Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.
Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.
As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho hides a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened. – Goodreads description
If I were a nail-biter, I’d have bleeding fingers right about now. Seriously, this has been me for the past few days:
The story had me completely hooked. I loved how Bray danced around to different characters without ever making it confusing or overwhelming. I loved how she built the suspense from just a little frisson of fear during Evie’s ouija board stunt to outright terror by about a quarter of the way through. She seemlessly wove in supernatural elements so subtly that I barely noticed it was happening, I just accepted that this is the world Evie’s living in.
I love the “Museum of the Creepy Crawlies,” too. I wanted to go there and spend a day lost in their old books, scaring the pants off myself. I love old things – and I love old books even more. Evie’s uncle is an interesting character, as are Sam, Jericho and Memphis (and how ’bout those names??). Mabel is sweet and a great counterpoint to Evie’s flippant, wild, spontaneous personality. She provides some steadiness to an otherwise flighty female set of characters.
There are parts of the setting that worked for me. Mostly in Memphis’ storyline – his “profession” and the world he inhabits are given more description than Evie’s. Overall, however, I’ve gotta say the time period fell flat for me. I felt like the book had been written with very little thought to the time period, and was later revised and peppered with random words that felt oddly out of place, like “spiffing,” “pos-i-tute-ly,” “isn’t that just the berries,” and everyone being “jake.” It didn’t feel like natural dialogue, particularly since they’re thrown in seemingly whenever Bray randomly remembered this was supposed to be another time period. Take those out and in terms of the dialogue, most of the book may as well have been set last year. That said, it’s not easy to create atmosphere and historical context in a book. I can tell she tried, and must have done some serious research to come up with some of the terms, setting elements and historical information she chose. It just didn’t quite work for me.
I also found the book to be a bit long and meandery – particularly towards the end. Though it didn’t exactly drag, because the suspense is palpable and the plot is even, it was pretty heavy on description. In some places this worked to create a excellent atmosphere, but in others I found myself skimming whole pages (or even chapters) just looking for whatever important bits were hidden in there so I could get on with it. That said, however, even the more long-winded sections were well-written in terms of style. There weren’t any clumsy passages or awkward sections.
As a counterpoint to the only other Bray book I’ve read – Going Bovine – this book was closer to the promise in Bray’s writing. She expertly wove a plot that had me on the edge of my seat and looking over my shoulder for Naughty John. Seriously, guys. I’m a big ‘ole pussy.
I enjoyed this book, for the most part, but I’m not sure it gripped me enough to continue with the series. I suppose I’ll wait and see when the next book comes out.
Just one last thing, and this does give away a couple of plot points, though they’re tangential and don’t exactly count as spoilers – a warning for you animal-lovers, like me. After the big climax, two animals are killed (I won’t give you details because it’s horrible) for no real reason except to build suspense for the future story and demonstrate evil. But still, that was rough on me, so if you’re a big ‘ole softy, you’ve been warned!
Author: Libba Bray
Published By: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Released: September 1, 2012
Genre: Fiction, Supernatural, Suspense, 1920s
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