The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, Scholastic Press, 2012, ISBN: 978-0545424929
Nothing will squash your interest in boys quicker than a warning from your psychic mother that your first love will die if you kiss him. 16-year-old Blue Sargent has heard this all her life and as a result tries hard to avoid potential romantic partners. When she sees the ghost of Gansey, a boy who attends the elite private school nearby, in the annual parade of the future dead, she is alarmed. Should she tell him he only has one year to live? Could he be her first love and thus a fulfillment of her mother’s prophecy?
Gansey, it turns out, has been following his own crowd of dead people. He thinks he’s discovered a nearby ley line, which will allow him to connect with past and awaken the “sleeping” Welsh king, Glendower, who will grant him a reward. Helping him are a motley crew of friends, including, Adam, a poor boy on scholarship at the Aglionby, Ronan, a belligerent fighter about to be kicked out of school, and Noah, a strange figure who appears and disappears with growing frequency. When Blue finally meets the boys at a psychic reading, they form a bond. Blue decides to help them in their quest to find the ley line, not knowing that someone close to them is desperate to find it first. As they get closer to their goal, Blue struggles to tell Gansey what she’s seen and whether it means that he is her first love.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should probably state here that I am not a big reader of fantasy. For a great blog focused on science fiction and fantasy, I recommend The Book Smugglers at http://thebooksmugglers.com. I like the kind of fantasy books that have one foot in the real world (think Daughter of Smoke and Bone or Everyday). Maggie Stiefvater’s books are very popular with our young readers, so I decided to read her newest to become familiar with her work. She is an excellent writer, and tells the kind of story that feels realistic to me, even though it involves the spirit world.
What I like best about this book is how it puts Blue in a difficult spot. She has information about the fate of another and deciding if she should tell him is a great internal conflict for her character to wrestle with. The fact that he may be her first true love only complicates matters. Stiefvater also juxtaposes the world of privilege that Gansey lives in with the less affluent world of the other characters nicely. (Gansey has access to a helicopter – that’s how rich he is). In some ways, Blue and Gansey live in worlds as separate as the living and dead, but they form an interesting bond through their devotion to their friends. Adam, Ronan, and Noah are all distinct and interesting, which makes their journey engaging to read. The plot is suspenseful and has a lot of great surprises as the kids come closer to learning the truth about their fate and their connection to the living and the dead.
Information about the author
Stiefvater writes on her author’s Amazon.com page, “After a tumultuous past as a history major, calligraphy instructor, wedding musician, technical editor, and equestrian artist, I’m now a full-time writer living in the middle of nowhere, Virginia, with my charmingly straight-laced husband, two kids, four neurotic dogs who fart recreationally, and a 1973 Camaro named Loki. I’m also an award-winning colored pencil artist, play several musical instruments (most infamously, the bagpipes), and recently acquired a race car.”
Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction
Reading Level / Interest Age
Grade 9 and up