THE RAVEN BOYS – Maggie Stiefvater

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“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore. Goodreads description

——

As you’ll already know if you follow me on Twitter, I picked this book up as a reward for spending 2.5 hours in the dentist’s chair. I figured I deserved some kind of treat, and what better treat is there than a book?

I’ve never read a Maggie Stiefvater book, but I’m a big fan of her on Twitter. She’s hilarious, witty and watching her exchanges with Maureen Johnson is highly entertaining.

Her best-known work is the Shiver series – you know, those books with the different coloured ink? (Which is SUCH an awesome gimmick, btw.) I started reading Shiver but hadn’t gotten around to finishing it, and for some reason I just felt like this book was the one that would begin my Stiefvater literary fandom.

The first thing I HAVE to say about this book right up front is my gawd, the writing! 

This is one of the (very) few Young Adult books I’ve read where I actually had to stop and re-read a line – or a whole section – just because the words were so perfectly put together. I even highlighted. Which I NEVER do. Here are some examples of lines I loved:

“The church enveloped Gansey in an incense-scented pocket of air, a rare enough smell that it instantly evoked half a dozen memories of family weddings, funerals, and baptisms, every one of them summer. How strange that a season should be held captive in one breath of trapped air. ‘Ronan?’ The word was sucked into the empty space. It echoed off the unseeable ceiling far overhead so it was only his own voice, in the end, that answered him.” – p.92

“He was good at staring. There was something about his stare that took something from the other person.”  – p. 115

“All at once, he, too, missed Ronan’s charismatic father. But more than that, he missed the Ronan that had existed when Niall Lynch had still been alive. This boy in front of him now, fragile bird in his hands, seemed like a compromise.” – p. 159

“As Adam stared at his lap, penitent, he mused that there was something musical about Ronan when he swore, a careful and loving precision to the way he fit the words together, a black-painted poetry. It was far less hateful sounding than when he didn’t swear.” –  p. 238

I have so much appreciation for a perfectly-crafted sentence. One that not only conveys its meaning concisely, but that does so with elegance and a hint of poetry.

So the writing was what impressed me the most about this book. But I also ended up feeling quite fond of the main characters – Ronan, full of anger without an outlet, but also capable of tenderness. Gansey, whose single-minded obsession and charisma make everyone around him part of his quest. Adam, whose story automatically makes the reader root for him (though his stubbornness is a bit infuriating). And Blue, daughter of a psychic whose energy augments the supernatural phenomena near her but who cannot allow herself to fall in love.

***SPOILER ALERT***

 
I had a bit of a hard time with the plot, though. This is the first book in a series, so it stands to reason that there’d be overarching plot points that aren’t resolved in the first book. Also that mysteries would begin to unfold without resolution. But I like a series that has this but also provides a balance of resolved plot per installment. A perfect example of this would be the Harry Potter books, or even the Hunger Games trilogy or the Divergent series. Yes, there are huge, ongoing storylines that endure throughout the entire series. But each book has its own sub-plot, its own story arch and a satisfying conclusion.

Unfortunately, though technically this book had a plot arch, climax and resolution, it didn’t feel resolved to me. I got to the end feeling confused and a bit let down. They solve the mystery of Noah, sure, but the clues and details relating to the larger quest are even more obscure than they were at the outset. We don’t get any closer to understanding Blue’s curse, nor do we learn anything about Glendower. Not his location, how to wake him, what exactly his power is or even if he exists. We also learn nothing further about Gansey’s future.

All of these major things have been left more or less untouched throughout the book, and if anything I felt like I knew less at the end of the book, not more. I’m sure that if I read the entire series from beginning to end without pause, it would work much better. But reading the books one at a time or as they are published, if the others follow this model, will be unbearable. Not only because of the lack of resolution, but because I’ll forget all the little clues that went nowhere in this book, one assumes because they will become significant later. Which will make the point where they finally come together much less impactful. Because of this, I feel no desire to pick up the next book, knowing that the rest of the series isn’t published yet. My reaction at the end was, more or less:

***END SPOILER***

To sum up: This book had a strong start. The writing is excellent, and the characters really came to life. There’s a good amount of intrigue and mystery, and you want to find out more. It’s an entertaining read. I am curious and want to read the rest of the series, but I don’t want to do so until they’re all published. So I’d recommend waiting on this one and devouring the books when you can read them back-to-back.

——
Book Title: The Raven Boys
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Edition: Paperback
Published By: Scholastic Press
Released: July 30, 2013
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Supernatural
Pages: 409
Date Read: November 28-December  4, 2013
Rating: 7.5/10

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