By Elizabeth Wroten
Review: Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
On 06, May 2013 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten
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.
Okay, despite reading the blurb about this book, I thought this was going to be a fantasy novel set in another world. Maybe I was mixing it up with blurbs about The Scorpio Races (which I don’t actually think is set in another world, either), but I was very wrong. And also very confused for the first few pages. Every time something modern and familiar popped up, like a car, I would think, oh I guess they have that in this world.
I was also prepared to dislike this book mostly based on the fact that the main character’s name is Blue. I hate it when authors come up with names that are different. I know they usually do it for a reason, but it just always makes me think some overwrought teenager named them. Thankfully The Raven Boys won me over after the first ten pages, which, incidentally was the point at which I thought, hey wait a minute, this is set in our world. Palm to forehead.
The characters in this were all really unexpectedly complex, even if they felt a bit young to me (which I think is more a function of my getting older than anything). Blue especially had a few really naive moments that I probably had as a teen. Besides being a group of misfits, they’ve got a lot of baggage that makes them a bit mysterious and interesting. Plus they’re on a quest to find the corpse road to raise a legendary king and I am all for dark, atmospheric quests.
I loved that Gansey was so manic about this quest, even to the point that he built a model of the city in his living room and keeps a journal of ephemera. If I ever go looking for something, I want to do those things. Adam was a bit infuriating for being so principled about leaving his family. I’m not really sure how true to life his refusal to seek help was just so he could do it for himself, but it also made him rather admirable. Blue seemed a little flat to me at first, but I think she has a lot going on under the surface and some of her plot points (her mother and Neeve, her father) will surface later in the series. I would guess she’ll be the one to change the most by the end of the journey.
Ultimately, though, it was Ronan I really loved. He’s got tons of baggage, but his f#%&-you attitude was refreshing. Punch first, ask questions later. He is clearly intelligent and even though it was a bit ambiguous at the beginning, he is clearly a good person. And he has a pet raven. Anyone with a pet raven is awesome in my book. Read this article about it, you will agree. Judging by the cover of the next book and it’s title, he’ll play a much bigger role.
I think another reason I connected with this book was because I went to a private school that was predominantly wealthy. I was not, so the way Blue and Adam feel awkward about money and infuriated by some of the feelings of entitlement rang pretty true for me. On the other hand, I was really irritated by Gansey beating himself up over comments he would make about money. I always felt that the reactions of Blue and Adam (and others) were not so much about Gansey being insensitive (self-confident doesn’t necessarily equal entitled) as it was about how they were misinterpreting his naivete about money as entitlement.
One of my favorite YA blogs, Forever Young Adult, read this book for their book club and has an awesome post about predictions for the next book in the series, The Dream Thieves. You can read that post here and be sure to scroll through the comments.
It could have been the creepy scene in the graveyard or the entanglement of love and death for Blue that sucked me in. Maybe it was the mystery surrounding it all. Or maybe it was the Tarot card readings and fortune telling. Or maybe it was Gansey’s neurotic obssession with the spirit road and his journal stuffed with ephemera. Or all those things. Whatever it was I am hooked.