Tuesday, 19 July 2016

'The Raven Boys', by Maggie Stiefvater

Title: The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1)
Author(s): Maggie Stiefvater
Release Date: 19th September 2012
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: YA
Source: Bought

Even if Blue hadn't been told her true love would die if she kissed him, she would stay away from boys. Especially the ones from the local private school. Known as Raven Boys, they only mean trouble.

But this is the year that everything will change for Blue.

This is the year that she will be drawn into the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys. And the year Blue will discover that magic does exist.

This is the year she will fall in love.

Starting this series has been one of the things that has been 'haunting' me for years. Everyone and their mothers seem to love it. I, however, have had mixed opinions about Maggie's books in the past, and was fearful of the same occuring with a series that seems to be the most loved by her fans.

As much as I tried to escape that, I ended up with nowhere else to go.

From the blurb you will probably gather that this is Blue's story, and while that is not exactly a lie, this is really about the titular Raven Boys as much as it is hers. The extended central cast of the story, however, is incredibly confusing (mainly due to the immense lack of racial diversity, which made it very difficult to tell characters apart).

I had read from several reviews that the beginning of the book was tough to get through, and so I persevered when I found myself going back pages because I had no idea what was going on. The writing is incredibly beautiful (which I have come to expect from Maggie's books, and is the reason I keep going back to them even after unfortunate experiences) but also odly unusual. This entire book can be read as an introduction to all the characters, and it almost feels like a profile show where each gets a spotlight at a certain point and we get to know just a little bit about them, before it gets interesting and the light jumps to someone else.

While this 'tease and go' game is fun and keeps the interest up when you are starting a book, it becomes incredibly frustrating as the reading progresses. More than halfway through the book I still didn't really know what was going on, and the only thing that kept me going were really the characters and the relationships between them.

I was very happy to see Blue in a positive all-female environment. She lives with her mother and other psychics, and even though they all have different levels of involvement with Blue, you can tell how they all are important to her in their own different ways. While a lot of their conversations do revolve around boys (either the Raven or the sex in general), this book would certainly pass a Bechdel test, which I always take as a vital ingredient of any book!

The Raven Boys themselves are quite an unusual bunch, and that is what makes them so interesting to study. What I most wanted to know was how these completely opposite boys came together to form such incredibly strong bonds, and while I got some answers, there is still a lot out in the open (this is only the first book of four, after all). Reading this book so long after its release I know there is LGBT representation in the group, but sadly that is not very evident in this first book. Going into it knowing you can definitely pick up on hints, but if you are not aware of it you could easily miss it.

As for the plot, that is where my positive opinion of this book starts to waver. Mainly, because there is not much of it. You could easily summarize the main events of the plot in a few sentences, and it made for a very, very slow read. I thought I would make my way through this book in a flash, and it took me weeks. This is highly due to the focus I previously mentioned being mostly on the characters and their interactions, and while that is an interesting way to go about it, there should still be something happening. And, when things do happen, you're not exactly sure why. In fact, you are not told the reason behind the entire quest of this group of people, and it becomes infuriating. Yes, it is the first book in a series, but if the reason is to be kept a secret, teasing at it so many times is just cruel.

After all the teasing that takes place in this book, having the revelations be so obviously deductible was yet another aspect that made this somewhat a disappointing read for me. There was nothing in the progression of this story that made me gasp in surprise or wonder where it had come from. The foreshadowing jumps off the page from the moment you see it, and sometimes I wished there was a bit of fog and curves in this very straight and clear road.

The end (and by which I mean the literal last sentences) was the most random and out of place I have ever seen in a book. This might be the foremost aspect that people will not see coming (I will not count this as being predictable because I had already known about that 'secret'), but revealing it in such a misplaced moment made it into nothing more than a forced cliffhanger.

This might have been yet another case of mismanaged expectations, but I definitely wanted a lot more out of this book. I absolutely loved the writing, the characters, the relationships between them and the humor (if Maggie Stiefvater knows how to write one thing, it is definitely good banter), but sadly not enough to want to dedicate the time that it would take me to finish the series.

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