The Raven Boys:The Raven Cycle, Book 1

Book review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
The Raven Boys:The Raven Cycle, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Popular with kids
Imaginative, twisty tale explores magic, friendship, money.

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 16 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

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.


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.


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 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.


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.

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 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bymauraj1 March 14, 2015


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, c... Continue reading
Parent Written byDebora A. March 16, 2018

I loved this series

I really loved this series of books. Maggie Stiefvater is an amazing story teller. It takes a while for the story to get going, but it’s worth the wait. I enjoy... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old July 14, 2019

A long in-depth review.

Alright. I know, I'm 12. I'm going to break this down. So, I said this book is 14+, and I read it? Well, hear me out. This book is stunning, the whole... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bytheladyawesome April 10, 2019

Huge pacing issue marred the brilliant ending.

There is a huge pacing issue that I did not expect at all. As the first chapter was fairly well done in terms of beginnings, I had expected to be immediately bo... Continue reading

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?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy and romance

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