Book Review: The Raven Boys: Satisfying and Mystical

Between preparing for my last day at work this week and my first day as a homeschooling mom next week, I’ve been busy, but over the Christmas break, I had time to query my book Stranger in my Own Head a little more, and start three new books, even while I was helping my eldest recover from wisdom-teeth-removal surgery. The first book will be a sequel to Stranger. The second is about a young man diagnosed with dissociative personality disorder, possessing 23 different personalities, but convinced that 22 of them are aliens. And the third is about a change in the Earth’s atmosphere that makes everybody immortal, including Laula Quimby, a girl who’s been fifteen for the past five years, perpetually at the beginning stages of cancer, and technically well past adolescence, and her mother, a brilliant volcanologist who might be able to save the world from itself, but at the cost of losing her daughter. All three books are begging for attention; I want to write all of them right now! Tell me which one you’d be most interested in reading in the comments!

In the meantime, I’ve been reading Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Boys series. I read book one last week, and am halfway through Dream Thieves, the second book, this week. I think I might have found another new favorite author. Raven Boys is magical in both its premise and its style. Let me see if I can articulate why:

What Raven Boys is About

Blue Sargent, a teenager girl, is not clairvoyant, but her mother and all the other women who live at 300 Fox Way with her are. And every year, on St. Mark’s Eve, Blue 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 the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble. But she’s 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 Goodreads).

Why I Liked Raven Boys, and You Might Too

The quest that Gansey is on involves the activating of a ley line to find an ancient sleeping king who will reportedly grant one magical wish to whoever finds him and wakes him. But the king, Glendower, is buried very deeply and the location of the ley line as well as the instructions for activating the line and waking him are almost completely lost to history. One would think, by that description, that this book is merely a fantasy book, but it is so much more than that. Blue, Gansey, Adam, Ronan, and Noah are each full-bodied characters, real, flawed, likable, and deep. What Raven Boys is, more than anything, is an exploration of the dynamics between each of them, with all of the accompanying prejudices, uncertainties, hopes, misperceptions, and dreams. In that sense, it’s more of a contemporary coming-of-age story, just with a little bit of fantasy thrown in.

But more than that, it’s a story told with an enchanting and descriptive style. Take this paragraph, for example:

A second later, the Camaro revved high, and the tires squealed out Gansey’s true feelings. Then the house was quiet. It was a sucked-out silence, like the raven boys had taken all the sound in the neighborhood with them.

Or this sentence:

Something inside him felt like the night, hungry and wanting and black.

They both show something that Stiefvater is really good at: showing reactions, and anthropomorphizing things to make them seem more dynamic and organic, more a part of the world that Gansey and Blue and the rest of them are trying to figure out. Gansey’s search for Glendower is a search not just for a wish but for an identity too, one that is separate from how he knows others perceive him and maybe even perceives himself, one that is closest to who he feels he really is. And, whether they know it or not, the rest of the group—Blue, Ronan, Noah, and Adam—are searching for their own true identities too, just from differently angles. And one really wants all of them to succeed.

Don’t expect continuous, high-paced action, although there is some of that. Do expect a moderate amount of swearing. Do expect that if you start reading book one, you’ll want to read all four books in the series, but since they’re all published, you won’t have to wait for another book to come out to find out what happens. You can binge read!