Saturday, February 2, 2013
Book Review: Raven Boys
by Maggie Stiefvater
Published by: Scholastic Press
Form: Autographed Hardback
Big Themes: Death, Psychics, Magic, Legends, Ghosts, Mystery
Blue lives in a house full of psychics, including her mother. And while Blue doesn't have any special psychic abilities herself, that doesn't mean her life is normal. In fact, she's been told that if she kisses her true love... he'll die. But what will happen when she is irrevocably drawn into the lives of four boys on a quest to find a lost Welsh king?
I seriously love Maggie. I've heard her speak several times, follow her blog, and have read every book of hers... except Scorpio Races... which I promise I will get to! (I've started this book twice and... well... I don't know what's wrong with me!) I pre-ordered this book from Fountain Bookstore and received a beautiful autographed copy, pictured below:
This is probably the book's biggest strength, and I think something we can come to expect from Maggie. Especially with her two most recent books, Maggie is fresh and original in every possible way. This book is so different from anything you've read before. I can't say, "It's kind of like this book combined with elements of this book and fits inside this genre." You could even go so far as to say this book is a little strange, and even a fan like me wouldn't disagree with you. Before reading Raven Boys, would I have ever heard of ley lines? Nope. Would I have thought teenage boys with legendary Welsh king obsessions are hot guy material? No way. Even the names of characters in this book (Blue, Gansey, Ronan) are completely unconventional. If you want to read something fresh and different, then Maggie is your girl.
Maggie makes me feel smart and edgy and cool:
Just look at the cover. It's not the kind of YA book cover I'm ashamed to walk around with. That brushstroked raven is cool. The title is serious with a no-nonsense font choice. There's no half-naked men or girls with hair blowing in the wind or dramatic dresses made of smoke or flowers or butterflies. Even though I read books with those covers, they don't make me feel like an intellectual when I'm out in public. (Oh the wonders of the eBook and hiding what you're reading!)
And, not only is the cover cool, but this is also a smart person book because Maggie is a phenomenal writer. She's the kind of writer who makes me weep a little inside because her writing is so beautiful and eloquent and purposeful. I feel smarter after having finished one of her books, like I've absorbed new writing techniques and observed a master writer. And I am pretty proud of the fact that I've been reading Maggie's books since before she hit the NYT bestseller list. I've loved watching her find success and knowing before the rest of the world that she was a superstar.
This was the strongest pull of the book for me. I felt like these characters were real people, despite their very unrealistic names... Blue? I'm a teacher, and I've seen some CRAZY names. But I've yet to have a kid named after a color.
There were several reasons why these characters came to life for me. The first was the multiple points-of-view. A novel with multiple POVs is tough to write, but this isn't the first time Maggie has done it. In Raven Boys, we see the story from several characters, and I think getting inside their heads and each having a different outlook on the world really brought you closer to them as a reader.
The second reason why I felt these characters came to life was because Maggie does a brilliant job of showing instead of telling. She doesn't tell you that Gansey is obsessed with a Welsh King. She shows you. With Gansey's notebook. With his conversations. With his actions. She puts her characters in conflict and shows you who they are by how they deal with conflict. One of my favorite characters was Adam, and he was a character who was revealed slowly through the conflicts he faces.
Pieces to the Puzzle:
Maggie has woven a complex story around lesser known mythology. There is a lot we don't know in the beginning, and as this is a series, still a lot we don't know at the end. I'm impressed with the story and mystery she's created weaving together a legend, a murder, and a prophecy. I adore books that deal with fate and strange coincidences and this book is full of them. It makes me so happy.
At times there were things that happened or things characters said that I'm still not sure if I'm supposed to understand yet. (Chainsaw the raven being one thing I don't understand.) As the first book in a series, this is probably to be expected. But it is holding me back from rating this a "five star favorite." I reserve the right to come back later and bump up the stars. But for now, I want to wait and see how everything pans out.
This is a fresh and original story that is beautifully crafted by one of my favorite authors. If you love a good mystery or legend and great characterization, then this is a must-read! I give it four and a half stars.