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, and he’s 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.
I was a bit hesitant before beginning The Raven Boys, mainly because the blurb sounds exactly like what I hate reading in YA novels. But I have read much praise about Stiefvater and the Raven Cycle, so I decided to go ahead and read the book anyway. And I’m glad I did, because I really enjoyed the book.
At the beginning, I thought The Raven Boys was a tad overwritten in places and the plot started out in the direction I feared from the summary. But then something happened: even though Gansey is supposed to be Blue’s “true love,” she starts by going out with Adam, instead. In fact, at the end of the book, she still can only barely tolerate Gansey. The fact that this YA novel has a much slower approach to the romance than most YA novels with true love in it immediately elevated it in my standards.
Urban fantasy is still not my favorite sub-genre of fantasy, mainly because I always find it a bit too strange for my tastes, but Stiefvater does urban fantasy well and I enjoyed diving into urban fantasy with her. I found the plot strange and confusing, but Stiefvater worldbuilds very well and so despite its strangeness, the world didn’t seem implausible to me. I preferred the characters and their interactions over the plot, in any case, so perhaps that’s why.
Also, the book ends on a cliffhanger, which is a bit irritating, but it was a really good cliffhanger, in a cheeky sort of way. It has an “I couldn’t resist” feel to it, and instead of being annoyed, I found myself laughing instead. I also went out and got the second book right away.
Oh, and I especially loved a passage in the middle where Blue discusses how she feels when she looks at the stars: “She recognized the strange happiness that came from loving something without knowing why you did, that strange happiness that was sometimes so big that it felt like sadness. It was the way she felt when she looked at the stars.”
Recommended Age Range: 16+
Warnings: Swearing, psychics, violence.
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
“You said you were working for a living. I thought it’d be rude to not take that into account. I’m sorry you’re insulted. I see where you’re coming from, but I feel it’s a little unfair that you’re not doing the same for me.”
“I feel you’re being condescending,” Blue said.
In the background, she caught a glimpse of Soldier Boy making a plane of his hand. It was crashing and weaving toward the table surface while Smudgy Boy gulped laughter down. The elegant boy held his palm over his face in exaggerated horror, fingers spread just enough that she could see his wince.
“Dear God,” remarked Cell Phone Boy. “I don’t know what else to say.”
“‘Sorry,’” she recommended.
“I said that already.”
Blue considered. “Then, ‘bye.’”
At first, I thought The Raven Boys was overwritten and doomed to head into dreaded “true love” territory akin to Hush, Hush or Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Then, Stiefvater completely did what I was not expecting, and I instantly got so immersed in the book that I laughed at a cliffhanger because it fit so well with the characters’ personalities and then I went out and got the second book. I don’t normally like contemporary/urban fantasy, but I like this.