The Raven Boys
Published September 18, 2012
416 pages (hardcover)
I saw a rant on Book Riot recently entitled “Let’s Avoid Defining Beach Reads.” It is a denouncement of the “Great Beach Reads” display tables at Barnes & Noble (and the like) that include “an excess of travel lit, a lack of tragic historical, a great and overwhelming fiction theme that includes the sun on covers, and many violent thrillers that end in chase scenes.” The idea, of course, is that you can read all kinds of books “even on the beach.”
Yeah, yeah. We should all be reading Pulitzer Prize winners all the time. Life’s too short for a bad book and all of that. We get it. But here’s the thing: it is officially summer. In Atlanta, that means temperatures in the 90s (and above) with wicked, oppressive humidity. For nearly three months of the year, it is miserable outside. I’m sorry, but I just can’t handle something like The Orphan Master’s Son right now. It’s too much.
Beach reading is and should be escapist reading. When I’m staring at the ocean, trying to forget how freaking hot it is, “tragic historical” isn’t going to cut it. I don’t want to read about massacres or war or sadness. I’m all for fun, light, easy vacation fare! Somehow, that fluffy, mindless reading makes summer more bearable. Is it quality literature that you are going to gush about and gift to friends? No, probably not. But, sometimes, you just need a book with a shopping bag on the cover to help take you away.
So, what does great summer reading look like for me? Books like Mermaids in Paradise and Skios: silly, farcical romps that are breezy and laugh-out-loud funny. Sweet and charming best-sellers like A Man Called Ove. Quirky, cute, creative, and highly readable books like Where’d You Go, Bernadette. And, of course, fun, page-turner YA books that are post-apocalyptic (like The Hunger Games) or magical (like Harry Potter) or supernatural (like Beautiful Creatures).
The Raven Boys falls squarely in the last category. A girl named Blue lives with her mom and a bunch of other women (aunts, friends, etc.), all of whom are psychics. Blue lacks psychic powers, but she has a different weird ability: her presence makes others’ psychic powers stronger.
On April 24, St. Mark’s Eve, Blue accompanies her aunt to a nearby church. That night every year, psychics can see the soon-to-be-dead. Everyone in town who will be dead within the next year appears at the church. Blue has been to the church for the past ten years on St. Mark’s Eve to help others see the dead more clearly, but she’s never seen anyone herself. Until this year. For the first time, she is able to see someone: a kid her age. His name is Gansey (“just Gansey”), and he’s a “Raven Boy”–Blue can tell by his distinctive Aglionby Academy uniform. Not long after St. Mark’s Eve, of course, Blue meets the real (still alive) Gansey, and their lives become immediately and oddly intertwined.
I was certain I would enjoy this book. It seemed like perfect YA summer fluff: quick, light reading that’s a little dark (death, murder) and a little supernatural (spirits and psychics and such). It had a similar feel to Beautiful Creatures–weird family with supernatural powers in a Southern town. Not to mention, it’s set in Virginia (my home state). All the better! And, to top it off, this book has average ratings over four stars on both Goodreads and Amazon.
Sadly, I did not enjoy it as much as I had hoped. Here are some of the notes that I scribbled while reading:
- “Hastily written/edited”
- “Random twists/turns that don’t make sense and don’t further the story”
- “’Magical’ to the point of being silly”
- “Just a set-up for 2nd book”
Blargh. It is rare that I read a book and don’t find at least one typo. But when a book has multiple grammatical errors (Coming Clean is an example that springs immediately to mind), it makes me cringe. Allow me to share a few examples from this book:
- “ . . . a favor for which Gansey would not soon stop being grateful for.”
- “Usually, Gansey would’ve basked once more in the odds of Ronan of finding a raven . . .”
- “What it did was make him look was more fragile and dirty . . .”
- And the absolute worst: “have drank” was used. My skin crawls.
Reading a book riddled with errors is tough. For me, it breaks my reading flow drastically. I read and re-read the erroneous sentences multiple times, trying to make sense of them. It’s annoying. And unacceptable. A book this sloppy is not worth reading.
Another beef that makes me feel like a broken record: YA series books that do not stand alone. This book (which is, not surprisingly, part of a trilogy) has no resolution, many bizarre open ends, and odd little twists thrown in at the very end to entice you to read the next book in the trilogy. I learned my lesson reading Divergent: if the first book is bad, chances are the next books aren’t going to be any better. I’m done with this trilogy. Sorry, Raven Boys.
- Bram Stoker Award Nominee for Superior Achievement in a Young Adult Novel (2012)
- Carnegie Medal in Literature Nominee (2014)
- Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2015)
Who should read it: Skip this one. But don’t write Maggie Stiefvater off altogether. I actually enjoyed (and breezed through) her Shiver Trilogy. It’s cheesy YA fluff (werewolves!), but sometimes that’s delightful. And I’ve heard great things about The Scorpio Races, so that will remain on my reading list.
Want to read along with me? A review of this book is coming soon:
- Church of Marvels by Leslie Parry (an Indie Next List pick for May 2015)