it agree with what you know about what was happening in New York in the early years of the 1900s?

Reading Level/Interest Age 


Challenge Issues

Some patrons may take issue with the grisly murder scenes and preternatural nature of this novel. The library strives to assure its users that they are exercising free will when they check out books from our collection, only the reader and his or her parents can choose the items that are correct for them. The library neither agrees nor disagrees with the viewpoints represented in this book, but supports each reader’s right to read. This library is a supporter of the ALA Library Bill of Rights and   challenges censorship. Forms for reconsideration are available, but all final decisions are made by the director after examination by the board.

Reason for inclusion

Great book by great YA author.

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