There was a reoccurring thought running through my mind while reading The Raven Boys: this is the book that young adult writers should strive to write. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater is a breath of fresh air that comes with clever writing, a fantastic narrative, memorable, complex characters, and a setting that makes you feel small in a large world filled with mystery and the unknown.
For as long as she could remember, Blue has been told that she will kill her true love. Among a family of clairvoyants, Blue has no powers, except that her presence strengthens the powers of others. However, one night a soon-to-be-dead spirit speaks to her, and he tells her two things: his name and “that’s all there is”. Following that night, Blue’s fate intertwines with the Raven boys – four boys who attend Aglionby, the local private school, but are much more than their pristine sweaters, prestige and wealth. Together, they develop friendships, discover ley lines, transcend our dimension of reality, and search for a long lost king.
The Raven Boys is one of those books that unfurls slowly; you gain a gradual understanding of the story, the characters and the paranormal elements of the book – similarly to how Blue comes to understand the four Raven boys and their unorthodox quest. This book is deeply imaginative and curious by nature. It felt larger than life, and the magic and power in the story felt beyond our realm of realism. It made me feel small in an infinite world and universe, with so many things that I don’t understand and possibly could never, ever conceptualize — and though this feeling may be unsettling, it reinvigorated a sense of curiosity and thirst for discovering new things in me. I like books that remind me that I am capable of having these feelings.
One of the biggest qualms I have with young adult writers is how they attempt to capture the psyche and voice of older teenagers; some lean towards angst, some lean towards confusion. However, Stiefvater’s characters are complex, burdened with ambition, focus, naivety, loyalty, stubbornness, and values and morals unique to their history. Her characters feel whole, real and authentic – especially Adam, one of the Aglionby boys, whose character development treads on very sensitive but necessary issues. More importantly, Stiefvater’s characters are relatable, and their struggles touch upon issues that teenagers may face – beyond what we may judge or assume at face value. Either Stiefvater remembers what it was like to be a teenager or she knows how to write deep characters and friendships that readers can truly empathize with.
For the first half of the novel, I had no idea what direction the story would take. There were so many mysteries and characters and motives converging towards the centre, and there are many questions left unanswered by the end of the book, which aroused my curiosity more than it disappointed me. Though how it ties together in the end wasn’t as exciting as the journey, the last words of the book left me feeling intrigued – enough that I’m inclined to give the second book a go in the future. (Was the ending a little cheap? A little. But given the context of the book and the nature of the genre, it worked.)
I often don’t say this, but if you read young adult novels and you’re looking for something worth your time, The Raven Boys is a must-read. It’s intelligent, well-written, has characters that you will grow to care about, and has a story that’s as inquisitive as you will be.
Book Name: The Raven Boys
Book Series: The Raven Cycle #1
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher: Scholastic Press