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Goat Heads and Sand Burrs, P. Kirby's Reading Blog

The good, bad, and fugly books I've read.
The Raven Boys (Raven Cycle, #1) - Maggie Stiefvater Since I just merrily flayed Shiver, I figure I should explain why The Raven Boys was a big win for me.

Writing this up a few weeks and couple of novels after reading The Raven Boys and my sieve-like memory doesn't remember the details...

In a short, I loved the whole ensemble cast - a la Scooby Gang, or Goonies, or even Firefly (TV Show) -- group of friends against the world vibe of The Raven Boys. Honestly? It could be I'm just thrilled to read a YA novel that wasn't about a boy and a girl falling in love. (Of course, you could argue that's because I have a habit of picking up stories with a strong romantic subplot, and ego, I should quit my bitch'.)

Blue Sargent has a bit of a problem. She's a teen, and as such, burdened with glorious hormones and no doubt destined to kiss a boy one of these days. Trouble is, her psychic mother and aunts tell her that if she were to kiss her true love, he would die. (Seems to me, the aunties are making a big hetero-normative presumption. What if Blue was a lesbian? She's not, but what if?)

Gansey, privileged rich boy from the local prep-school, Aglionby, has his own set of problems. First being his roommate and friend Ronan. Gansey has a mother-hen tendency, which is challenged by Ronan, a rebel-without-a-cause type who can't stay out of trouble, or stay in school. Then there's Adam, the kid from the wrong side of the tracks who attends Aglionby on scholarship, and who spends his spare time dodging (unsuccessfully) his drunken father's fists, all the while stubbornly refusing to take any help from Gansey because...pride. Gansey's other roommate, the quiet Noah, isn't so much a problem, as an odd and ghostlike presence in the band of four.

In addition to trying to manage Ronan and Adam's rather self-destructive tendencies, Gansey is on a mission to find the resting place of a mythological Welsh king. Said Welsh king is like a genie in a bottle. Wake him up and he'll grant you a wish. Despite what the novel's blurb might insinuate or the fact that the story begins with Blue's POV, it's really Gansey who is the primary protagonist, and the search for the dead king, not romance, that drives the plot.

The lives of the four boys and Blue intersect, when Gansey, at an impasse in his search for the lost king, seeks out the help of Blue's clairvoyant family. Blue's mom, making the classic mistake of every mother of a teenager, tells Blue she can't associate with the boys. So naturally, in no time, Blue and the guys are BFFs, on the quest for snoozing Welsh kings.

Their quest is complicated by a bit of a murder mystery, as well as Adam and Ronan's personal dramas (and Gansey's desperate need to save them from themselves).

The nifty thing about the story is that all four boys, even the peculiar Noah, have distinctive and vivid personalities. Blue's characterization is probably the weakest, with her serving more as an observer in the drama than an actual protagonist. Which is one of my primary critiques of the novel. It would have been better served by beginning the story with a Gansey POV chapter and introducing Blue later, since she is primarily the point in a love triangle, her backstory and situation being no where near as complex as the dynamic between Adam, Gansey and Ronan.

Point of fact, the relationship between Adam, Gansey and Ronan is the strongest aspect of the narrative. With Gansey struggling to be more than the boy of privilege set comfortably on the path of life, and expressing this desire through his devotion to Ronan and Adam. Ronan, an emotional ruin after the death of his father and deteriorating relationship with his older brother, seems to be seeking slow, self-imposed oblivion; his only interest in life being an orphaned raven named Chainsaw. (Fuck, I'll read the next sequel just for Chainsaw. I'm a sucker for a cute critter.) Then there's Adam, who is proud to a fault (as in, I wanted to reach through the pages and smack the shit out of him), refusing to move out of his abusive home, because doing so will make him beholden to Gansey.

The antagonist is obvious early on, and the murder mystery is only such to the characters, not the reader. Fortunately, unlike Shiver, stuff actually happens in The Raven Boys, and the narrative is moved along by the strong emotional conflicts between the characters and within themselves.

I like angst and The Raven Boys delivers.