I finished The Raven Boys yesterday, so these are my first, fairly unedited thoughts about it.
First of all, although I finished it yesterday (and, in fact, read pretty much the whole second half of it yesterday), I started it a while ago. I actually started it in e-galley, then re-started it on audio, then finished it in print. So I think it’s clear that I wasn’t immediately taken with it. It definitely grew on me, though, and I raced through the last half.
When I finished, I went back and re-read the beginning. I think it would stand up to a re-reading, and I’ll do that someday, when I have time.
But for now (and since we don’t care about spoilers here), I’ll just say that I was completely gobsmacked by the identification of Noah as a ghost–despite the fact that in Chapter 4, in only the second time he is mentioned, he introduces himself to Declan’s girlfriend by saying, “I’ve been dead for seven years” as a way to explain his cold hands. So either Stiefvater is very, very, good or I am completely oblivious (and I suspect it’s a bit of both).
But I bring that up, because it was at that point that I began to realize that Stiefvater was dropping hints all along and that there were probably lots of other things going on that I didn’t realize.
I really liked Blue as a character. So many characters–especially girls–in YA novels are mostly concerned about fitting in, and about not revealing the weirdnesses and differentness of themselves or their families. And, of course, this is true of many teens in real life. But there are also teens like Blue, who basically embrace the weirdness–and frankly, if you live with a houseful of female psychics, that’s probably the wiser choice! But Blue really does know who she is, from her funky clothes to the artwork in her room, to her psychic “magnification” ability. This makes it possible for her to fit in with the Raven Boys, despite her Rule #2, to “stay away from Aglionby boys, because they were bastards.”
Gansey is another fascinating character, and he also felt very true to me. Near the end of the book, after he brings Adam home from the hospital and he and Adam fight, he says, “My words are unerring tools of destruction and I’ve come unequipped with the ability to disarm them.” Sure, he’s self-pitying, but he also knows himself and his own weirdnesses, as when, a few pages earlier, we are told (by the omniscient narrator) that “Just then he hated his raven-breasted uniform and his loud car and every three- and four-syllable word his parents had used in casual conversation at the dinner table.”
Actually, pretty much all the characters are well-drawn and well-developed.
Although this is the first book in a series, I think it stands wonderfully on its own. Of course, there are some pieces that are not resolved–the whole Glendower thing, Blue’s father, Neeve–it was wrapped up satisfactorily in my mind.
Right now, this one, much as I (eventually) liked it, isn’t rising to my top 5 of the year, but I’ll have to sit with it for a while, and possibly re-read it.
Meanwhile, I’m off to read some of the Morris and Nonfiction Award finalists. I’ve only read one of the Morris finalists (Seraphina) and two of the Nonfiction Award finalists (Bomb and Titantic). At least I had heard of all the Nonfiction finalists. Two of the Morris finalists were completely new to me!