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Monday, October 29, 2012

The Raven Boys: YA Book Club Review

The good thing about reading a book by Maggie Stiefvater is that you pretty much know what you’re getting: lovely writing, gorgeous setting, and this atmosphere or mood that pervades the entire book. The bad thing is that you’ll think much, much less about your own writing. There are plenty of reasons for the latter.

For starters, the writing here is as gorgeous as in The Scorpio Races and the Shiver series. I’m always amazed at how she can describe an everyday thing in such a way that the metaphor is completely new and makes me think, Yes. Yes, that’s exactly how it is.

But probably the aspect I love most is the mood she’s created, right from the start. It’s mysterious and sometimes very somber but also gets at this feeling of being on the cusp of something great—like the feeling you get the night before graduation when all of your friends are gathered and you think this, THIS is a moment I’ll remember.

The initial premise—that Blue Sargent will kill her true love with a kiss, and that this is the year she falls in love—had me thinking the plot centered on romance. Though it’s definitely a part of the story, The Raven Boys is about much more than Blue’s kiss. Through a third-person narrative, we see inside the heads of not only Blue but a couple of the Raven Boys she begins to hang out with. There’s Gansey, who’s obsessed with the supernatural and is on a quest to find an ancient Welsh king. And there’s Adam, who’s obsessed with making his own rags-to-riches story.

That’s a major part of the novel—obsession. Each of the Raven boys, Gansey and Adam plus Ronan, whose father’s death still haunts him, and quiet Noah are all so passionate about the things in their lives that it’s hard not to want with them.

And I should mention here: It’s a large cast. Aside from reading from the point of view of Blue, Gansey, and Adam, we see the story from their Latin teacher’s side, too. And then there are the secondary characters: all of the psychics that live with Blue and her mother. Yet somehow they all have their own very distinct personality.

I loved each and every one of them, some much more than others. There was something about the Raven Boys, though, that really tugged at me and I couldn’t help looking forward to Gansey’s and Adam’s narration. The comraderie between the boys, how they see each other, how they’re so fiercely protective of one another, is incredibly well done.

You’d think that a book centering on a pack of high school boys would be filled with bathroom humor or whatever else 17-year-old boys like (which, as you can probably guess, is way, way out of my domain). But these boys are so broken. I mean, as a reader it’s hard to see them without wanting to take them home and nurture them into being whole. There’s a sort of melancholy feel to the group.

Just as there are a lot of characters, there are a lot of plot lines. They’re so intricately woven (though not all are explained fully by the end, which means I’ll be waiting for the sequel) that it didn’t bog down the story. In fact, each has its own mystery, and though the pace is slower in the way The Scorpio Races or Shiver is slower, it’s not slow in a put-down-the-book way.

And finally, I so loved the little bits of humor dispersed throughout the novel. The story isn’t laugh-out-loud funny, but some of the observations and dialog did make me smile.

Take, for instance:
“Her mother had asked Blue if she would go along as usual, but it wasn’t really a question. Blue had always gone; she would go this time. It was not as if she had made plans for St. Mark’s Eve. But she had to be asked. Maura had decided sometime before Blue’s birth that it was barbaric to order children about, and so Blue had grown up surrounded by imperative question marks.

All of this makes for an entertaining, sometimes heart-wrenching, often suspenseful story that I completely loved.

What did you think about The Raven Boys? If you’ve blogged about it, add your link below. (And don’t forget to check everyone else’s reviews, too.) If you haven’t posted a review, hit up the comments with your thoughts on the book. 

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