Friday, August 31, 2012

Book Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Release Date: September 18, 2012
(Thank you to ATWT for allowing me to participate on this tour!)
Published by: Scholastic

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

“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.

From Maggie Stiefvater, the bestselling and acclaimed author of the Shiver trilogy and The Scorpio Races, comes a spellbinding new series where the inevitability of death and the nature of love lead us to a place we’ve never been before.


Ten likes/dislikes:

1. (+) Blue, the protagonist - Eccentric, brave, hard-working, stubborn, willing to accept the paranormal due to her psychic family but unwilling to tolerate when someone treats her wrong (i.e. her first meeting with Gansey). One of the things I like most about Blue is that she's not psychic like the rest of her family, yet she doesn't become sullen or resentful for it. She stays devoted and her own person.  I also liked it when she would step up to a challenge even before the boys would.
2. (+) The World-Building - Several aspects of world-building come into play here - the Aglionby school, Henrietta and its quirks, the limits of Blue's psychic family's powers, the amount of paranormal in the world, Gansey's quest for Glendower, a sleeping Welsh noble who escaped the English and will grant a favor to whoever awakens him. Before I had the chance to read The Raven Boys, I had read the starred Publisher's Weekly review of it, which mentioned something about how Maggie Stiefvater didn't take the time to explain why her characters were the way they were, how she played it as they were normal, and how that allowed them to shine. I couldn't agree more - suspension of disbelief in full working mode here. The story didn't ask what you thought of the search for Glendower, or if you believed in something like that ever being possible; it just took you along. Stiefvater does world-building well - she tells you the essentials, like the hunt for Glendower, and the things the boys already know but shows you the rest, and this especially comes into play when the boys discover something new, and you feel like you're discovering it along with them.
3. (+) The Romance - Two romantic interests here -- there were moments when I asked whether or not there was a love triangle, and whether Maggie would put that in as a plot twist to the prophecy about Blue's love life. That's part of the suspense. Though there's not all that much romance, especially considering Stiefvater's previous books, what's there is nice and slow-building, and is clearly laying the foundation for the next novels when maybe something more--for either couple--will happen.
4. (+) The Characters - What really takes the cake in this novel are these characters. Even though they're really strange -- a teenager with enough money to go on a quest for magical glory, etc. -- you still want to believe in them.  I hate making these generalized statements, but each of the characters is dynamic and well developed (esp. Adam, Gansey, and Blue since you see things from their POVs), and each has his/her own wants/needs and backgrounds that influence the former...Blue's quirky family, Ronan's secrets and familial history, Adam's desires, and Gansey's fear...
5. (+) Class/Privilege - You want diversity in YA?  Sometimes, it's not just racial and cultural diversity that YA lacks but also class diversity, and Maggie Stiefvater at least addresses that. Class is often one of those things that people don't talk about, but it affects us so much, and YA authors don't usually own to the fact that maybe teenagers won't always find their way around, because they don't have the money for the bus, etc. etc. (how many books have you read that acknowledge that? Class becomes a non-issue.) Stiefvater does it in several ways - Blue and Adam vs. Ronan and Gansey; Blue vs. the raven boys etc. etc. -- and with different things, like accents and clothes. I don't particularly like Gansey's attitude towards money, but the book addresses that issue too, and it was great to see how Stiefvater shaped her characters based on these perspectives.
6. (+) First Book in a Series - Sometimes the first book in a series can just set up the rest of the series and not feel like it had its own plot. Sometimes it's its own book in a series of stand-alones. The Raven Boys functions on its own--definitely has a plot, and with more unpredictable plot twists than I would've expected of a Stiefvater book--and has an obvious, larger series plot. I can't wait to read more about the raven boys' quest for glory.
7. (+) Open Ending - Honestly, I don't usually like open endings that are very reminiscent of cliffhangers. However, at the end of this novel, there was such a sense of fulfillment and completeness and longing ('cause I was already like I WANT MORE) that the ending felt more like the punch line to a joke than something cheap to bring the readers back for more. Brilliantly done.
8. (+) The Writing - Maggie Stiefvater, oh, Maggie Stiefvater. The writing isn't as experimental and prose-like as that in Shiver, but it's as atmospheric as that in The Scorpio Races, though it's now alternating third person instead of first. Few authors can create as sinister a mood as Maggie Stiefvater can.
9. (+) Pacing - I thought that Stiefvater's previous books suffered a bit in terms of pacing, but I always had the sense that things were moving in The Raven Boys - from the first meeting between Blue and Gansey, when Blue would begin hanging out with the raven boys, etc. etc.
10. (+) The Cover - I love that it's so simple but that it also has a way of capturing the atmosphere of the novel. And of course the raven and the ley line triangle are important.

I loved The Scorpio Races, but Maggie Stiefvater outdoes herself with the Raven Boys. With plenty of atmosphere and action, and characters you'll adore, The Raven Boys is a book you don't want to miss. One of my favorite books of 2012, and I hope you mark September 18 on your calendars.

4 comments:

  1. I'm very excited about this one. I love boarding schools or academy kind of things. I also love that the romance is slow-building, because insta-romance is my least favorte thing in the world. I'll definitely read this. Great review! You're always so thorough, which I appreciate. (:

    C.J.
    Sarcasm&Lemons

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  2. Gah! I am unbelievably excited for this to come out. I wanted to read it when it was first announced simply because it was Maggie Stiefvater. And like normal Maggie fashion, we don't get much of what the book is about in marketing, just enough to want to read. But after reading your review, you covered so much of the book and the different aspects that I KNOW I will like it.

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  3. I expected amazing from a Stiefvater book. But this book rendored me speechless. Utterly. I was captivated yet again. And when the world reads it, there will be much to talk about.

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  4. I love love love this book and just reread it in anticipation of the next Raven Boys novel (although I know it doesn't come out for a few months, I'm just so excited!) And romance wise, I usually like more but this was just such a good, mysterious (who will end up together? I totally think Blue and Gansey should be together, and Adam and Ronan but we'll see!) and sexual tension filled slow build that I actually really enjoyed it! Maggie Stiefvater has me hooked!

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