Saturday, August 17, 2013

Nobody Likes Historical Fiction

WriteOnCon 2013 just passed, and I had a great time, absorbing all that information, non of which gave me an actual idea as to what o actually write about. But more on that later. One of the videos published during WriteOnCon was an interview with a bookseller, who answered questions from weather to send booksellers arcs, to what was, and wasn't, selling in the book industry. What really caught my attention was what wasn't selling: historical fiction. Because WriteOnCon is for MG, YA, and NA books, it's specifically YA/MG (most NA right now is contemporary) historical fiction. Which is understandable. When you're a teen and history is practically being shoved down your throat at school, why would you read historical fiction during your free time? Personally, I like good books, regardless of the genre, but I had yet to find a wow historical fiction, that was actually a bit historical (yes, I'm talking about you, steampunk*). And then, just yesterday, I hit the jackpot. Something called The Diviners, which had been on my Goodreads TBR list so long that I had no clue what it was about, just that it was supposed to be really good and I wanted to read it. This Libba Bray is a sorcerer. A magician. The Diviners? Ingenious. 

Maybe you've seen the cover somewhere - some recommendation on Goodreads, an ad on some magazine, or maybe some top-ten weekly list on a newspaper or website. In fact, the average rating for this book is 4.5 on almost all book-sites I've visited. And guess what? It's historical fiction. Let me make something about myself very clear: I have absolutely no knowledge of recent American history - we didn't cover it in school, and I didn't go digging for information. I do know about all the movements - workers, women, African American, immigrant - a whole bunch, but that's about it. The Diviners takes you to the age of Jazz and the Blues and Flappers and that whole Religious Awakening (not sure why I capitalized that), when talking to ghosts and having your fortune read was all the rage. This book is historically accurate. And yet, not once do I feel weird, like I'm reading it so I can get tested on it. Then there's the horror. Want to know something? I couldn't sleep after I finished this book. And I finished it at 2-blasted-o'clock in the morning, and I was going to have to get up in five hours, and I was positively exhausted, and yet, I kept my reading light on and stared at the ceiling, jumping at every single sound, until I had to get up and close the window, because one of those cars was going to give me a heart attack. Anyhow.  This book is creepy-scary. All the burning people and eating parts of them, the blinded-by-belief, mixed with the all-to-believable other parts of the story - you couldn't tell where the facts ended and the storytelling began.

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

Here's my not so official reviw of the book:

Oh. My. God. Just. Oh. My. God. That was pos-i-tute-ly, just, I can't even think right here. 

Now for the not-so-dumbfounded review:

First and foremost, this is a big book. Bordering on 600 pages, I can only compare its size to The Host ('cuz boy is that book big, too).  Books as large as this don't get published often, for a very simple reason: there aren't that many good authors, that can write 600 hundred pages, and not lose the reader at some place or another. Now for that book to be for a YA audience? And a historical fiction? Unbelievable. Libba Bray not only does the unbelievable - she leaves us waiting for the next installment. And thank god this is a series. Obviously, a book as large as this cannot have a simple plot. That means no following the standard plotline, with only one climax (Which, yes, means this book had a heck of a lot of climaxing. Also, that sentence came out wrong.), and having so many characters that you need a journal to keep track of them. Now what's amazingly done in this book is that each and every one of the characters is so well rounded, each with his own unique personality, that I'm left wondering how exactly the author organized them all without forgetting - or mixing up - their names. As for the plot, it kind of reminds me of Charles Dickens - each sentence introduces some different plot line, so that are there are all these other, smaller stories in the big story. Of course, in Charles Dickens, it feels like all of those complications are not resolved, while this...let's just say the sequel better come out soon.

This review won't include a review of the actual story (I didn't mention any of the character's names, did I?), simply because there are so many of those, I feel like I couldn't possibly add anything. Also, that was a very complicated plot, which takes a lot of thinking about to review, and so maybe I'm feeling a little brain-lazy. But mostly because I feel like I won't be able to add anything. 
Who am I kidding - I'm not in the mood to think.

Anyhow, The Diviners is definitely a Historical Fiction that is selling. You should buy it.

Also, from now on, I will make a conscious effort to actually review the plot, and not just do the vague-vague thing I've been doing.

*Defining steampunk as a historical sci-fi, mechanistic type of topic. Oh, and this book has just a little of steampunk. As in just one character. As in, major spoiler, Project Buffalo. I think.