Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #88: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

I received this book for free from BEA in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #88: The Raven Boys by Maggie StiefvaterThe Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Series: The Raven Cycle #1
Published by Scholastic on September 19, 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Magical Realism, Mystery, Mythology, Romance
Pages: 409
Format: ARC
Source: BEA
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four-stars

“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

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.

From Maggie Stiefvater, the bestselling and acclaimed author of the Shiver trilogy and The Scorpio Races, comes a spellbinding new series where the inevitability of death and the nature of love lead us to a place we’ve never been before.

Recommended by: The entire world, basically. But it was put in Sadie Hawkins by Ellis (The Random Transliterator/Finding Bliss in Books), Layla, and Stephen

Oh hey. So yeah. I did this thing. I read The Raven Boys. And I told absolutely no one. I almost accidentally blurted it out in chat a bunch of times. I also thought about instagramming myself reading over lunch and then realized I was reading The Raven Boys secretly, which I would no longer be post ill-considered Innstagram. However, I remained steadfast and secretive, even once I know, early on, that I was going to like the book. I wanted to be able to have only my thoughts in my head for this one, because there’s so much out there already and I didn’t want the hype to mess with my experience. Anyway, you guys win: The Raven Boys is fantastic.

Sometime after Forever, Maggie Stiefvater grew into the sort of author whose books I can appreciate. I’m not saying her previous books are objectively terrible, because they’re not. They are, however, books I struggled through. I’d mostly given up on Stiefvater’s fiction ever being for me, despite the intriguing premises. But then everyone in the world said that The Raven Boys was so different and The Scorpio Races got a redesign with a cover so pretty I had to own it and Stiefvater released a book about Cole and Isabel. I already read Sinner and noted how different it was and The Raven Boys is similarly a step away from her first five novels. Where the first five have MCs I find, minus one, incredibly boring, The Raven Boys and Sinner are populated by characters of depth and quirk and pain.

The characters didn’t charm me first, though. That was the writing. The Raven Boys is another of those books that should be used to beat down people who sneer at YA as being juvenile and poorly written. We all know they’re wrong of course, but they don’t…yet. If they ever read books like The Raven Boys, we’ll convert them, if they’re capable of being honest to themselves at all. Maggie’s writing is gorgeous and dreamy, in a way that perfectly matches the magical realism of the novel. There are so many quotable quotes that keeping track of all the good lines would fill a good deal of notebook.

Precisely no one has shelved The Raven Boys as magical realism on Goodreads, which makes me wonder if I’m wrong. Maybe I shouldn’t own up to this in a review, because I feel like it could be embarrassing. Personally, I think The Raven Boys walks a line between paranormal and magical realism. I suspect it’s going to tilt on over in The Dream Thieves, but there’s something about the dreamy quality of it and the fact that the magic’s been lying dormant for so long people might not have realized the real world had magic that makes me say magical realism. Does it matter really? No. But I felt like rambling on about it. You’re welcome.

I’d been warned that The Raven Boys was slow and might even be boring, perhaps because people wanted me prepared to not immediately dismiss the book. I didn’t find it to be so at all. It’s a long book, so it took some time to read, but I thought the pacing was good. The plot is a bit hazy at first, but at the end I was left superbly impressed with what had been accomplished. It’s unclear at times because you sort of spiral in on it and the mood is really important. It all just fits together really well, if that makes any damn sense.

I’m sort of at a loss for quite what to say about the characters actually, though I’m sure I’ll get over that. To help me, let’s start with some hilarious misconceptions I got from the things I saw on Twitter or in chats with people who were talking about this series.

  1. I thought this series was about a girl named Blue who had three hot guy friends, two of whom are interested in her. Instead, there are four hot guy friends. HOW HAD I NEVER HEARD ABOUT NOAH?
  2. Because of all the love for Ronan and the spoiler I know about him, I was really shocked to actually meet him. Was not expecting him to be quite so punch-oriented. Again, I would have thought I’d have heard about that.
  3. NO ONE EVER MENTIONED CHAINSAW EITHER.
  4. I totally expected Adam to be similar to his namesake in Shatter Me, based on the dislike I see of him around the internet. He is not.

Blue: I don’t have a great handle on Blue yet. I feel like there’s so much to come from her, like I can sense her coming evolution and character arc, so it’s almost like something’s missing. What I do like about Blue is that she simultaneously desperately wants romance and doesn’t, because dooming your true love with a kiss is way harsh Tai. Simultaneously, Blue does and doesn’t want to have the psychic abilities of her family. She’s like to be either normal or actually able to experience psychic visions herself. Maybe this is why I don’t have a hold on Blue? She hasn’t decided yet what she wants to be, just that she wants something. She herself doesn’t know who she is yet.

Blue’s Family: Freaking fantastic. They’re strange and occasionally creepy, but I love this house of psychics. The dynamic reminds me a lot of that in Practical Magic. There’s a powerful sense of family and community and magic, but they’re also more friends than family members. Maura loves Blue and takes care of her, but she’s not remotely a traditional mother. Blue has as much say in her choices as Maura does. Actually more. I love non-traditional but functional families, and this ones if fabulous.

Adam: Guys, he is so sweet. I know this book is heading for the good ship Gansey, but Adam’s really adorable too. This poor guy has such a shit life and is trying so hard to make his way out on his own two feet. Is it any wonder that he shies away from any sort of dependence when being a dependent has been so horrible? *hugs Adam* His crush on Blue is super cute, but admittedly I’m not exactly on this ship either because a) I don’t really see the chemistry and b) events.

Gansey: He’s kind of an ass. Again, wasn’t really prepared for that. However, he’s an ass who’s really trying to quit being an ass and who has only the best of intentions. Basically, he’s incredibly socially awkward. What’s funny is that nobody really notices how awkward Gansey is because he’s so rich and attractive and intelligent. Everything he does seems intentional, but he’s constantly putting his foot in his mouth. Of course, he also calls Blue “Jane,” which is an intentional dick thing to do, but he is a Dick after all. Also, that makes them Dick and Jane, which hahahaha. Not actually on this ship either, because tragic and because I don’t really see the sparks here either yet. The book does say they’re coming, but I have to wait and see.

Ronan: Ellis’ baby. Someone needs to get this kid some counseling. Gansey’s sort of his mother/psychiatrist/friend and he’s not exactly fit for this role, since he has his own host of issues. Their friendship is touching, as is any moment that Ronan opens up to Adam or Blue. Actually, all of these characters need big hugs. Can I hug all of them? Also, what’s up with Declan? And his dad? I MUST KNOW THINGS.

Noah: Biggest hug of all for Noah. Poor Noah. You’re not as interesting as the other Raven Boys, but I accept you. I’m trying to decide if he has the saddest story and he just might. This character is such an enigma and I’m really curious as to how he’s going to further the plot down the road.

There. My massive attempt to review The Raven Boys is over. The short version is that I thought it was incredible, but I also don’t have the feels. Hopefully, the feels will pile on top of me and destroy me utterly in The Dream Thieves.

Favorite Quote:

“This is what you get, Maura, for using your DNA to make a baby.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 gif practical magic dream guy broken heart
SHE EVEN LOOKS BLUE. BAHAHAHA CRAUGHING.

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11 responses to “Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #88: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater”

  1. Meg says:

    *incoherent weeping*
    Meg recently posted…Review: Lailah by Nikki KellyMy Profile

  2. Angie says:

    YAY YAY YAY

    So glad you finally read and enjoyed it. These characters are so dear to me that I want everyone I love to experience their amazingness.
    Angie recently posted…Review: Second Star by Alyssa B. SheinmelMy Profile

  3. The Raven Boys was my first Maggie Stiefvater book, so I was absolutely in love with it. Unfortunately, however, it set a really high bar that made Shiver a bit disappointing when I read it earlier this year (Sinner was awesome, though).

    I wish I lived in 300 Fox Way! There’s some serious girl power in that house!
    Dana @ The Nerdy Journalist recently posted…Discussion | Please be safe, my fellow bloggersMy Profile

  4. YISSSSSSSSSSSSSS.

    Okay, first, we clearly need to talk more often BECAUSE NOAH IS MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE. Seriously. You’ll love him in the next book. He has the softest corner of my heart. Also, I understand *some* of the Adam hate around the blogosphere, but I adore him as well. I AM ROOTING FOR YOU ADAM-LOVE! (And I was so firmly pro Ship Adam and anti Ship Gansey until the second book that you wouldn’t believe me if I told you.)

    And I’m so glad I’m not the only one waffling on the genre. Is it magical realism? Paranormal? Fantasy? I JUST DON’T KNOW.

    Oh, may I suggest the audiobooks? Some people can’t stand the narrator, and that’s okay, but he does really gentle, honeyed Southern accents for the boys and Blue (except Ronan, who’s necessarily harsher), and I wanted to melt. Adam’s is the best and possibly one of the reasons I love him so.

    Okay, I’m done gushing, I promise.
    Shae/Shelver @ Shae Has Left The Room recently posted…#RBWL Fall 2014 RecapMy Profile

  5. So I skimmed over you review because I am reading this right now. But I did see that you really liked it, so YAY! I am only a few chapters in but I’m excited to really dig into it.
    Quinn @ Quinn’s Book Nook recently posted…Review: Breathe by Kristen AshleyMy Profile

  6. Wow gif review is totally perfect!! SO GLAD you liked this! I wasn’t on any ships yet either, until Dream Thieves. Dream Thieves is what won me over for the whole series. Maggie’s writing *IS* dreamy and gorgeous like you said, but it was so unusual to me (the whole story really) that it took me out of Raven Boys a bit because I’d get confused. And a little freaked out, the Whelk storyline was so unsettling. Knowing what to expect stylistically made Dream Thieves better for me, besides the amazing character growth, and made my rereads amazing. I LOVED Raven Boys the second time around!! Hope you’re planning to catch up soon. Ignore the rest of your TBR pile 😉

    I love that you secretly read this too, it must have been fun to hide it from your blogging friends especially knowing that you loved it and they’d love your reaction!
    Morgan @ Gone with the Words recently posted…Fortnight of Fright 2014: Hocus Pocus (Morgan from Gone With the Words)My Profile

  7. Elizabeth says:

    Yes!! It totally feels like magic realism – particularly the dreamy atmosphere/writing! I’m glad I’m not the only one that felt that way 🙂 And I’m glad you like Adam too – he got so much hate and Ronan got so much love that I was really confused as to how that came to be (I have since come to love Ronan too, although I’m still a bit bewildered by the obsession with him, but I do still like Adam. He may make me want to shake him sometimes, but he’s really so sweet)
    Elizabeth recently posted…A Day in the Life (24)My Profile

  8. I’m kind of approaching this book on the opposite side from you – I love everything I’ve read by MS, two of which are all time favorite books – yet I keep putting The Raven Boys off. Why? I think I’m scared it won’t live up, but also it sounds less romance-y than her others? Idk. But I plan on reading the first three by the end of the year (goals, ftw).
    Great review! I have no doubt the writing is as gorgeous as you say it is, and I can’t wait to meet all of the characters.
    Danielle @ Love at First Page recently posted…Stacking the Shelves [17]My Profile

  9. SO glad you enjoyed this one! It was truly awesome. Blue’s family is fantastic, agreed. Each character has such a unique role, personality, and individual development. Chainsaw… yes! I need to reread Dream Thieves before I start Blue Lily Lily Blue.
    Ashley @The Quiet Concert recently posted…Top Ten Characters Who We Would Totally Want To Be For HalloweenMy Profile

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