I know, I know. I said I was going to review The Storied Life of AJ Fikry, but I just finished The Raven Boys last night, and I just really wanted to do a review of it right away. All the emotions are still fresh, and I’m excited to discuss this book!
Quick Synopsis: Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them–until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her. His name is Gansey, 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 is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul whose emotions range from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher 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 doesn’t believe in true love, and never thought this would be a problem. But as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.
Page Count: 408
The Raven Boys came out three years ago, and ever since, it’s gained an incredible amount of hype. I was always skeptical about reading it because 1. It’s a paranormal YA, and I tend to stray away from paranormal YA except on very rare occurrences. 2. The general consensus seems to be that it is a great book, but you have to get through the first 100 pages because it’s so slow until then. And 3. It is extremely confusing. These all seemed like good reasons for me to turn away from the series even after the hype continued to grow with the release of its two sequels. Honesty, I’m not completely sure why I suddenly decided to read it. Maybe it was that some of my favorite booktubers whose taste I tend to align with gave it high ratings. Or maybe it was that some of my good friends praised it. Whatever the reason, I was suddenly very excited and anxious to get my hands on it and give it a go for myself. I went from having absolutely no interest in reading this book to dying to dive into it. And now that I’ve completed it, here are my thoughts! (Side note: the synopsis is totally misleading as it makes the novel seem like it will be romance-heavy when in fact the romance takes a back seat to the plot and character development. So if the synopsis is turning you off, remember that.)
I’ve always been a character-driven reader. The plot can be boring as all hell, but if the characters are interesting and complex, then it doesn’t even matter. Luckily for me, The Raven Boys is very much a character-driven novel. That’s not to say the writing isn’t great or that the plot was bad, because the writing is great and the plot is incredibly unique; I’ve never read a novel even somewhat similar to this (which is saying something these days, let’s be honest). But the characters are the heart of the story, and Maggie Stiefvater writes them so realistically, so wonderfully, that it’s hard not to like them and appreciate their individual stories. Blue, the main female protagonist, is witty, likeable, and just awesome. And the four raven boys (nicknamed the raven boys because of the school they attend), Gansey, Ronan, Adam, and Noah, have the most believable and well-developed friendship I’ve seen in a book in a long time. Gansey, the leader of the group, reminded me a lot of James Potter (or at least how I imagine James Potter would be as a teenager) in that he cared so deeply for his friends and would do anything for them, and even though he came from a rich family and could have anything he wanted, he only cared about the other boys. Well, and his mission to wake the ley line and find the mysterious Glendower, but that’s a whole different
obsession story. I liked how willingly they accepted Blue into their group when they realized she wanted to help them, and I liked the very different relationship she had with each of the boys. I think all of the friendships may have been my favorite aspect of the book. And so while many people thought the first 100 pages were boring and slow, I ate up those character-development-filled pages. I didn’t think there was anything slow or confusing about them.
The supernatural aspect of this novel was perfectly interwoven into the plot. It wasn’t so intense that I couldn’t connect with the story; it was still very much grounded in real life. It just so happened that there were also a few psychics, a magical king that could grant you an eternal favor if awoken, a couple rituals, and one ghost (oh man, was that ghost part a plot twist!!). No vampires. No werewolves. No witches or wizards or fairies or mermaids or any of the usual tropes that usually prevent me from delving further into the paranormal genre. Everything about the unique plot was a breath of fresh air. And once it’s revealed why Gansey is so obsessed with finding Glendower, the story takes on a whole different meaning. I routed for the boys and Blue the entire time, and I got excited as they uncovered new clues that brought them closer to their goal. I’ve also never read a book that focuses on ley lines, invisible lines on earth that are perfectly aligned and give off high energy levels, so that part of the book was interesting to me as well. At times things in the story got a little freaky, but in the best way possible. In general, the plot was engaging and different which I loved.
I briefly mentioned that the romance was not a big part of the book at all. I don’t know if that holds true for the next books, but that was refreshing as well. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good romance mixed into my novels, but I also like balance, and this book had it. The book is set up so that we know who Blue is going end up with right away, and it’s clear she knows as well because of the prophecy she’s been told all her life. So what does she do? She spends the entire book with the guy we don’t expect her to be with. I won’t name any specific names for spoiler reasons, but she and the guy that the book has made us believe she’ll be with have more chemistry in a single page than she and the guy she actually falls for do in the whole book. So I’m looking forward to Blue realizing that she should dump her current guy and be with the other one. Listen to the prophecy, Blue! He’s so much better! Okay, just had to get that off my chest.
Lastly, the writing. I liked that it was told in third person so we got perspectives on all of the main characters. This was great because it meant that before Blue even met the raven boys, I already knew a lot about them and was happy when their stories collided. It was a smart way to tell the story. The writing itself was better than a lot of YA writing, I would say. I’ve never read anything else by Maggie, but it’s clear she knows how to tell a good story. At times, this didn’t feel like a YA because it was so different from everything else in the YA section. Her world, characters, plot, and writing were complex.
Overall, I was surprised by how much I loved this book. I had low expectations going into it, and I was blown away. I ordered the second and third books right away, and I’ll be marathoning those once they arrive. I need to know what happens! The story is just too addicting! Honestly, I can’t think of anything I didn’t like about this book besides Blue’s love interest. But since romance is not a huge part, it wasn’t even that big of a deal. Plus, I know they’ll probably be over soon anyway. Seriously, to have that as my biggest problem should be a testament to how much I liked The Raven Boys. Well done, Maggie Stiefvater.
If I had to pick a favorite raven boy, I would probably choose Gansey. There’s something so endearing about him. I knew he would be my favorite the moment he was introduced. Of course, I adored the other boys as well, but Gansey was a stand out.
If you still haven’t read this book for any of the reasons I hadn’t, or if you are finding yourself disappointed with YA lately, start this series. It’s definitely a gem, and I am not-so-patiently waiting for the next two books to arrive in the mail so I can catch up. It might just be my favorite book I’ve read this year so far. If only my past, skeptical self could hear my now, right?
Rating: 5/5 stars!
That’s it for now, my fellow readers! Now back to writing essays and studying for finals…bleh.
Have you read The Raven Boys? Who is your favorite raven boy? Who do you ship? Were you as surprised by the ghost reveal as I was? Talk to me in the comments, but please no spoilers about the next books!
Read and write on! – Veronica