The Raven Boys, Take Two

Mom,

I’m interested that you had problems getting into The Raven Boys, because I just devoured the whole thing in under 24 hours.  I was hooked pretty much from page one, which was really shocking to me because (as I think you know) I have not been a fan of Stiefvater’s work in the past.  Was there anything in particular that stopped you from getting into it, or were you just in the wrong frame of mind for it?

raven_boysOn to specifics.  I, too, was gobsmacked by Noah’s ghosthood, but not by the fact that there was a secret about Noah.  I thought it was pretty clear that Stiefvater was hiding something about him–there were too many times when he . . . disappeared (!) while the other three boys were off doing something important. But I thought it would be that he was going to turn out to be a bad guy of some sort.  I too noted the “I’ve been dead for seven years” line, but thought it was just a wry joke of the kind that a somewhat depressive teen might make (btw, I don’t have my copy right now, but I seem to recall that when they find out that Noah is a ghost there is a certain amount of calculation on Noah’s part to figure out that it’s been seven years–is this a continuity error, or am I wrong?).

Like you, I was very impressed with the character of Gansey (among others – Maura and the aunts were all well-drawn, as were Blue, Adam, and Ronan).  That line about three- and four-syllable words rang really true for me: I have often gotten in trouble with people thinking I am being overly pretentious or purposely talking above them by using “big” words, so I know exactly what Gansey was talking about in being ashamed of himself for it.

I’m a little surprised that you think the book stands by itself apart from the coming sequels. I certainly don’t hold it against the book that it is the first in a series (and I would definitely defend it in an awards argument against that charge), but I thought when compared to some of the other “first” books we’ve been talking about this year (I’m thinking specifically of Seraphina and The Diviners), this was the one that left the most open questions.  Aside from the fact that I will read anything Libba Bray or Rachel Hartman has to offer, I would be perfectly happy if either of them decided not to write a sequel.  With Raven Boys, I think the sequel is required.

So now that I’ve finished reading the Pyrite Printz shortlist (and reread four of them), here’s my preliminary ranking of the ten titles (we’ll see how the discussion changes my mind):

  1. Brides of Rollrock Island
  2. Ask the Passengers
  3. Bomb
  4. The Diviners
  5. Seraphina
  6. Code Name Verity
  7. The Drowned Cities
  8. The Raven Boys
  9. The Fault in Our Stars
  10. Every Day

SeraphinaBut, speaking of Seraphina – yay Morris Award! There was apparently a lot of speculation as to whether Hartman was eligble (something about some self-published material? I really don’t care about those kinds of issues enough to have looked into it) so I’m glad they decided it was.  I have not yet read any of its competitors for the Morris, although I failed miserably in an attempt to read After the Snow, and read maybe a chapter of Cameron Post.  Probably not going to go back to those.  But I have been looking for an excuse to read Wonder Show, so I guess this is it.  The last title, Love and Other Perishable Items, I only have heard of because I ordered a copy for my library.  Didn’t even remember that it was a debut.  I’ll definitely be taking a look at that one.

Other than that, it seems that I am wrapping up my reading for the year.  I’m already well on my way into 2013, by virtue of my various reviewing gigs, and I’ve actually been able to reread a few 2012 titles (including Ask the Passengers – still awesome), a topic (rereading) which I may post about soon.  I’ll see you soon for your birthday (readers: wish my mom a happy one on Saturday!).

– Mark

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3 Comments

Filed under Books, Teens

3 responses to “The Raven Boys, Take Two

  1. Jen J.

    So, I was going to comment on Sarah’s post first, but didn’t get there soon enough….
    I totally understand about this book starting slowly. I think it was exacerbated for me because I listened to it. I got to about disc 2 (of 10) and thought, slow starter. Got to about disc 4 and started to wonder if anything was ever going to happen. Was very relieved when on disc 6 things actually got going and from there things moved consistently. I thought maybe it was just me, or the audio, so I asked a co-worker who I knew had the print copy and she had to return it because it was taking her so long and there were holds. She had gotten to just before Blue shows up for the helicopter ride which was about the end of disc 5.

    I felt like the second half of this book was great and the whole thing definitely worth reading, but that the first half knocked it out of awards contention. Too much setup for the series as a whole slowed that first half waaay down. I did think overall Stiefvater did an excellent job of balancing plot threads that needed to be completed in a single volume and those that needed to be left hanging for the next.

    The line about Noah’s hands being cold because he had been dead for seven years stuck out for me immediately. I thought that even if this was Noah’s sense of humor, it was weird that neither Declan nor the girl (blanking on her name, sadly because I hope she shows up again – she intrigued me) treated it like it was odd. And they never talked about what classes he was in. Also, the Noah never eats bit at the pizza place. And despite going through how Adam and Ronan met Gansey, there’s never an explanation until things start being revealed about how Noah became a part of their group. I was really pleased that there was a reason for all of these things that at first appeared to be holes. What I did not put together at all, is that Noah was Czerny (sp? audiobook and all) and I wanted to kick myself when that was revealed because it seemed so obvious. I didn’t twig to that until we learned about Gansey and the bees.

    Perhaps if I had the opportunity to reread it, the pacing would work itself out for me, but I have so many more books to get through first (still missing four from the Someday shortlist – 3 of your top 5!; the Christmas Drama at my church is currently eating big chunks of my free time)!

    • Sarah Flowers

      Jen, I think you nailed it on the slow start. Although, as Mark says, when I went back to the beginning after aging finished it, I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was wrong the first time.

  2. Mark Flowers

    Thanks for the thoughts Jen. I more than trust your and my mom’s opinion that it was a slow starter. I guess I was just in a reading mood the day I read it, or was interested in the world, or something. Unfortunately, a slow start is the kind of thing that actually becomes *more* difficult to see on a second read (since you know where everything is going), so I don’t think I’ll be able to pin it down for myself.

    The listening thing is interesting. I don’t listen to very many books but I have found that sometimes listening to a book can help you make it through a slow starter, but sometimes its the reverse. Not sure what the difference is, since (as I said) I haven’t done enough of it. Maybe my mom or someone else who listens to a lot of books could weigh in.

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