A review of Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys
So first let me say, I actually hadn’t read the blurb at all when I started listening to the audiobook which is unusual for me, but I’m always on the lookout for new stuff to listen to on my way to work (or at work sometimes). I’d seen the cover around a lot and, for some inexplicable reason, I got curious and checked it out. In fact, I think if I’d read the blurb first I wouldn’t have picked it up, but I’m probably more inclined to try new audiobooks from my library on a whim than taking a chance on buying books or even on library ebooks. I attempt to create a slightly(!??) less cheesy-sounding blurb below…but I might advise you just skip that too and just read the book. I don’t know if this book can be blurbed successfully.
Blue Sargent is surrounded by confident, strong-willed psychic women. In fact, she is the daughter of one. And, although she is also confident and strong-willed, she has no great psychic ability to speak of except that she increases the power of everyone else’s clairvoyance. This means she sometimes unintentionally gets relegated to psychic secretary; relaying messages. After an experience with one of the soon-to-be-dead, she gets wrapped up in a bit of a ghostly treasure hunt of sorts with four ‘Raven Boys’ (spoilt, privileged rich kids from the local private school, Aglionby) who are more than just fancy cars and trust funds. Incidentally, she has been predicted to fall in love with or kill (but most likely both) one of the Raven Boys.
• • •
As I said in my Goodreads sort-of review:
I don’t think it’s too dramatic to say this book has completely restored my faith in the YA genre. The blurb does it a terrible disservice.
I like how subtle the fantasy elements generally were in this book. The mysteries that begin to interlock and compound really draw you into the world. And I definitely appreciate Blue’s character. She is sensible (as is occasionally remarked by other characters, sometimes to her dismay) and a little sass. She isn’t whiney, but is still compassionate. She behaves believably but I don’t think the focus is so much on her as a character or her development. Perhaps, she is more like a very likeable conduit to the real story (though it feels unfair to undermine he part by putting it that way…). The boys—Gansey, Adam, Ronan and Noah—each feel like fully rounded characters with separate personalities and interesting stories of their own. They aren’t just a hoard of randoms to fill out some space. And they are where the story lies (as might be inferred by the title).
I couldn’t help but like Gansey, which you are meant to. But this is a particularly special gift of the writing because Gansey is a bit of a golden boy and I very rarely like golden boys. Adam, however was more typical of the types of characters I like (and I did rather like him). He’s sensitive and intelligent and has a complicated kind of strength. Where Gansey and Ronan are from money and flaunt it (Gansey, ostensibly unintentionally), Adam is not from money and is very aware of it. He has worked very hard to be at Aglionby. Ronan…is the kind of ‘bad boy’ who is both annoying and strangely likeable. He sort of keeps you slightly on edge wondering if he’s going to balls everything up with his idiotic temper (he probably is), but I think there are a lot of interesting things in his past and I want to know more about those things. Noah is a mystery. A dusty little mystery. Affable, but only partly there. It’s interesting to see how he fits in. They are all earnest boys recruited by Gansey as a motley crew of friends on a mission to solve an ancient Welsh mystery.
Something that kept coming up throughout the novel were themes of privilege: being unaware of it, being very aware of it, being ignored because you don’t have it, becoming invisible because that’s all people have reduced you to when they see you… This sort of made me think a little bit of what The Great Gatsby was trying to do in regards to commenting on the presence and absence of privilege gained through the complete serendipity of inherited wealth. It felt more palpable and better executed here, if somewhat repetitive at times, though I feel that was intentional to show its omnipresence. And I got the impression that the connection between The Great Gatsby and the unspoken leader of The Raven Boys, Gansey, was intentional. His name, obsessive goal, infectious spirit and fortuitous circumstance has lead me to believe so. I wonder if there are further links to be made throughout the rest of the series.
Will Patton’s performance on this audiobook is perfect. I must admit, a southern American accent always makes me think of the past so, even though this story is set in the present day, it has a slightly ‘old timey’ storytelling note in it which really worked for me in this instance. (It doesn’t always.) I think I would be equally as pleased to read this one, but I will certainly be recommending the audiobook because it was so engrossing I just couldn’t stop listening.
I tend to be bad at getting quotes from audiobooks because I’m usually too wrapped up in them and there were a few times where I definitely should have just stopped to make note of them.
The ending felt slightly abrupt and ends with a few questions unanswered. This does not seem to be a series where the books can stand alone and, for me, that kind of continuity is fine. And, while the overarching series mystery remains as curious as ever, other smaller questions were satisfactorily addressed. I always appreciate character development and world building and this book definitely had all of that. I will be looking into the next book in the series, The Dream Thieves!
genre: YA, paranormal
publisher: Scholastic Audio
date read: 7 March 2015
recommend for: YA readers interested in quiet paranormal mystery stories with well-built characters
pros: great storytelling, strong female characters, interesting characters in general
cons: ill-fitting blurb, ending was a little abrupt