Monday, September 17, 2012

Review: The Raven Boys

THE RAVEN BOYS
(Raven Cycle #1)
Maggie Stiefvater
Paranormal Young Adult
408 pages
Scholastic
Available September 18th
Received at BEA

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
“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.


MY THOUGHTS
The Raven Boys, like most of Ms. Stiefvater’s stories, starts slowly and progresses at a leisurely pace, giving us plenty of time to wrap the folds of her world around us like a comforting blanket, content to bask in the temporary cocoon of her glorious imagination as we trust in her to lead us where she wants us to go. Though we have the utmost faith in Ms. Stiefvater’s ability to take us on an unforgettable journey, we also quickly learn that reading her stories, The Raven Boys in particular, is like navigating that journey with the help of a map but no compass—we’re given general directions, nudges, and hints, but so much is left up to us to try and decipher, and we must tread carefully and methodically to ensure we don’t let any clue as to our whereabouts go unnoticed.

One of the most consistent highlights of Ms. Stiefvater’s books is her ability to craft absolutely stunning characters, young men and women full of depth, darkness and hope who hold us riveted to their story until we reach the last page. Gansey, Ronan, Adam, and Noah are all beautifully fascinating, broken boys with jagged edges who inexplicably find the complement to their sharpness in one another, and look to Gansey to be the glue that binds them together. Ms. Stiefvater gives us three stunning portraits (Noah remains the most indistinct of the four) of these young men known as raven boys, the brush strokes that lovingly caress their features bold and deeply grooved—whorls of completely unique character fingerprints—with shadows lingering in the spaces between the highlights just waiting for us to pay them closer inspection.

Gansey is the typical Aglionby boy, born with a silver spoon in his mouth and trust fund just waiting to exempt him from the daily grind those like close friend Adam face, but he doesn’t embrace his wealthy upbringing, instead fighting against the assumptions those around him make based on his lot in life even as that silver spoon slides further down his throat to choke him the more he struggles to pluck it free. All three boys have their own intriguing brand of pride that proves to be both a source of strength as well as their most prominent weakness: Ronan, who possesses a defiant sort of pride that dares the world to mess with him more than it already has; Adam, who clings to a stubborn pride as a crutch to keep him standing on his own two feet when his life at home beats him down; and Gansey, who can’t escape the pride instilled in him seemingly upon birth, gifting him with a noble countenance even as he wants nothing more than to be who his friends need him to be.

There are a few flaws to the story as a whole, most notably an ending that’s a touch confusing, complete with a head-scratchingly enigmatic parting line that leaves our minds spinning as to what it might mean moving forward. Though the synopsis suggests much of the story is based on the prophecy stating Gansey is either Blue’s true love or someone she kills, that aspect of the story is surprisingly subtle, taking a back seat to an epic search involving ley lines, magic, and the promise of a mystical favor. The strength of the individual characters make it easy to be forgiving of those drawbacks however, our desire to know more about each and every one of them eclipsing our need for clarity in the final chapter, leaving us with a deep and abiding love for five individuals as well as the ardent hope that Ms. Stiefvater will be more forthcoming with information regarding Blue and Gansey’s prophetic connection in the next book.

Rating: 4/5

52 comments:

  1. Oh this book was soo awesome!!! And I loved it despite the lack of real romance and .. kissing! I was actually taken aback at the beginning when the curse got introduced.. I groaned and realized that we won't get a lot of romance!
    But the whole atmosphere and characters made up for it :)

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    1. I agree completely! The blurb is a tiny bit misleading in terms of romance I think, but I had trouble caring since the characters were so fabulous:)

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    2. ha! and that coming from us who complain constantly about boring romance :))

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  2. Oh! So glad you enjoyed this as much as I did Jenny! What did you think of that twist? Something else, right? I definitely want to find out more about the connection between Gansey and Blue, hopefully there's lots of kissing involved! Great review Jenny. :)

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    1. Are we talking about the line at the end? I'm still a little hazy on the things that happened in those last few chapters, I'm hoping all becomes clear in the next book:)

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  3. Glad you loved this novel! I am the greatest fan of the friendship of the guys!!

    great review

    - Juhina @ Maji Bookshelf

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    1. LOVED the Aglionby boys, they were brilliant characters:)

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  4. This looks pretty good! My only problem with this author is the slow pacing.The writing is fantastic but the pace gives me a pain...

    Krazyyme @ Young Readers

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    1. This one didn't feel as slow to me as some of her other books, it definitely meandered at times, but I knew that each time we seemed to veer off course that it would be something important that she would tie in to the larger story:)

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  5. I CANT WAIIIITTTTT!!! Im one of those who needs to buy this book, so its on the list to be purchased...or the library which ever. Loved your review, I think Maggie could write about toilets and Id read it...:D

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    1. Hahahaha same. She would be someone who would make me fall in love with said toilet and write a gushing review about all it's appealing attributes.

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  6. Great review as usual.
    I hear the audio of this rocks.

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    1. Thank you! I'm sure the audiobook is fabulous, I think this story would lend itself well to being read aloud:)

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  7. Can't wait to get my hands on a copy of this book! I've heard that the romance is very subduded in the book and that the mystery takes front and center. Let's hope Blue and Gansey make it together.

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  8. I have been wanting to read this book since I heard about it a year ago! Eeeep! I am so excited and your review makes me even more excited.

    Great review.

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  9. The characters are definitely a huge highlight of this book! I loved it. =)

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    1. Yes, they were absolutely brilliant I thought:)

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  10. I'm a little ashamed to admit it, but I still haven't read a Maggie Stiefvater book. And I have Shiver, Linger, and The Scorpio Races in my possession. *runs away before someone bullies me into reading one of those books*

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    1. I wasn't the biggest fan of Shiver, but I absolutely ADORED The Scorpio Races and I thought this one was really fascinating as well:)

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    2. I tried reading Shiver, but never fully got into it. (I had also been in the middle of a teaching semester, so that could have something to do with it.) I'll probably try The Scorpio Races soon. :)

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  11. Hi Jenny. I'm back! I love how complex all Maggie's characters are. At first I thought I liked Adam best, but certain aspects of his character disturb me. I definitely fell for Gansey even though he's a tougher nut to crack at first.

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    1. YAY! So glad you're back! I was really gravitating toward Adam in the beginning as well, but I think somehow by the end it will be Ronan for me. He seems the most damaged, and I always tend to love the most damaged ones the best:)

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  12. YESS! I am SO glad you enjoyed this one, Jenny! I'm so excited about its release tomorrow and can't wait to finally read it after hearing so much about it! :) Although the open ending seems to be a common qualm - with quite a few books these days actually! - I'm so happy that it was a wonderful novel overall. Fantastic review, dear! :D

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    1. There's just a line at the end that had me going "what say you?" Not a what as in "I can't believe that just happened" but a what as in "I have no idea what that means" :)

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  13. I can't wait to read this one...I agree that she writes amazing characters and I'm willing to overlook small plot fails because that more than makes up!

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    1. Definitely. There was some definite confusion for me at the end of this one, but I didn't even really care because I loved the boys and Blue so much!

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  14. The parting line was very confusing! I'm still a little lost there, but I'm definitely looking forward to the next book. I love the way you have described Gansey! A glue that holds the boys together is a very fitting comparison. I loved the relationship between the boys and their friendship with Blue... I pretty much loved everything about this book. So glad you liked it, Jenny! Brilliant review. :)

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    1. YES! I'm so glad I'm not the only one. I actually cheated and read the end first and was all "Huh, I wonder what that means, can't wait to find out" and then I actually read all the way through and thought the exact same thing about the end:)

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  15. You are simply amazing Jenny!!!! Brilliantly written review!!!!! This is definitely the book i'm buying at the store today (or tomorrow if its not on the shelves yet). so i can finally meet these complex, real, terrific characters!!!!

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    1. Thanks so much Rachel! I hope you enjoy the Aglionby boys as much as I did:)

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  16. AAAAH I love Maggie Stiefvater, so when I found out about The Raven Boys I was so excited! I recently received a review copy which I'm going to start ASAP. Your review is brilliant (as always), and I'm so glad you enjoyed it, despite a few flaws. :D xxx

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    1. Can't wait to see what you think Jessica!

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  17. Sounds like the world rocks in this one despite the ending. Hm... looks like I may want that next book right away. Darn wait time! I also like the sound of the characters. Usually my fave part in her books. I think I'm going to like these boys!!

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    1. The ending was just one of those "huh?" moments, but I was able to kind of gloss over it and appreciate everything else:)

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  18. Hm...hm indeed. It sounds good, and I would like to try more of Stiefvater's books

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  19. Yay Jenny! I just finish this book the other day and really enjoyed it. It reminded me of the series Beautiful Creatures with all the magic and such. Great review :))

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    1. So glad you enjoyed it too! It just felt dark and rich and I want the next book in my hands tomorrow:)

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  20. I just read another review for The Raven Boys and I mentioned that I had been avoiding the book.
    I just had in my head that this was a book about hot teenage boys, probably some warped triangle and that's it.
    I'm glad to read it's a book with substance and well developed characters.
    I will definitely give it a go.

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    1. Definitely not a hot teenage boy type story! Though the boys are good looking, they're all tortured and broken and I loved them:)

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  21. Oh wow this is such a such a beautiful review Jenny, just when I think I have decided not to pick up a book, you bust out with this amazing review! My relationship with Steifvater's books hasn't been too great, but I think this book will change all of that!

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    1. Thanks so much Jasprit! I have a rocky relationship with her books as well, I was one of the few that didn't really care for the Wolves of Mercy Falls series, but I was hugely impressed with The Scorpio Races and I really enjoyed this one as well!

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  22. Maggie just has such a way with words, doesn't she? And her character-building is incredible. Raven Boys awaits me and, after your review, I'm even more eager! Not overly pleased with the semi-confusing ending but I'll power through!

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    1. She definitely does:) I'm looking forward to seeing what you think of the final line, we can come up with theories together!

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  23. I agree this book has striking characters and detail but the story line and ending just didn't grab me, I am still waiting for her to touch me like she did with the Wolves series and her gorgeous and detailed writing was just not as present in this one which was a big disapppintment for me. I am eager though to see where the series goes, Breathtaking review!

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    1. It's so funny you say that, I loved this one and The Scorpio Races but the Wolves series just didn't grab me:) We're Stiefvater opposites!

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  24. I'm so excited to read this book. Although I'm wary about the Stiefvater slowness, I've enjoyed her previous writing and I really want to explore this new world because the early reviews sound awesome!

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  25. I've had an ARC of this for ages (a gift) and I'm terrified to read it. I feel like I need to be in just the right mood to be enjoy it completely. And I have been in a bit of a slump giving up on books left and right. But hopefully the slump will fade as I get through my review books and don't feel so stressed. I do know all these reviews are making me really excited to read this one!

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  26. I'm not a big MS fan. She never seems to complete a series. I think I'll wait until this one is finished to see if she writes an actual ending. I'm still waiting for her to finish her Faerie series. Hated Shiver series. Never read the other books. I just don't want to invest time and money on a series that's going to leave me hanging again. It may be artistic and all,but I want a conclusion.

    But your review is very tempting and would make me want to read it if it were any other author. And maybe I'll be eating my own words when the series is finished with a finite ending. And they make the movie!

    Heather

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  27. "Though the synopsis suggests much of the story is based on the prophecy stating Gansey is either Blue’s true love or someone she kills, that aspect of the story is surprisingly subtle, taking a back seat to an epic search involving ley lines, magic, and the promise of a mystical favor." Uh oh, this one sounds kind of slow-paced too so I may just skip it. I like Stiefvater's writing but I'm not really a fan of the way she paces her novels.

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  28. I still don't know if I'll read this book or not because the reviews are really mixed and I was a bit let down by The Scorpio Races ... Thanks for the great review though Jenny, you definitely make me want to pick up a copy :)

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