October 29, 2012

YA Book Club: The Raven Boys

{The YA Book Club is brought to you by Tracey Neithercott over at Words On Paper. The Raven Boys was our choice for October's read. If you're interested in taking part now or in the future, here's the information you'll need: YA Book Club.}

Where we lay our scene... (with the help of Goodreads, of course)
“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. 

O brave new world that has such people in't!
What can I say about these characters other than that I loved them? Blue was great, but the Raven Boys themselves were my favourite part of the book. In fact, I couldn't stop thinking about them days after I finished reading. The dynamic between Gansey/Adam/Ronan (and sometimes Noah) was fantastic, and I found myself invested in each of them. Volatile yet surprising and hilarious Ronan; proud yet loyal and kind Adam; single-minded and privileged yet gracious Gansey... They were all fascinating in their own way and fleshed out so, so well. Did we expect anything less from Maggie Stiefvater? I'm big on unique detail that goes a long way where it relates to characters. Here's a great example with Adam's dad:
"Robert Parrish was a big thing, colorless as August, grown from the dust that surrounded the trailers. His eyes were dark and small and Gansey could see nothing of Adam in them." (p. 136)
And then there's her description of Helen, Gansey's sister:
"The pink[-nailed finger] was the only fanciful thing about her. Helen was beautiful in the way a supercomputer was beautiful: sleek with elegant but utilitarian styling, full of top-notch technological know-how, far too expensive for most people to possess." (p. 200)
This is so much better than reading: He was big, mean, and backward. Or she was a classy chick who was out of most people's league. These details take on a life of their own and create a whole story about that person using minimal words.

I could a tale unfold...
Each of these characters had interesting stories, all of which were woven together and told through their search for Glendower, a nobleman of Welsh legend. From the serious/sad (a case of family violence) to the creepy (I can't specify what without spoilers), this story unfolds not quickly but naturally. We were given time to get to know Blue and the Raven Boys and to understand their personal reasons for wanting to find Glendower. And, of course, Maggie Stiefvater is the master at providing an atmosphere-rich backdrop for all of this to take place--Gansey's warehouse apartment, Blue's house full of wacky women, the dreamlike quality of the woods (the tree!!). But while this story dealt with the supernatural, with legend, and even with issues of class disparity, it was not without its funny parts. Observe, if you will:
"If you keep saying things like 'man-child,' we're done...Hey, man. Don't let it get you down. Once your balls drop, that beard'll come in great. Like a [bleeping] rug. You eat soup, it'll filter out the potatoes. Terrier style. Do you have hair on your legs? I've never noticed." (p. 160) Thank you, Ronan.
'"This," Gansey replied, "is precisely why I didn't want to have a baby with you."' (p. 219) Re: Ronan's new pet.
"That reminds me. You need to get that belt looked at on the Ford. I see a breakdown in your future. Next to that sketchy furniture store. A very ugly man with a cell phone will stop and be overly helpful." (p. 137) 
'"There is a 1973 Camaro in front of the house! It matches my nails!" The last time Blue had seen Orla's nails, they'd been a complicated paisley pattern. She wasn't exactly sure what a 1973 Camaro looked like, but she was sure that if it was paisley, it must be impressive." (p. 138)
"Listen to you, sounding all badass. I bet you're just listening to a CD called 'The Sounds of Crime' while you cruise for chicks outside the Old Navy in your Camaro." (p. 129) 
I'm fairly certain I laughed out loud or snorted during each of these scenes. And there were more, I assure you. But then there was the Things-That-Make-You-Go-Quoi? moment when Gansey sounded like a turn of the century old British dude using phrases like "top shelf" and "brilliant" (p. 256). The latter only really works well if you answer to Ron Weasley.

Was not this love indeed?
The swoon factor here was not overly high, but that's okay. In many ways, this was more like a bromance (can I say that?) and surprisingly, I loved that about it. I'm like a moth to a flame with books that have a good romance, but in this case I was okay with the brief and mild swoony bits. BUT that's mainly because there is the promise of more of the swoonage to come. And I have to say, I'm seriously looking forward to more Gansey. You saw it here first: Team Gansey. Just sayin'...

Verdict: Such stuff as dreams are made on.
Such a great read and I'm eagerly awaiting the next book in THE RAVEN CYCLE series. And more Ronan and Gansey.


How about you? Have you read The Raven Boys? What did you think of it? Who's your favourite Raven Boy?
 

24 comments:

  1. The Helen description really jumped out at me, too, when I was reading - I actually paused and nodded in appreciation at the words.

    THE TREE - augh, it freaked me out so much!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love when authors find just the right way to describe someone or something that only a handful of words are necessary. Awesome! And the tree was both intriguing and seriously freaky. :)

      Delete
  2. Cool! YA Book Club - hadn't heard of that! The book sounds awesome, think i'll bump it up on my TBR list!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, we suggest books at Tracey's prompting, vote on them, and she lets us know which one won and when we're discussing it. Lots of fun! The books was really good. Not fast-paced, but so worth the read. :)

      Delete
  3. I just want to say ditto to everything you've said. I LOVE those boys. I LOVE the descriptions. And I LOVE the little bits of humor throughout.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love that she managed to still include humor even though the book wasn't comedic. The boys were all so well fleshed out, and I just can't wait to see where all of their stories go from here. :)

      Delete
  4. Ronan's "man-child" comment was the BEST! One of my very favorite parts of the novel. And you're so right about Maggie Stiefvater's atmospheric settings. I felt like I was tagging along with Blue and Gansey and the boys everywhere they went. The way the Noah situation was described literally gave me chills. Man... Looking forward to the next installment!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think I remember you commenting on that on Goodreads at some point during your reading of the book. I laughed so hard at that part! Ronan, in many ways, feels like the most surprising and intriguing characters of the lot. As for the Noah thing--total chills! Can't wait for Book 2 and crossing my fingers for more swoon. :)

      Delete
  5. Thank you for reminding me of how much I loved Helen! I hope the forthcoming books have more of her. I love that this was a bromance, too, and I had so much fun being in on the complicated friendships among those boys. This was such a wonderful book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She was pretty great and I hope we get more of her in the other books. I'm surprised just how much I liked the bromance aspect of it. I usually prefer lots of smooch, but the dynamic between these boys was so compelling that that absence of smooch didn't matter. :)

      Delete
  6. Oh, that Camaro. I wish I had that car! If I saw Gansey broken down on the side of the road in that car then I'd definitely be pulling over ;) And even though the swoon factor wasn't that high, it was enough to keep me going until the next one!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The funny thing is, I keep picturing the Camaro as paisley now. LOL :P But seriously, you'd be bonkers not to pull over for Gansey. I think we're in for swoon in the books to come, so I'm really looking forward to that! :)

      Delete
  7. The "top shelf" comment from Gansey made me laugh so hard. I was relieved when Blue was as puzzled as I was. The other part that cracked me up was the bit about "Butternut". Couldn't stop laughing, which was bad because I was reading really late and everyone else was sleeping. I think the humour tempered the heavier issues in the story and proves all the more that this book was the whole package deal: complex relationships, some romance, an adventure, a lot of mystery, and a dash of humour to cap things off nicely. Wish there was going to be a release party for book two we could go to!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Butternut", "the whole package deal" (*snort*)... Yes, there were definitely some funny bits. I think you're right about humor tempering the heavier issues. That makes it so much more of a well-rounded read, in my opinion. I like that there was such a mixture of things to love in this story. And yes, a launch party would be great! :D

      Delete
  8. I'm going to have to come back and read this. I started the book and don't like to read reviews before I read books--is that weird? Anyway, I'm only two chapters in. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's totally not weird. :) It's a pretty darn good book, so enjoy! I can't wait to hear your thoughts on it when you're done.

      Delete
  9. I think what makes the humor so great is that it feels so real and authentic and grounds the creepy/fantastical elements of the world. Like, yeah, time stops, seasons change, the fish, whatever, but Maggie's teen dialogue can be more spot-on than most contemporary writers! (And I think Gansey's weird slang is excusable when you remember that the adult he gets along with the best IS an ancient British dude! So I'll assume he's picked up some things along the way.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you're totally right about why the humor was so good. This book had so many elements in it that it might have felt like it was lacking something if there had been no humor at all. Gansey's weird slang is probably also just another way of reinforcing the fact that the way he speaks is more advanced than many of his appears. This is, after all, the first thing that puts Blue off of Gansey. So really, I guess it's just consistent with how his is, and like you say, probably from his Brit dude friend's influence. :)

      Delete
  10. You and I totally LOL'd at the same parts! I loved that about this book - I was expecting dark and sinister and got something that was all that, plus humorous and so descriptive, to boot!

    I love Gansey, but I think Ronan might be my favorite with how tragic he was. They both just seemed so real...so teen boy.

    I can't wait to see what she comes up with in the next book (I just don't want to wait!). Great review, Jaime!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There were some surprisingly funny bits in this story. :) As for Ronan, it kind of shocked me how much I ended up really liking him. Normally, volatile characters rub me the wrong way, but we got to see different sides of him that just reeled me in. Can't wait to read more about Blue and the boys! Too bad it's such a long wait.

      Delete
  11. I agree...this was totally a bromance, and I loved these boys! Can't wait to read more!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can't wait either. Such a long time for more of the boys! :)

      Delete
  12. Lol the bromance in this book was my favorite part too! This is definitely my favorite Stiefvater book to date! I cannot believe we have to wait until fall of 2013 for the sequel! I. Need. It. Now.

    Fantastic review Jaime! And great choice of quotes--reading them made me want to reread the entire book again :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is the only Stiefvater book that I've finished (though I plan on finishing of THE SCORPIO RACES next month), but that's because it just pulled me in. I loved so much about it, but especially the boys and the dynamic between them. :)

      Delete

I ♥ comments. They make me smile.☺