The Raven Boys

Common Sense Media says

Imaginative, twisty tale explores magic, friendship, money.

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Educational value

Teens will learn about the sleeping king myth, in this case about medieval Welsh ruler Owen Glendower (the last Welshman to rule as Prince of Wales), whose final years remain a mystery and whose final resting place is of pivotal importance to the plot. The potentially divisive issue of class, not always discussed among kids, is depicted in a believable way in a private boarding school setting. 

Positive messages

Friendship, class, and power are major themes. The rich Raven boys, Gansey in particular, have no concept of money or what it means to those who don't have it, so instead they value loyalty, unconditional friendship, and the promise of power. Father issues are also mentioned again and again: Blue doesn't know hers; Gansey respects but doesn't want to be like his; Ronan loved and lost his; and Adam wants to get away from his abusive one. Romance is a somewhat foreign concept to the main protagonists, who aren't experienced in love.

Positive role models

Gansey is a fascinatingly complicated character. He's the ultimate one-percenter, but he's willing to do anything and everything to take care of his friends. But things always come too easily for him, and he needs to be in control. Adam, as the only scholarship kid of the bunch, is too proud to allow his friends to pay his way for anything; he needs to be his own man. Blue has many supportive women in her life.

Violence

The book's paranormal elements might be creepy for readers unaccustomed to the idea of clairvoyance, fortune-telling, ghosts, etc. Blue sees the ghost of a dead young man and becomes consumed with him and how she's implicated in his death. A group of friends is obsessed with discovering the spirit world. A young man has a frightening fight with his father, and it's the bloodiest of a few punches thrown in the book. A character is revealed to have killed someone, while another character isn't what he seems (he's actually dead). Grief-stricken and angry Ronan saw his father die and has kept aspects of it a secret.

Sex

Since Blue is cursed when it comes to kissing, she doesn't do much more than hold hands, cast lingering looks, and obsess over her visions of seeing Gansey and another of being affectionate with him. She's obviously torn between hardworking Adam, who was first attracted to her, and generous Gansey, who was in her visions.

Language

Language includes nearly a dozen uses of "f--k," more than a dozen uses of "s--t," "ass," and other words like "bastard," "d--k," "damn," "balls," "screw," and a few religious exclamations.

Consumerism

Brands are mentioned occasionally, but the only one that stands out is the Camaro that Gansey drives. Ronan drives a BMW, and a few other car brands are mentioned.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

The Raven Boys, Ronan especially, drink. Ronan drinks to excess and is known to get drunk.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Raven Boys is the first in a multibook series from best-selling author Maggie Stiefavter (The Scorpio RacesShiver), 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.

Parents say

Kids say

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?

QUALITY
 

There are many authors whose writing is so flowery that it crosses into self-indulgent, but Stiefavater is one of the very few in the young adult genre who knows how to marry truly 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.

Families can talk 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?

Book details

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
Number of pages:416
Publisher's recommended age(s):12 - 17
Available on:Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

This review of The Raven Boys was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

Find out more

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Kid, 12 years old February 15, 2015
AGE
13
QUALITY
 

Beautifully Written Book

The Raven Boys is an amazing, beautifully written book. Maggie Stiefvater really makes the reader want to continue reading by writing complex, interesting characters. The plot was very engrossing as well, and there were many twists that I didn't see coming. The five main characters are Blue, Gansey, Ronan, Adam, and Noah. There is some consumerism, but not enough to really impact a reader negatively. There is some violence as Adam is abused by his father, but not much of this is shown, and Adam stands up for himself and moves out, which is being a good role model. In this book friendship is also key. Adam and Blue are dating, but they don't kiss or doing anything past holding hands, so this isn't a concern either. What could possibly concern parents, though, is the frequent swearing in the book. Almost every character swears at least once, and for some characters, they swear almost every chapter. Because of this I think this book is appropriate for teenagers aged thirteen and up. I would really recommend this fantastic book!
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Parent Written bymauraj1 March 14, 2015
AGE
13
QUALITY
 

Dark

This novel is dark, deals a lot with paranormal, and was very difficult to get into. The first 200 pages or so were very slow. There is a lot of swearing, consumerism and domestic abuse. An abusive father beats his son, brothers fist fighting, etc. Sex is kept to a minimum. There is also quite a bit of swearing.
Teen, 13 years old Written bytwistedlover123 November 5, 2014
AGE
12
QUALITY
 
This book was just wow. Dark and Mysterious. Just with the perfect hint of romance. The characters are very well developed. I've read many of Maggie's books, and I'm not disappointed. I highly suggest for you to read this book.
What other families should know
Great role models

Poll

Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Digital Compass