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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
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.
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 & Scariness
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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.
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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.
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Products & Purchases
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.
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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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.