It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.
Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.
His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble
Opening with an Edgar Allen Poe epigraph, I immediately connect The Raven Boys with the Southern Gothic literature movement. Characterized by its broken characters, social realism and fantasy elements I've always felt this genre fits perfectly within the YA spectrum. In The Raven Boys, New York Times Bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater has cleverly combined the Southern Gothic tradition with vivid characterization and a modern edge to create a novel that is unlike anything I've read this year.
The plot develops nicely throughout novel in an observant third person point of view. There is a level of maturity and complexity in Stiefvater's writing. Each word is carefully crafted to form a coherent mood and image.
In the small town of Henrietta,Virginia the sons of the wealthy who attend Aglionby Academy are known by the town as raven boys. Named so for the raven crest embroidered on their sweaters; they are like the Rich Kids of Instagram with their fancy cars, expensive clothes and propensity for causing trouble on their parents dime.
Richard Gansey,III appears to be doing everything, but fitting into this behavior. He is the product of old Virginia money, but instead of using his wealth on parties and trouble he uses his status on an obsessive pursuit for a magical ley line he believes will lead him to the tomb of a dead Welsh king.
His journey seems endless until he and his friends meet up with Blue Sargent, the daughter of the local psychic who lives with a harem of other psychics in a small house in Henrietta. Despite her efforts, Blue doesn’t have any real psychic abilities and teaming up with Gansey gives her the chance to be useful. Even if it means breaking her steadfast rule not to get involved with raven boys. Tangled up in all this mess is the knowledge that Blue knows Gansey will be dead within the year and it will be her fault for either loving him or killing.
I was really fascinated by the character of Gansey. Despite his eccentric, borderline obsessive hobby Gansey is very down to earth. His biggest flaw is his constant need to help everyone. Gansey believes it’s his personal responsibility to ensure of all of his friend's happiness and health. He lives in this abandoned building, and wants nothing more than for all his friends to live with him at his expense.
There is an undercurrent theme about money and wealth in this book. Gansey’s friend and fellow raven boy, Adam Parrish, is a scholarship student from an abusive home in a trailer park who likes being Gansey’s friend, but refuses to take any of his handouts. Seeing this battle of wills between Adam and Gansey is a struggle that adds a layer of tension to the story. Especially when Gansey nonchalantly throws money to fix a problem without realizing how it affects others. And at times it is hard to pick sides because Adam is a little too prideful and Gansey is a little too charitable.
Towards the end the scenes and revelations were starting to come all at once and the last half felt claustrophobic with plot. The ending is simply amazing, it’s both a nice resolution and spine chilling cliffhanger that leaves you on the edge of the page.
The Raven Boys cleverly combines social issues with a delightfully gothic plot and a lush fantasy story. It is easily one of my favorite books of the year.
* Received galley from Scholastic at Book Expo America