My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Received: Hachette Book Group Canada
Published: September 2017 for this edition
Publisher: Little, Brown BFYR
Recommended Age: 14+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Paranormal, Mystery, Horror, Family
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.
You have no idea how many times I have wanted to be able to mark this book as ‘‘read’’ on Goodreads. The first time I attempted to read it, I was only 16 and gave up after the first two chapters. Then I tried again a few years ago but gave up at page 50. But something in me really wanted to finish this book, whether I ended up loving it or hating it, so I finally decided to sit somewhere quiet and immerse myself in this story a month ago.
The reason why I couldn’t finish it those two previous times is that this is a historical fiction story, and although there are fantasy elements, it FEELS historical and the characters use language that confused me at times. At 16, I just could not deal with the 1920s New York expressions that simply did not make sense to me. Also, I did not manage to connect with Evie—one of the main characters.
But the thing about Evie is that she grows on you. Yes, she is spoiled and would rather party than work hard (which, to think of it, makes sense), but the more you read about her, the more you’re able to sympathize with her and understand why she prefers to dwell on light topics than serious ones. She lost her brother. She keeps important secrets. She feels alone, misunderstood, haunted. Honestly, after the narrator became more open with us regarding her, I began to admire her happy-go-lucky demeanour. It’s not easy to be happy when there is so much to be sad about.
I understand why so many people were not able to finish this book, clearly. But I also understand all of those who loved it so much. It’s different from literally anything I have read before and there is a lot of content. Many 400+ page books feel like they barely tell a story or they barely show anything new, but this is quite an original work that must have taken the author a long time to write. It most definitely feels as though she thought it out carefully and wanted from it so much. I do dare say Libba Bray has accomplished something worth praising here.
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I originally read this in 2012 when it first came out, and I think I’m going to re-read it in the new year. I’m glad you liked it!
I just finished reading this book for the second time! I’m about to read the rest of the series (again) until the last book finally comes out! I’m so glad you liked it!
I adore this book, but I completely understand about needing to be in the mood for historical fiction. Evie is a bit of a mess, but a charming mess.
I hope you continue!
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