I realize I haven’t written a full review for The Diviners or Lair of Dreams (both books before Before the Devil Breaks You), and at this point, I probably won’t. But! Since Before the Devil Breaks You ended up being really, really amazing, you’re getting a review for only it so far.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Summary: “After battling a supernatural sleeping sickness that early claimed two of their own, the Diviners have had enough of lies. They’re more determined than ever to uncover the mystery behind their extraordinary powers, even as they face off against an all-new terror. Out on Ward’s Island, far from the city’s bustle, sits a mental hospital haunted by the lost souls of people long forgotten–ghosts who have unusual and dangerous ties to the man in the stovepipe hat, also known as the King of Crows.
With terrible accounts of murder and possession flooding in from all over, and New York City on the verge of panic, the Diviners must band together and brave the sinister ghosts invading the asylum, a fight that will bring them fact-to-face with the King of Crows. But as the explosive secrets of the past come to light, loyalties and friendships will be tested, love will hang in the balance, and the Diviners will question all that they’ve ever known. All the while, malevolent forces gather from every corner in a battle for the very soul of a nation–a fight that could claim the Diviners themselves” (Goodreads).
I just finished Before the Devil Breaks You and even though my emotions are high, I can assuredly say that this is my favorite book of 2019, aside from my reread of Radio Silence. Just…I cried through the last fifty or so pages. She really…did that. Wow.
(Side note: I wrote this on the plane when I finished the book, but it’s now almost a week after that.)
What makes this series especially unique is the layer of politics, history, and activism that underlies the supernatural. As Bray says in her author’s note, “This is a book about ghosts. For we live in a haunted house.”
I have been passionately against eugenics for a long time, but I have never found a book to tackle it at all, let alone with historical attention, until I read this series. And man, does Before the Devil Breaks You take this discussion to a whole ‘nother level.
I love history, so much so that I’m going to a university situated at the center of United State’s Civil War history. I want to read a million more books like The Diviners quartet that bring historical awareness to young adult literature and the paranormal fantasy genre. With that said, I hesitate to call this young adult because it’s far more mature than most YA books are. However, given that it addresses coming of age themes, I suppose I will resign myself to assigning it this genre title. But really? It’s the YA book for those of us disillusioned from YA.
I think even if the characters were a pile of poo, I would still love this series, this novel, but alas, they are masterpieces themselves. Evie is so flawed, but trying so hard, and I see myself in her greatest flaws, and I can’t really hate her if I am her, can I? And Sam…Sam my outgoing yet withdrawn man. Marry me, please. Theta, who I love with all of my unruly heart. Memphis, who has the kindness and strength and humility of ten thousand people. Jericho, who never feels quite human, who could use some space to learn and love himself. Mabel, flawed Mabel, who I grew to care for, even if she’s so naive. Ling, who I just want to hug and hold and well, she doesn’t need that, because she’s so strong, so brilliant. Henry, who I can’t believe I didn’t mention earlier, because he’s one of my most favorites…and he deserves the entire universe and more. I love this cast…so much. They all deserve the universe. And I just want their happiness (that’s all).
I love Libba Bray for making me feel at home in her pages. I love the flawless diversity, the complete and utter strength in her pages, the push against any crime to the human race. This novel carries such weight. And, as all historical fiction is, it is just as important today as in the era about which it was written. We cannot move forward if we forget the mistakes of our past. We will only stumble and make the same mistakes. History will be repeated unless we stop it.
Thank you, Libba Bray, for writing a novel as powerful as this one. I won’t forget it soon.
Also?? What the heck was that ending? Unfair is what.