Monday, 29 October 2012

YA Book Club: The Raven Boys



If you'd like to see the Goodreads.com overview for The Raven Boys before checking out my review, click the link.


The Raven Boys is only the second Maggie Stiefvater book I’ve read, but it certainly won’t be the last. I’m already counting the days till the sequel comes out. Here’s why:

Characters

This is very much a character driven book and Maggie Stiefvater has created a fascinating cast for readers to follow.
I like how Blue starts the story despising the Aglionby boys and then finds her assumptions about them challenged as she gets to know them better. Despite the fact they attend a school for the privileged they all have issues that soon endear them to Blue in ways she didn’t expect. The author communicates these issues so subtly, for example, a fray in Adam’s sweater tips off Blue that he isn’t one of the typical rich kids that attend Aglionby.  Blue goes from labeling the boys as “the Elegant Boy”, “President Cell Phone, the smudgy one, or their hostile friend” to discovering that, like her, they’re real people with real problems.
The relationships in this book were complicated and I really enjoyed that. Each of the Raven Boys could be difficult to get along with and often they got under each other’s skin. Toss in Blue, the slightly eccentric daughter of a psychic, and the dynamic gets even more complex.
I also enjoyed  Blue’s unconventional home life with her mother’s psychic friends. Out of the adult characters, I liked Persephone the most. Her soft spoken and spacey demeanor reminded me a lot of Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter. Interesting considering the Raven Boys had a bit of a Marauders thing going on (perhaps another reason I liked them so much).
My favourite character overall was Adam. The issues in his home life caused me to be the most invested in him. You'd have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by his story line.

Plot

The plot of The Raven Boys seems designed first and foremost to build the characters. The book centers around a quest involving ley lines and searching for a legendary sleeping king that will grant his finder a magical favour. The characters have their own reasons for participating in the quest and wanting this favour. Those reasons say a lot about who they are and, more importantly, who they want to be. It’s easy to see how a quest with such a prize could lead to dissension even among close friends.
Initially I found this book a little slow, but once it became evident that it was far more about the characters than the actual quest itself, I settled into the pace. Perhaps that’s because I loved the characters and wasn’t eager for this segment of their story to end.
There was also one particularly spooky twist that I did not see coming. In looking back, I can say that the author definitely played fair in foreshadowing this revelation.

Romance

The premise of the romance in this book hooked me in right away.  Blue’s mother and her psychic pals predict that if Blue kisses her true love, he’ll die. Kind of makes relationships tricky, so naturally the author introduces two different boys that Blue wouldn’t mind smooching. The way Blue initially discovers the identity of her “true love” is both creepy and intriguing and I was immediately eager for them to meet in person. Of course her supposed “true love” isn’t the boy that Blue initially gravitates to—that would be too easy. This had to be one of the most creative takes on a love triangle I’ve ever seen and I honestly don’t know who to root for because I like both of the potential love interests.

Overall Writing

I don’t feel remotely qualified to comment on this, but I’ll give it a go. Maggie Stiefvater writes beautifully and has a very distinct style. In my opinion this is the kind of author new writers should aspire to be like. She knows how to create vivid pictures of characters and settings with only a handful of details. Her writing is often poetic, yet not overly flowery, and manages to capture a feeling of real life. There are lessons to be learned here: looking past the labels put on people, loyalty to friends, the dangers of obsession (and probably others I’m missing) but none of them are heavy handed. This is helped by the humour in the book, which  isn’t overdone either.
I also feel the need to say that I’m pleased with the way the author handled the issue of one character’s allergic condition. This is an issue in my family, which makes me particularly sensitive to how it’s presented. Too often I see inaccurate and even ridiculous portrayals of anaphylaxis/allergies (mostly in movies), which don’t help people understand how serious a problem it actually is. I was very happy when Maggie Stiefvater accurately portrayed the severity of this. I have no idea whether this is a personal issue for her, but at the very least it shows she did her research.

There are many more great things I could say about this book, but I’ve rambled long enough and I don’t want to give away any spoilers. If you’re big on stories that have interesting characters and a unique premise, then this is definitely one to check out.
  


14 comments:

  1. Great review! It sounds like a really good book! I've got it sitting on my kindle so will have to read it soon!

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    1. Thanks! This was my first blog review and I was trying not to be too spoilery. I guess if you have it sitting on your kindle it's good to know other people enjoyed it :)

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  2. I loved the characters in this book so much, the Raven Boys probably a bit more than Blue, but that doesn't mean I didn't like her. I think I was just getting impatient with her to start liking these boys because they aren't like all the other Aglionby boys, you know? While I liked Adam, I found him frustrating at times, and I can honestly say that I'm more of a Gansey gal. I'm so looking forward to where this story all goes (knowing what we do from the story). :)

    Maggie Stiefvater is truly gifted at creating atmosphere and using minimal words to give a fully picture of a character. I've mentioned this to you already, but her descriptions of Adam's dad and Gansey's sister Helen, were both succinct and yet gave you a great idea of what they're like. Loved that. Well, all I can say is that I can't wait for Book 2 to come out!

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    1. Yeah, it was frustrating that Adam had a tendency to misjudge Gansey's true intentions. It made me want to tell them to shut up and give each other a man hug already haha:)

      I really liked Gansey too. His issues were less overt than Adam's but I still felt bad for him and appreciated how loyal he was to his friends. To me, Gansey seemed awkward at times (in a likeable way) because he wanted to be someone other than who he was, but had been conditioned to act like the rich kid (and occasionally talk like an old man with a bow tie).

      Wish there wasn't so long a wait until the next book :(

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    2. I didn't see it so much as Adam misjudging Gansey's intentions; I saw it as Adam having such a different perspective on everything because of what he's experienced. I get that Gansey only ever wanted to help his friend because he cared about him; I also get how Adam, who's always been powerless to help not only himself but also his mother, can really only think about things in terms of the power dynamics. I was frustrated for Gansey, absolutely, because it was so clear he couldn't see things from that POV, but I couldn't really blame Adam. And I think that's part of what makes this book so good--it's really nuanced and truthful. Sometimes there are situations like that where people who really care about each other can't get on the same page no matter how hard they try.

      BUT we can agree that there should be more man hugs and a next book ASAP!!! So good :)

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    3. Yes, I see what you mean here. Adam understands that Gansey just wants to help, but what it boils down to is that he doesn't want to feel endebted because that means he's powerless. Between growing up poor and being the victim of abuse, Adam would see this as Gansey having the upper hand in their relationship. And really, his friendship with Gansey and the others is his escape from what's going on at home, so to have that perceived power struggle spill over there would be frustrating. Great point! And I feel like this justifies Adam being my favourite character even more because it's a very realistic response on his part. :)

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  3. In the romance department, I keep thinking about Adam's vision in the tree - it makes me nervous for things to come!

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    1. Oh my gosh, me too! What a way for the author to reel us in. I think the tree premonitions are a good indication that the series is going to get a whole lot darker and more complicated before the end. Can't wait!

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  4. I just want to say YES to all of your review. I agree with so much of that. They boy were such rich characters and I loved that this was about mor than the quest. It was about each of their problems, too. I liked Adam and really felt for him, but after that thing happened at his house and the way he treated Gansey, he became my least favorite Raven Boy. I get his pride, but c'mon. Anyway, I loved it all.

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    1. Oddly I loved that scene between Adam and Gansey, maybe because it brought some of the complications in their relationship to a head. You're right, Adam definitely needs to get over his pride. I guess I really liked that Maggie S. didn't just make him someone to be pitied. Actually, I never thought about it until now, but the author did the reverse with Adam and Ronan's relationship. Where they usually didn't get along, something happened to prove that they're better friends than they maybe initially thought. Poor Gansey, he seems to get the brunt of everything though, doesn't he? He's got his work cut out with him keeping Ronan in school, trying to help Adam, figuring out how to keep Noah around, and on top of it all trying to find Glendower. Looking forward to seeing how all of this plays out!

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  5. Yes! I totally though Persephone = Luna Lovegood too! So funny!

    The romance aspect of THE RAVEN BOYS is what initially drew me in and while it didn't prove to be a big part of this book, I suspect we'll be getting much more into the dynamic of Blue/Gansey/Adam in the following books. When Blue had the vision of her and Gansey in the woods... Aaah! My heart. It hasn't even happened yet (we don't even know for sure that it WILL happen!), but I'm already so invested!

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    1. Oh man, and if things between Gansey and Adam aren't so great now, I can only imagine how complicated they're going to get as their relationships with Blue progress. Blue's vision made me feel so conflicted because here I was thinking she and Adam were so sweet together, but that vision made Gansey pretty appealing to put it mildly! All I can say is this whole kiss thing better get resolved and I hope we don't have to wait until the last book for it!

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  6. I love how character-focused this book was. Like you, I found the pace slow until I got invested in the characters, and then I enjoyed lingering with them.
    Maggie Stiefvater's prose is so beautiful.
    I cannot wait to figure out how Blue and Gansey get from here to the *there* of the vision.

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    1. A book can have a great plot but if I can't invest in the characters it doesn't stick with me. Maggie Stiefvater made me care about the characters and so I bought into the plot. The real reason I'm eager for Glendower to be found is because I want to know how that will personally affect Gansey and his crew. As for Blue and Gansey getting from "here" to "there", I can't wait for that either! :)

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