by Libba Bray
Published by Little Brown and Company BFYR on September 18, 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Young Adult
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Confession: I have a crush on Evie O’Neill. A big old literary girl crush. Libba Bray’s latest main character fairly sparks off the page—enchanting and effervescent. She’s as incandescent as the electric lights of her beloved New York City.
The year is 1926, and this is a New York of Harlem speakeasies and Ziegfeld Follies; workers’ rights rallies and supporters of eugenics. It all shines under the lights of the Great White Way and a coming comet that portends the rise of the beast. (“Beast,” as in the devil, who’ll bring the Armageddon party with him.)
Evie arrives in New York after a spot of bother in Ohio to stay with her Uncle Will, a professorial man who runs the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult, aka the Museum of the Creepy Crawlies. But it’s outside Will’s museum where the real creepiness resides. A corporeal ghost is ritualistically murdering the people of New York, all in an attempt to raise the beast. It’s Capital C Creepy, and Evie gets swept up in the investigation along with her Unc and a band of misfits—a gentle giant, a petty thief, a socialist’s daughter. I loved each quirky character Libba introduces, and always wanted to spend more time with each to learn their secrets (because they all are guarding secrets).
This was a book that I a.) didn’t want to put down; but b.) didn’t want to read at night. We’re front row for the murders, which play out in skin-crawlingly tense scenes accompanied by the murderer’s unnerving whistled tune that I swear was following me around the house. That’s the thing with this book—the atmosphere is so immersive and Libba’s writing so evocative that I felt like I had dropped right into 1920s New York. The slang and dresses and fabulous drinks made me want to wake up in Evie’s world … even if that meant I’d be dodging a horrible death.
Libba slowly and expertly unfolds her story through multiple points of view—each a peek into the disparate lives swirling around each other in the same city—but Evie is the star of the show. She’s a ball of energy, always moving. But like all of Bray’s characters, there’s a whole heap of layers hiding under the surface. Evie is brash and bold, but it hides a deep sadness and a yearning to be loved, not just tolerated. It shows in this small passage:
“He was slightly dangerous; so was she. It would never work for her to be with a man who didn’t understand that about her, the darkness behind the devil-may-care façade, who flirted with it but who would run scared if faced with the storm inside.”
As we barrel toward the comet and the beast, all the bits and pieces weave together into a story that is both eerie and a ton of fun. This is the first in a series, and I, for one, can’t wait to jump back into Evie’s story in a new volume. Definitely pick this one up. And if you want the creepy crawlies to start now, check out the trailer below. Naughty John, Naughty John. Does his work with his apron on. Yeah, try to get that one out of your head.