I really don’t know where to start with this one. The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater (an author whose last name I’ll never be able to spell without referencing goodreads) is a book that is so lyrically beautiful that I had to stop reading it late at night because I wanted to enjoy the words instead of plowing through them.
Blue Sargent is the daughter of a psychic–in fact, most of her family have some sort of psychic ability, except Blue. She’s come to terms with that fact, just as she’s come to terms with the fact that there are some things she can’t escape: namely, that her kiss is going to kill her true love. Her mother foretold it, her aunts foretold it. Blue decided when she was much younger that she’d never kiss any boy. This year, staying away from boys proves to be difficult when she gets wrapped up in the quest of four of the Raven Boys, normally well-off students from the local private school. As Blue gets to know them, she realizes that each of the Raven Boys have something that they can’t get away from. And there’s the possibility that their quest may be more dangerous than the five of them expect.
The Raven Boys is a great start to a series. With a focus on how the paranormal relates to the real world, I was impressed with the balance that the author had created. It doesn’t focus to heavily on one over the other, which gave the plot realness even as it dealt with mystical elements. The mystery gradually builds as the story progresses, but I never found it boring or too fast paced. Things have their beginning in The Raven Boys, but they were not concluded. There’s going to be threads that run through the series which I found really nice. It makes me want to continue the series when not everything has been answered. However, enough has been answered in this first book that I feel satisfied at its conclusion.
I really liked all of the characters. Each of the Raven Boys–Gansey, Adam, Ronan, and Noah–had unique personalities and drives. I also particularly liked that they also had something that they were ashamed of OR had something that they wanted to change about themselves. Desperately. That often meant they longed for things they didn’t have. Their jealousies made them so relatable that it truly felt like they were real people. And Blue. Such a wonderful protagonist. She had a unique way of looking at the world and she managed to balance her own wishes, the Raven Boys’, and her family’s. She’s quirky, but not annoyingly so. She’s not quirky just to be a different sort of young adult protagonist in a field that is heavily populated by similar protagonists.
First and foremost I felt that this was a book about friendships and familial relationships rather than the romances. There was a romance angle that I imagine will become more important in later books, but right now it’s only subtle. The romances are tentative and not pushed at the reader. It allowed all of the characters to breathe and to be. The friendship between the four boys was so lovely–full of love, trust, and familiarity that comes with being in close quarters with someone. They had their issues and had to work through them. I loved it. Blue fits easily in to this group and through their interactions with her we’re given more glimpses into who they are. As for Blue’s family, they’re great. I found it impossible not to draw parallels between Blue’s family and the Halliwell sisters from Charmed. They just care for each other so much but also know when to give each other space. I liked that they were present in the story and that they were concerned with what Blue was doing, but they were also willing to allow her to make her own mistakes and choices. Stiefvater has a talent at building characters who are extremely realistic and who have their own good and bad traits. I wouldn’t be surprised if I ran into them in Virginia. That’s how real they seemed.
The writing style was so lyrical and mysterious. It really helped build up the setting. It wasn’t overdone or drawn out; somehow it managed to maintain a realness even when the writing was a bit whimsical. I’ve talked a lot about balance in this review, and this is yet another thing that I found incredibly well-done and balanced. A lot of times when I enjoy a book, I stay up late to finish it. I found while reading this that I did have that sense, but I also forced myself to stop because I wanted to enjoy the prose. If I hurried through it, I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to see how prettily it was written.
The only downside (but I don’t really have to worry too much since I’m late to the series!) is that The Raven Boys ends very much in the middle of the action. Of course, the main action of the novel is finished with the exception of the larger plot of the series. It’s almost like the series is a larger book broken up in four installments because of this. I would have been very annoyed if I’d read this book when it had first come out and I’d needed to wait for the next one. Luckily I can go on to the next one immediately, because I get the sense from the first book that I’ll burn through the entire series rather quickly.
I recommend this for young adult readers and for fans of young adult novels. I usually don’t particularly love paranormal novels–I tend to go for fantasy–but the wonderful prose, plot, and the very strong characters in this book won me over almost immediately.