This, fellow readers, is how you write a book.
It’s 1920s New York City. It’s flappers and Follies, jazz and gin. It’s after the war but before the depression. And for certain group of bright young things it’s the opportunity to party like never before.
For Evie O’Neill, it’s escape. She’s never fit in in small town Ohio and when she causes yet another scandal, she’s shipped off to stay with an uncle in the big city. But far from being exile, this is exactly what she’s always wanted: the chance to show how thoroughly modern and incredibly daring she can be.
But New York City isn’t about just jazz babies and follies girls. It has a darker side. Young women are being murdered across the city. And these aren’t crimes of passion. They’re gruesome. They’re planned. They bear a strange resemblance to an obscure group of tarot cards. And the New York City police can’t solve them alone.
Evie wasn’t just escaping the stifling life of Ohio, she was running from the knowledge of what she could do. She has a secret. A mysterious power that could help catch the killer – if he doesn’t catch her first.
From the moment I picked up this brilliant book, I was hooked. This book astounds me in how atmospheric it is. Never before have I been this impressed by a book. The setting, the era, the characters, the plot… Perfection. That’s the only word for it.
The characters were astoundingly well constructed. There were a LOT of characters in this book. Usually, I would say that’s a huge no-no. The more characters, mean the more time spent constructing them, the more pages spent in getting a reader to care or to hate them. To really react to fictional characters, as a reader, you must feel for them in some way.
Libba Bray is an expert in her craft in that she introduces all of these characters and makes you feel so much emotion towards each one of them.
I was also incredibly impressed by Bray’s ability to master the switching, third-person narrative. Her writing is seamless, her form is incredible. As previously stated, I was hooked from the first page. As each chapter was told from a different characters perspective in third-person, there was a new point of view each chapter. Libba Bray managed to give each character SUCH a distinctive, unique voice. Evie, protagonist, was witty, sharp-mouthed and charming. Yet, by the end of the book, she was also strong, brave, determined and had become one of my favourite YA heroines. Her character development was really visible, and I loved that about her.
As stated, there were a lot of characters in this book. Perhaps my favourites, apart from Evie, were Memphis and Theta. Memphis really brought out my emotions in his dedication to his brother Isaiah, whilst Theta completely surprised me. The discovery of her backstory was startling and horrific but just made me love her more, as it truly showed how strong she was. And, the relationship between these two characters was my favourite in the book!
As I’m discussing characterisation, I can hardly ignore the construction of Naughty John. Possibly the creepiest character in YA? I think so. The way Libba Bray introduced this character, with his HORRIFYING song, scared the life out of me! So, so chilling, but all in all, incredible characterisation! Bray really kept you at the edge of your seat with this character.
Now, the plot; the murders, the mystery surrounding the ‘diviners’, Memphis and Theta’s shared dream, the truth about Jericho… So many questions were asked and answered in this book.
The murder mystery itself – the killings, the Knowles’ house and the creepy figure of Naughty John – was so cleverly woven. There were so many plot twists that I didn’t see coming, I really was blown away! What I loved most of all, however, was how the killings all had method and meaning, and how the discovery of Naughty John was literally a race against time. Such an exciting and fast-paced read, I can’t express it enough!
Finally, I want to truly emphasise the amount of research that Libba Bray must have put into this book. The 1920s came to life, and every part with it.
Prohibition, The Jazz Age, the KKK, the First World War, Flappers, Industry, the motor car industry, Segregation, Religious Fanaticism….
All of this was in the book, and helped create the authentic atmosphere that was simply so great about this book.
As a reader, it all comes to life. The conflicts of religion, politics, race, class… And also the celebration of style, sexual freedom, women’s rights, and life itself.
An incredible book that is without a doubt one of all time favourites. I bow down to you, Libba Bray!