Review: Before the Devil Breaks You (The Diviners, #3) by Libba Bray

Before the Devil Breaks You (The Diviners, #3)

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Paranormal, Historical

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Length:552 pages

Date(s) Read: April 1-16, 2019

Date Published: October 2017

My rating: ⭑⭑⭑⭑⭒

Goodreads Synopsis:

New York City.
Lights are bright.
Jazz is king.
Parties are wild.
And the dead are coming…

After battling a supernatural sleeping sickness that early claimed two of their own, the Diviners have had enough of lies. They’re more determined than ever to uncover the mystery behind their extraordinary powers, even as they face off against an all-new terror. Out on Ward’s Island, far from the city’s bustle, sits a mental hospital haunted by the lost souls of people long forgotten–ghosts who have unusual and dangerous ties to the man in the stovepipe hat, also known as the King of Crows.

With terrible accounts of murder and possession flooding in from all over, and New York City on the verge of panic, the Diviners must band together and brave the sinister ghosts invading the asylum, a fight that will bring them fact-to-face with the King of Crows. But as the explosive secrets of the past come to light, loyalties and friendships will be tested, love will hang in the balance, and the Diviners will question all that they’ve ever known. All the while, malevolent forces gather from every corner in a battle for the very soul of a nation–a fight that could claim the Diviners themselves.


Let me just get one important thing out of the way: January LaVoy could narrate grass growing and I’d listen to it like it were the most riveting thing I’d ever heard. I have consumed all of The Diviners books via audio, which means my experience with them has been a lot different than it would have been were I reading them as physical books. And, quite honestly, I don’t think I’d enjoy the series as much if I tried to read them as physical copies.

What I love about every Diviners book: The characters! The friendships! I love every gosh darn character in this series, but I absolutely have to shout out my favorites: Sam Lloyd, Theta Knight, Henry Dubois, and Memphis Campbell have been standouts for me since book one, and we didn’t get much from Henry here but man I would DIE for Theta’s happiness.

As usual I’m going to start with my criticisms.

First, the sex scenes. Awkward. And like… a weird attempt at subtlety and obviousness simultaneously? Not sure if that’s just because this is YA book or what. Also, that all the sex scenes happened at the same point in the book? Like? That just made them feel forced. Fan service maybe? I don’t know. And to prove I’m not a prude I’ll just be frank here. When it comes to sex scenes, let’s leave that shit to the unprofessionals. I don’t know what it is about published works and poor sex scenes, but most of the fanfiction I’ve read does it better.

[SPOILER] Second, the characters that died like, I didn’t really care about the fact that they did? I assume I was supposed to but? The fact that I was more upset by the characters we were introduced to in this book dying than I was the characters we’ve known since book 1? Even though one of them got a lot more page time this book I still didn’t give a single fuck about them dying, so, oops? [END SPOILER]

The focus also was a little weird for me. I didn’t care all that much about the socialist revolution thing that she was trying to do because it just? Didn’t feel like it really mattered at all to the main storyline beyond Jake Marlowe being tangentially involved (but not really?) so. I don’t know. I wish it had been cut down if not cut entirely. I get that she was trying to make a point about the current social/political climate, and not a point I even disagree with, but it just felt extremely forced?

Now, I’m going to be honest, I don’t love Evie/Jericho. I don’t think they have chemistry. But that said, I also just wasn’t feeling Evie/Sam as a ship as much in this book? I don’t know. Every single romantic thing in this book just made me roll my eyes more than I liked any of it, (except for Mabel and her mans in this book, a relationship I actually liked besides Memphis/Theta, despite disliking the context around it.) Maybe I’m just heartless but I also think it felt like just another thing rather than anything important.

So to summarize, this book is just trying to do too many things and fit in so many details that feel more like just checking things off a list rather than things I should care about. It seems like everytime something comes into focus we have to move on immediately to something blurry and repeat the process.

Enough of that. Onto the good stuff.

My favorite parts of this book involved Theta and Memphis or Sam. Which is unsurprising given that they’re my favorite characters. Theta’s plotline in this book? DAMN. I would have sacrificed the entire socialist revolution plot for more of a focus on Theta’s apartment building alone. ALSO! I don’t want to spoil anything but everything that happened with her… I just want her to be happy and I love her and Memphis of course, and her and Evie’s friendship is one of the highlights of this series for me, so all the stuff that happens with that was A+.

I think Libba Bray also did a wonderful job with the conversation around mental health in this book. You can tell she tried to stay (somewhat) accurate to the time period of the novel without taking the easy way out and demonizing the mentally ill. I really, really enjoyed Conor Flynn. (Also January LaVoy once again coming through with her voice acting. Damn. She can narrate my death.) I wish we could have had more of him. And Luther Clayton was very much welcome.

Everything that had to do with the main plot, especially Isaiah’s dreams and in general his and Memphis’ storyline, were some of the best parts of the book. Unfortunately they seemed to be very much contained to the beginning 2/3 of the book. I wish more time had been spent with the brothers throughout the story in general.

Overall this book is probably between a 3 and 3.5 for me, but I’m giving it a 4 because of the bonus points for January LaVoy’s narration.

3 thoughts on “Review: Before the Devil Breaks You (The Diviners, #3) by Libba Bray

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s