Monday, April 29, 2013

Review of the Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Scholastic Press
The Raven Boys
by Maggie Stiefvater
5 Scribbles
Spoiler Alert!

Blue’s eccentric fortune-telling-family has warned her for as long as she can remember that the first boy she kisses, her first love, will die. So when she sees the spirit of a boy destined to die in the upcoming year on St Mark’s Eve, she has to wonder if he’s the one from the prophecy. Regardless of the boy Gansey’s fate, she knows without a doubt that she will be sure to have no part in his impending doom. What she doesn’t know is that destiny has other plans—and she may not have the control over her fortune that she thinks she does.

Stiefvater is one of the most talented artists in YA. She's a painter, a musician, and a writer. But more importantly, she is a phenomenal novelist. What makes her work superior, in addition to her amazing characters, is her gift for taking a work that is paranormal or sci-fi and keeping it grounded in reality.  When Blue and Gansby inevitably meet, the obvious conflict in the story, the kiss, is offset by the highly engaging quest that these two, along with the other Aglinby boys undertake. Gansby believes that an ancient king is asleep along a powerful ley line, and that the one who finds him will be granted a boon.  Stiefvater takes this quest archetype and breathes new life into it by weaving previously exclusive sci-fi elements with a murder mystery and coming-of-age plotline.  Teenagers weary of the typical sci-fi/quest fare will take this brew and gulp it down! Additionally, the characters in this novel are highly engaging, believable and relatable.  For instance, Blue is an incredibly relatable character, even though she lives with an unusually eccentric family. Blue’s mother and aunts are psychic, and yet I never wonder at the skills of this brilliant hodge-podge of eccentric ladies who all live together in estrogen-soaked harmony. When Blue inevitably meets Gansby and his friends, these characters are equally riveting, if not relatable. I love Adam, the poor, tortured academic driven by ambition, and Ronan, the miserable teenager who loves a good fight, and even soft-spoken Noah—who I found to be as solid a character as his more flesh-bound friends...they each became real to me.  In fact, the more central characters, Blue and Gansby, receive less focus than secondary characters, and yet this works quite well for this story and builds the readers investment in the outcome.  Most readers can relate to the struggles of one character or another, in spite of the otherworldly events that take place throughout. Who hasn't longed for more money or struggled financially? Who hasn’t longed to be like someone else, or just to "fit-in"? Who hasn’t tried to try stand apart in order to feel special? Who hasn’t known of an abused friend or been abused themselves? And perhaps most importantly, who hasn’t found camaraderie in a group of diverse friends?  It is these elements that unify the story, lend it power and magnetism, and make it work. And it is these elements that will draw readers (and me) back to the next installment, The Dream Thieves, coming out in September of this year.

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