by Maggie Stiefvater
Published: September 2012
Publisher: Scholastic Press
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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.”Donna: So I'm a handful of chapters into THE RAVEN BOYS and I feel like I'm reading a completely different author than when I was read the BALLAD OF FAERY books. It's like Stiefvater's finally settled into her voice. No more characters sounding the same, no more trying too hard to be eloquent. Like she's finally just letting the story tell itself and getting out of her own way. I'm liking it.
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.
Sya: This pleases me very much.
Donna: Reading evolved Maggie pleases me very much. I'm really glad to be seeing the snippets I've read in her shorts in her longer works. It feels so effortless now, reading her work. Like I should be running through a meadow and dodging tweeting birds or something.
Donna: And I just realized I said 'when I was read.' Good English. Yay.
Melissa: In that case, Donna, you should give Scorpio Races a try.
Chachic: I second the Scorpio Races recommendation! One of my favorite reads last year.
Donna: Sya said the same thing. And I think Laura liked it too.
Laura: The Scorpio Races is just breathtaking. It's one of those books that move in.
Angie: What Laura said. It is not to be missed.
Nicole: I LOVED Scorpio Races!
Sya: The Scorpio Races was so good I couldn't review it. I sort of wanted to keep it just in my head.
Angie: Makes perfect sense, Sya.
[some discussion here of who is currently reading this book and of Jason Isaac's voice which have been edited out for brevity]
Donna: So are we talking RAVEN BOYS or what? I'm almost finished with it and I'm loving the originality of it, the whole Glendower thing and whatnot.
Melissa: We NEED to. I'm loving it as well.
Laura: Ol' Mags may have found her true calling with the little mystery strip tease she has going on here. She's really laying it on thick. I'll find myself reading along, getting caught up in all the hush-hush and magic and I'm waiting for something to happen, and it's about to and here it goes and then she flashes an....ankle and that's it. She changes the scene and the pace and says NO. NO MORE FOR YOU. And it's fabulous. "Make them beg for more and then don't give it to them!"
Donna: What Laura said. I have less than 50 pages left and I'm wondering where this story arc will end. I've already consigned to the fact that Glendower is a nonentity in the book and I'm okay with it BECAUSE I WILL READ THE NEXT ONE WITH FERVOR. Fervor, I tell you.
Donna: But she pulled me out for a nanosecond when she brought a gun into it and have the safety make this huge click sound. What did I do? Grabbed my Walther and started flicking the safety. Yeah, no audible click taking it off. A little more putting it on. Considering the situation I would imagine the safety would have already been off and the click would have been Snotty McHorriblename cocked the hammer. But really the only hammer that does get cocked is on a revolver and I don't think that's what his gun was although I think it was nondescript. Just your generic gun. So yeah, I dwelt no that little bit of minutiae but that's about it.
Donna: And Adam kind of irks me. Yeah, he's from a shitty situation but he holds Gansey's better upbringing against him as if it's his fault and to such an extent that he'd sooner get punched in the face by his dad than allow Gansey to "purchase" him. I've been in a similar situation when it came to fiscal differences between myself and my friends and when you're on the poorer side with the rich kids blowing Mommy and Daddy's money and are oblivious to it, yeah, it's annoying and really frustrating but it's not far to actually hold that against them. So I'm not sure if I should be all like yeah, Gansey's a prick because HE JUST DOESN'T KNOW what Adam's going through and he keeps saying "insensitive" things or if I should be like Adam, you need to lighten the eff up, kid. He's no more responsible for his familial situation than you are. When Adam started ripped on Gansey for using repugnant that was pretty much it for me. I think Gansey was completely within his right to say what he did. Adam annoys me simply because he put himself in this situation and holds how they were raised against everyone. I'm not a fan of people like that.
Angie: *sniff* Donna, you've made me so happy. *sniff*
Angie: On the matter of Adam, though, we may have to agree to disagree. I . . . I love him so much. And I am not going to be okay if he doesn't survive this series, which I have to say is not looking good right now. There were times I wanted to punch each of the boys. But I understood why they acted the way they did, even if at times I wanted to grab them by the necks of their preppy shirts and stuff their words back in their mouths.
Chachic: Oooh we're starting the discussion! Laura, I like how you brought up Unspoken because The Raven Boys reminded me a little of that book - because of the mystery and how it focuses on a group of characters instead of just the main guy and girl.
I loved seeing how the boys interacted with each other. They all have issues and they may say hurtful things but they're always there for each other when it matters the most. I did find it a little annoying how Adam would rather let his pride get in the way of his safety - it was pretty obvious that Gansey just wanted him out of a sucky situation and that it wasn't about "having all of his things in one place." Sorry, Angie! I would love to read more about all these boys and Blue as well. It would be interesting to see how Blue would further change the dynamics of the group. I just hope there won't be much of a love triangle because I'm really not a fan of those.
Donna: *hands Angie a tissue* I'm making people so proud lately with my reading words! Maggie has a real gift for subtlety. She slips in these lines that you're not expecting but they're not so outlandish that they throw you out of the story. They're merely there to intrigue you and move you forward but they're more than just little tidbits. And unlike in LAMENT/BALLAD each character was it's own entity and each had appealing and off-putting characteristics that made me want to get to know them more. Like you, Chachic, I can live without reading another love triangle and I really like how Maggie didn't go THERE here. Of course it does have the potential to go there but it didn't here and I liked it even more because of that. And Maggie has a thing for safeties on guns. It was mentioned like 4 times in a very short span. It was gratuitous, like mentioning a condom in every sex scene in porn. I get it; play with guns safely. Moving on . . .
Donna: There's really just so much going on here that I can't properly articulate myself. Just the world Maggie's built is so incredible that the characters hardly compare for me. It's so natural and effortless but at the same time so incredibly rich that I'm stunned. She's woven such a well-made story that looks like it too no effort at all to create. I can now see why so many people love her work. There's so much here to love. Really, there is. And her writing is gorgeous in it's normalcy. Simplicity isn't the right word because everything here is so deliberate that it can't be simple and it's portrayal isn't simple. It's just normal; it's not overreaching, it's not trying too hard it just IS and it's glorious.
Angie: What Donna said. And agreed re: love triangle. I adore how she cut the Blue/Gansey thing off at the pass. It never got any air before things got INTERESTING with the world and the boys and the words! And I just don't see it going there at all. For which thing praise be. Also, no worries Chachic! I love Adam enough for the lot of us. I just . . . understand his fears. Whether or not they have floors.
Melissa: There is nothing left to say. Except that not being a gun person, the safety thing didn't bug me. And I'm SO glad that Gansey and Blue weren't instalove. And the characters were fabulous (more Ronan, anyone? He was fascinating.) And the world brilliantly drawn. And I fully agree with Laura about the mystery. And I thought she walked the balance between energy as a science and energy as magic brilliantly. And there was one more thing, but I can't think of it now. *gush*
Melissa: I remembered: the CAR. I loved the car. It was as much a character as everyone else, and I loved Maggie for that.
Chachic: Yep, what Donna said. She described it a lot better than I could. There's something about the writing that just draws you in. I felt the same way about The Scorpio Races (although that is still my favorite Maggie book).
I do agree that it was good that there's a potential love triangle but Maggie didn't go in that direction. I'm really curious about the sequel, I have no clue where the story will go next.
Melissa, yes about the car as well. I suspect the author's love of vintage cars has something to do with that. I like how Gansey chose the car because he thinks it represents who he is inside.
Nicole: Beautiful writing, no love triangle, no instalove... stupid finals, making me study and work.
Melissa: I agree, Chachic. In fact, I looked it up: she owns a 1973 Camaro. Which just made it that much more wonderful.
Chachic: Nicole, I can relate! I always wish I had more time to read.
Melissa, yep. I believe she calls her car Loki?
Melissa: Yep, I think you're right!
Sya: I loved this book. In fact it's one of my top five of the year. I thought that the plotting was deliciously unhurried, allowing you to become slowly immersed in the story and Maggie's mesmeric prose. I loved all the characters, especially in the flawed nature of the boys (I found Gansey particularly fascinating) and agree that Adam was an incredibly empathetic character. I have no idea where she might take the story but if she continues as she has started then it could be phenomenal. Also, I LOVED the House of Intimidating Psychics. They were all kinds of awesome.
Janice: I'm going to be the lone reed then. It took me forever to read this book. I don't know if it's just part of my inability to concentrate lately or what but I was putting THE RAVEN BOYS down a lot. I don't think it would have been a DNF, but it would have taken me longer to read than if I didn't have a deadline for YAckers. When I first started, it just felt like there were SO many characters and everyone had their own personal mystery. Every boy had a yoke around their neck, and how many women were living in Blue's house - they all sort of seemed like the same person - speaking in the same irritatingly vague way.
Janice: I don't feel like I disliked this book, I just feel sort of.. like I like the characters better than the plot, but then there wasn't one main character, so there wasn't any one character that I really loved and rooted for. I guess Blue and Gansey are the closest things to protagonists in this story? I'm not sure. Adam: yes, I also found his prejudice (which he thinks is his pride) getting in the way of asking for help was annoying, but towards the end I began to get that this is all part of his being indoctrinated by his family. His parents are all about hiding their dirty little sins and masking it with pride of the poor. I think if Adam's dad was a much better father, Adam wouldn't have the resentment he has when Gansey tries to help. Instead it's a minefield. Ronan: what the hell is his deal? It sort of feels like he's this broody alpha male lead from a Romance book as a YA character? Am I crazy in seeing him this way? Noah: He was a non-entity which made sense later in a good way, although he does say early on that he's dead and I was wondering why in the hell no one even seemed to look up at that.
[at this point there may be spoilers as we discuss predictions, things we would like to see, and things we would not!]
Janice: So: predictions for the series? This is probably where we get into spoilers.. I think there's the suggestion that Adam is going to kill Gansey because of that vision he had, and that Blue and Gansey are going to kiss. This also suggests that there will be more of a love triangle and repercussions later. But I am not sure about Adam because of his sacrifice. It sounded like he sacrificed himself - let something else into him that might have the control? So if he's not the same person, I don't know what that means for how he will be in the next book. And then this thing with Ronan and dreaming Chainsaw into being - could be linked to his father's death?
Donna: Ronan's getting more and more interesting despite the fact that he's a total douche. As for the story I was nonplussed with Blue's prophecy from the beginning. Kind of vague, Blue killing her true love with a kiss. Because not everyone dies, apparently. Watch, it'll be Gansey and she'll have honey on her lips and send him into anaphylactic shock. Does she know about his bee/wasp allergy yet? I think so because she found his EpiPen. Janice, don't worry about being the lone wolf. I think all of us have been in that boat at least once now.
Melissa: He did sacrifice himself -- though I understood it to be his price. And so, yeah, he's lost control. But I'm not sure it's possession. As for Ronan -- like Donna, I found him immensely interesting, even though he was annoying as hell. I want to know HOW his father was murdered, And the secret that the psychic aunt knew. (I'll give you the psychic aunts/mom all sounding the same, Janice.) I want to know what's happened to Neeve, as well.
Donna: See, I thought all the psychics popped out as being incredibly individual. Orla was really the only one that didn't make an impression on me as being something more than a backdrop. I can't even remember her function in the story. I'm surprised I remembered her name.
Janice: Agree with you with what I want to find out Melissa . Donna - yeah, guess I liked this fine, just feel like.. not as much as everybody else (?) - so I feel like the wolfy. It'll probably parse out as to what didn't work when I write my review. Yeah I think Blue knows about Gansey's allergy since he told her that story about almost dying.
Angie: That's interesting about the number and depth of characters, Janice. I actually was happy it had what felt to me like a small cast and that I was consequently able to get to know them somewhat intimately. I like how much potential backstory there is with the mom and the psychic aunts/ladies. I also loved how the whole book evoked the feel of Susan Cooper's Dark is Rising series. Those books are beloved books for me and the Welsh mythology and underpinnings just call my name and fill me with nostalgia.
Holly: Janice, I don't think you're a lone reed. I didn't love this as much as I wanted to. It definitely had pacing issues for me. Somewhere in the middle where there were probably several chapters not from either Gansey or Blue's perspective I lost interest and put the book down. I would've preferred a few more bones from Maggie in the first book.
Holly: That isn't to say that I didn't like it either. Quibbles aside, I really liked the book overall. The characterization is wonderful. I especially loved the development of Gansey and Adam, and how my opinions of them flip flopped over time. I really disliked Gansey at first, but grew to love him. I loved Adam from the beginning, but grew to question my feelings for him as time went on. I liked how I was alternately surprised and challenged as more of Adam's circumstances and motivations came to light.
Chachic: I agree with what Holly said, the characterization was one of the reasons why I enjoyed reading this book. It felt like we got a good introduction to all of the main people involved in the story. I look forward to finding out more about them. Although now that I've had time to think about it, there WERE a lot of characters in there. I guess I just didn't mind because I didn't find it confusing.
I also agree with Melissa and Donna, I found Ronan intriguing. Yep, I want to know what happened to his dad! And what's up with Chainsaw? LOL Janice, you're not crazy for thinking Ronan's an alpha male hero type of guy - although I only noticed that when you pointed it out. I loved how Ronan stood up to Adam's dad to protect his friend and how in turn, Adam was willing to go against his dad for Ronan's sake. Just shows how much these boys care for one another. It's also pretty obvious that Gansey would do everything that he can to help them out.
Angie: Ronan resided in his own category for me and never fell into typical alpha male territory by virtue of how far gone he was and how not the center of attention he was. Like he was the shattered remains of someone who could have been that guy if only his family hadn't gone and broken him and if only Gansey hadn't gone and picked up the pieces.
Janice: Angie - I hear you. I could almost see Ronan this way - but I think I need more time with him for it me to switch over and internalize this about his character. With the THE RAVEN BOYS I seriously feel like I'm on the edge of being more enthusiastic but just not quite - so argh, I can tell if it's my state of mind this month or if I really feel this way. I question! Maybe in a reread or the next book. Holly - Yeah, something like that for me too, although I don't think I ever really disliked Gansey.
Angie: It will be very interesting to see where the next book goes.
Melissa: Re: the next book, agreed. (And that's the sum of my intelligent contribution today.) Laura: I've finished the book. Now I can go and read all of your comments. I loved Adam. Adored him. But I agree with you Angie... his future in the series....even though he's a main character...he has on a red shirt. By the end of the story, he was far more important than Gansey and I JUST KNOW THAT HE IS GOING TO DIE. AND I LOVE HIM SO.
Laura: I wanted to spend more time in the house full of psychics. I kept picturing the two aunts in Practical Magic and damn if I didn't want to get drunk with them.
Laura: And can we take a second, to like totally wig out and lose our shit over the fact that we just had a GREAT PARANORMAL YA where the LURVE BITS were secondary....not even secondary but practically nonexistent. With the first line of the book being about Blue killing her true love, I was afraid I'd get another sap book where two kids slobber all over each other but NO. There are definitely FEELINGS there but they're not all over you, touching you with their slimy, over used, oogie, love fingers. And no love triangles. Not a one.
Laura: And can we, I dare say, call this a book that boys would like? Didn't someone already do that? There are some extremely admiral man-boys in this book.
Laura: We need a man-boy in this group, to think at things with his man-boy brain. To give us that perspective thing and all that nonsense.
Melissa: That second to last comment, Laura: spot on. And the publishers even did a good thing by making the cover gender-neutral.
Laura: And WORDS. Again, just WORDS. Why can't they all be like this?
Laura: And that is all.
Angie: *quietly fangirls over Laura's comments*
Angie: When I went to Maggie's signing I told her in no uncertain terms that she could NOT KILL ADAM.
Angie: She seemed unimpressed.
Angie: And THANK YOU, Laura, for pointing out the absolutely lovely lack of love triangles. I read a couple reviews where people were all like, OH NO, another love triangle. And I was all, um, I do not think that word means what you think it means.
Janice: I don't think there's a love triangle... yet. There's hints it COULD go that way. But then.. maybe it won't. It would be cool if it didn't. Very cool.
Chachic: What Janice said. I really hope it won't go in that direction.
Chachic: It's funny that Laura said that there should be a man-boy in the group because I was just thinking it would be nice if another girl joins Blue and the boys. Not sure if it will happen though.
Holly: Ooh Chachic, a girl-bestie for Blue - that could be cool. Balance out the hormones. Out of curiosity, does anyone in this group still like to see a YA love triangle every once in awhile? At this point I sure don't.
Sya: Regarding the characters, I hadn't thought about Adam possibly dying. What I liked about his character was his absolute need to find Glendower in order to escape his background on his own terms. It adds an interesting edge to him. I never saw Ronan as an alpha male - more as someone so completely falling apart on the inside that the only way to hold it together is to create an impenetrable shell on the outside. I actually found him to be the most sympathetic of the group. Donna Compositor mentioned Gansey's allergy and if I recall correctly, Blue DOES know about it. I like how her "curse" is vague enough that there could almost be no correlation between her kissing her true love and him dying. Not that she seems to have considered that. Also, I know that Steph Sutherland is still reading the book but has been a bit ill so may not have had a chance to contribute yet.
Melissa: What Sya said about Ronan. I threw it at my 16 year old and she ate it up. She liked Blue best and then Gansey second best. And, like me, she's clamoring for a sequel. Good stuff.
Angie: You're a good mommy, Melissa.
Nicole: So reading all of your commentary before going into this is definitely clouding how I'm reading it, but in interesting ways. I definitely wouldn't be able to keep track of the gang of raven boys if I hadn't been reading this before, either -- I'm about 100 pages in and they're still morphing together to me at times.
Angie: I'm sorry, Nicole. That's a sucky cloud through which to read a book.
Nicole: No, I like it! This is one of those books where I think I'd get frustrated with all of the hints in the opening part -- there's a lot of set-up, and while it is this slow, kind of luxurious unfolding, there's also no payout so far. So it's good to know that there will be, at least according to you guys.
Nicole: Having a friend named Ryan Lynch, often called Lynch, means that all of the parts for Ronan Lynch, often called Lynch, become about six times more hilarious than they're ever meant to be.
Nicole: I FINISHED THE BOOK. IT'S A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE. I'm really curious to see where everything goes -- I'm lovin' Maura and her sisters, and Neeve reminds me of Maureen Johnson for reasons I can't really explain. I like the development and changing of characters and I'm interested in seeing what happens, particularly with Adam. Ronan scares me.
Nicole: I was originally gonna be all YEAH AGREE WITH HOLLY AND CHACHIC GET BLUE A FRIEND WITH A VAJAYJAY but I'm not sure how it would feasibly work into the story unless it was Gansey's sister or a new person in town; it would ruin the dichotomy of the group otherwise, and we know Blue doesn't open up easily. Hmm...
Melissa's Review at Book Nut
Holly's review at Book Harbinger
Angie's review at Angieville