So, where to start? I borrowed this ARC from my friend, Eti! Thanks Eti, again, for just being so wonderful! I’ve had a lot of review deadlines to keep up with, but did this stop me from reading Bray’s latest as soon as I could? Absolutely not! There are a few authors I call trump authors, whose new books go first above almost all else. Not only is Bray a trump author, she is literally a YA author I would feel the need to bow down to if I ever met her, and quote Wayne’s World, “We’re not worthy. We’re not worthy.”
Her book Beauty Queens was my favorite book of 2011. Her first series that started with A Great and Terrible Beauty was the perfect book for me when I read it as a teenager. Her Michael L. Printz award winning book, Going Bovine blew my mind in its strange awesomeness. And now, she has impressed me to the max yet again with this one! Why do I feel like I’m announcing her to speak at some major event? I would just love to be at an event where Libba Bray I speaking! Maybe one day? I wish she was going to Leaky Con… ah well.
Any way, can you tell already how much I loved this book? It did take a while to read. Though, mostly this is because I borrowed the book, and then belatedly realized it was signed, and made the responsible decision to only read it at home (meaning, I did not take it to the beach or with me on my vacation even though I was already half way through it at that point).
It’s mostly about Evie, a girl with the ability to touch an object and sense things about the person who owns that object. She can see memories, hear hummed songs, and really get a feel for the person the object belonged to –sometimes even knowing what that person ate that day for lunch. It’s because Evie uses this ability at a party, bringing light to an affair no one was supposed to know about, that her parents send her to live with her eccentric uncle in New York City.
Little do Evie’s parents know that she is more than fine with such a punishment to avoid scandal. To small town Evie, a 1920’s NYC is all about parties, hair-do’s, illegal night clubs, and shining lights. And while the book revolves around Evie, there are plenty of chapters that follow other amazing characters. There’s my favorite character, Memphis, a young man who takes numbers for a living, who used to be able to heal people with the touch of his hands. He’s taking care of his little brother (along with his religious aunt). His brother can sometimes see the future and is learning to “see” the numbers of cards from their backs.
There’s Theta and Henry too. Theta is a showgirl and she lives with Henry, a young man that saved her from some seriously harsh circumstances. They pretend to be brother in sister in the building Evie’s uncle lives in. And it’s hinted at that they have abilities of their own as well. And sometimes the book also shifts to the point of view Sam, a man head over heels for Evie, who has the ability to hide in front of people’s faces. All he has to do is tell them they don’t see him. He’s the perfect thief!
And while I’m making this book sound like a feast of supernatural elements, it’s not. The supernatural is a very small part of this novel, something most of the characters keep hidden for the whole thing. It’s just what connects all these people together, even though only a couple of the characters have seen any of this connection.
Evie’s uncle Will works for The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult (aka: The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies). Evie’s goal to bring more people into the mostly empty museum becomes rather easy to accomplish when Will gets involved with a police investigation of some rather occult sounding murders. The serial killer has gathered a lot of interest around NYC, having gone after all sorts of people from different backgrounds who don’t seem to be connected at all. But the creepy thing that gathers all the interest is the pieces of the bodies the killer takes with him (anything from hands to skin).
Evie talks to the papers and gets people interested in the museum again. She also realizes she has the ability to help with the murder investigation because she has some unique skills. It soon becomes clear that the serial killer doesn’t just seem supernatural, he is. He’s a ghost and it’s up to Evie, her uncle, and her new friends to stop the killings before more innocent people are killed and before some serious dark powers can come bring about the end of the world.
This book is part coming of age story, part murder mystery, part horror story, part romance, part historical drama, and part supernatural thriller. It literally had me laughing out loud at one point, on the edge of my seat –biting my nails another moment, terrified to turn the lights off before bed at another time, and crying for the dark circumstances war has brought to some of these characters another moment. This book just did so many things for me all at once.
There’s dancing in night clubs, getting arrested for alcohol consumption, supernatural powers, unfair politics regarding class, gender, and race, Harlem poetry, movie houses, religious cults, a resurrected dead serial killer, prophecies, love triangles, thieves, union organizing, just a tidbit of steam punk, death, and some pure awesome moments that I can’t eve put down on paper.
The best thing about this book was hands-down the fantastic writing. There were moments where I was like, “Am I reading Libba Bray or am I reading Sherwood Anderson?” There were fantastic descriptions of NYC that battled with some of the descriptions in Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio. There was this common thread of talking about all that the wind saw and heard, and it was just so beautiful. I literally paused after reading certain sections, thought for a bit, and then re-read out loud. Some of this writing is so good, it needs to be read out loud! Normally, I’d post a few of my favorite passages, but since it’s an ARC I really can’t quote it accurately. I might have to come back to this post once the book is out, and I have bought it, so I can throw in some amazing quotes!
The characters were amazing! All were flawed in some way that made them all the more believable. And all of them were connected so well! It took me a little while to warm up to Evie. Underneath all of her girly sarcasm and material obsessions (and love for booze), is a caring, loving human being who still has so much more to learn, experience, and grow. I absolutely loved Jericho, Uncle Will’s sort of apprentice/co-worker/ward. And I loved the history! The 1920’s came to life in this book for me more than the time period ever has before in a movie.
I need to stop writing. I could praise this book forever. Really. It is a little bit slow in the beginning. It took a while for the whole premise to be setup for all the characters. But, whatever you do, do not give up on this book because of its slow beginning. It will be worth your while to get to all the juicy, romantic, and terrifying scenes!
I love, love, loved this one. It definitely gets a 10/10 from me. And I seriously can’t wait for its release. Libba Bray, I bow down to you. Really, I do. Please don’t ever stop writing.