A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Raven Boys is the first in a series from best-selling author Maggie Stiefavter (The Scorpio Races, Shiver) called The Raven Cycle. Like her other novels, the story tackles a fascinating legend -- here, the sleeping king myth -- and couples it with an exploration of small towns, class tensions, father-son relationships, and unconditional friendship. The romance is much subtler/milder than in her other works, but there's a fair amount of mature language and violence (a bloody fight between an abusive father and his son is particularly disturbing, as is the description of a teen's death). Paranormal elements such as ghosts, spells, palmistry, tarot-card reading, and sorcery are all mentioned at length, as is the story's central myth. The protagonist is a strong female character learning to balance her lust for life with her sheltered -- ableit unconventional -- upbringing.
What's the story?
Maggie Stiefvater's THE RAVEN BOYS is a difficult book to summarize, but to put it simply, it follows 16-year-old Blue Sargeant, who's the daughter and niece of clairvoyants. She's not one herself, but she helps amplify the powers of those around her. For Blue's entire life, she's been told that her kiss will cause her true love to die. On the night of St. Mark's Eve, when those who will die during the upcoming year file through a cemetery in an annual ceremony, Blue sees the ghost of a young man -- something that can only happen to a non-seer if "you're his true love ... or you killed him." The boy is Gansey, an Old Money Virginian attending the town's posh boarding school, Aglionby Academy. Having stayed away from boys her whole life, Blue is drawn into the mysterious world of Gansey and his three best friends: quiet Noah, broken Ronan, and ambitious scholarship kid Adam. Blue and the Raven Boys (the school's mascot is a raven) help Gansey with his obsession of finding the final resting place of an enigmatic medieval Welsh king, and the quest leads the five of them to make life-changing discoveries about the paranormal world.
Is it any good?
Some authors' writing is so flowery it appears self-indulgent; Stiefavater is one of very few YA writers who knows how to marry gorgeous turns of phrase with character and plot development. Every metaphor, theme, or lush image has a specific purpose in the story. Like Australian YA author Melina Marchetta, Stiefvater's stories are full of complex characters and multiple storylines that are all important to explore. The four titular Raven boys aren't your typical clique of best pals; they're a complicated bunch of friends. Each has enough psychological issues to deserve his own book (and with three more installments in the series, we'll obviously learn even more about each one).
The most interesting contrast is between the two obvious possibilities for Blue's love: Gansey, whom she sees in her vision and is the driving force behind the search for Glendower's ghost, and Adam, whom she was initially attracted to and who so desperately wants to use his intelligence to leave his trailer-trash background behind and join his best friends in their world of easy privilege. Blue is a fantastic guide into the world of the Anglionby boys. She's been surrounded by her mother and other clairvoyant women her whole life and wants to experience true friendship and adventure -- even if it means risking her heart and the life of her eventual true love. Beautifully written and compellingly paced, this is a unique series that both teens and adult readers will find riveting.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how use of the paranormal in The Raven Boys differs from that in other paranormal teen books. How does the author use ancient myth and historical elements? Does this story make you want to delve deeper into the sleeping king legends?
What are the benefits of reading a story with multiple points of view? Which of the characters do you find most compelling?
Do you think having a lot of money would be a blessing and a curse, the way Gansey perceives it? Are stories set in boarding schools relatable?
- Author: Maggie Stiefvater
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and fantasy, Adventures, Friendship, Great girl role models, Misfits and underdogs, Monsters, ghosts, and vampires
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
- Publication date: September 18, 2012
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 17
- Number of pages: 416
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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