Sunday, April 10, 2016

Babbling Fansquee Review: The Raven Boys

The Raven Boys

by Maggie Stiefvater
Book 1 of The Raven Cycle

Goodreads ~

Rating:  5.0 Stars

*Personal Aside on 4/10/2016:  In 2013 I started reading The Raven Boys with only one thought in mind:  "This is probably another paranormal romance, but I got it at a discounted price from Kindle books, so whatevs."

When I was done reading The Raven Boys, my mind was totally blown.

The below review is exactly what I posted at Goodreads and then later on transferred to BookLikes without any changes.  This is only because the review isn't so much a review as it is just a long, rambling meandering of squee.  There is no other way to describe this review:  It is definitely a squee.  So there is hardly any way I can edit it and still convey my squee--although for this particular post, I DID include some slight polishing.

So thanks for dropping by and giving this post a read--if you can be patient enough to get through it.  With that, I leave you with this multi-purpose gif.

And also I ♥ Gansey!

On June 6, 2013, upon finishing this book, Ani wrote a short squee.

I really liked this one. Review to come when I get my thoughts together after my vacation. On that note, ready for the next book... RIGHT NOW.

Also, I'm sure I love Gansey.

On August 11, 2013, upon finally gathering thoughts, Ani wrote the review... or sort of.

And yes, this review took quite some time for me to get around to, but that happens cause I'm a professional procrastinator...

But here it is:

I believe that once in every random while you come across that one book which is perfect for you, personally, in every way.  And in that particular book and with that particular author, you get to experience everything you’ve ever loved in any story.  From the characters and their development, to the writing style and progression, with a nice healthy dose of each and every one of your favorite genres and sub-genres, an intriguing story line, and finally a nice sprinkle of witty humor throughout the entire telling (at least humor you personally appreciate)... In particular, the author just happens to create the perfect group of characters with the right amount of development, unique personalities, witty banter, and relatable interactions, and so on and so forth...

It just totally makes your day!

I’m not a professional when it comes to the written English language, story creation, or even inspirational ideals in writing.  I like what I like.  Many others may not agree.  And as far as I can tell, (despite this being a book released in 2012 and I hadn’t necessarily been anticipating it before), The Raven Boys is thus far sitting at the top ranking out of all the books I’ve read this year. (I am currently crossing my fingers with all hopes that the second book coming out this year will be just as great or even better.)

Because while reading The Raven Boys, when I suddenly found myself smiling like a giddy fool at the humorous dialogue, or fawning over something that just gets me RIGHT THERE, or even pinpointing the exact point in the story where I exclaimed, “Well, I really love this boy now!”, I know I’ve been sucked into the world of our little makeshift friendship group slash family of spiritual ley line hunters.  It’s a delight, even, when you hadn’t been expecting much from the book in the first place since the dinky little summary provided doesn’t even really do the true story line of The Raven Boys any justice.

Honestly, I thought I was just going to be stepping into some young adult paranormal romance with a mixing of magic stuff and maybe an attempted mystery. Well, the tagline was intriguing enough: “There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.” Coupled with that, you even get a rather ominous first sentence in the prologue: ”Blue Sargent had forgotten how many times she’d been told that she would kill her true love.”

Death prophecies almost immediately at the beginning? Dark and moody atmosphere? Hook, line and sinker!

I promise I’m not psychotic or anything, but really, what a way to get my attention. The rest of the book is written in a way that conveys an almost melancholic, dark setting, yet at the same time it’s laced with enough youthful energy that the balance is wonderful. Side characters came to life with their own lush backstories despite the fact that they’re not center-stage. I’m not sure I found even one character I wasn’t at least mildly interested in, because they each carried their own weight so well.

But there was so much more to the story despite it being rather tame anyway; and to be totally honest, it’s the mystery pitch as well as the character interactions that make this book "GO" for me. I love character interaction and when there is great character interaction, I swoon like a shameless fangirl. I’m chuckling and re-reading lines, I’m highlighting and making notes of my own reactions, I’m bookmarking and slapping my thighs because the dialogue definitely DELIVERS.

ANY book that has the ability to make me laugh out loud already gets an automatic star since I’m a sucker for great humor of the dry sarcastic, yet nonsensical variety. I’m an even bigger sucker for banter that just makes you think about it and why it makes you smile in such a dopey way. There are random one-liners thrown out by our characters that make me make this "O.o" blinky face and have to pause for a moment. Things catch you by surprise if you read through too quickly, making you backtrack to reread some parts only to realize: “Huh, that was good. That was really good.”

Most importantly (to me), there’s a development of sorts for our characters in their own lives as individuals, and then as well as with each other, either as a new friendship between Blue and the boys, or as old friendship between the boys among themselves. Everything just sort of falls into place just perfectly enough for me that here I am, trying to shamelessly plug to everyone how much I really LOVED this book, without even really giving enough reason aside from: These are just the elements of a story that gets me in all the right places.

My opinions don’t even start to talk about the story plotting and what the book is about at all (not that I ever bother to relay any brief, paraphrased summaries in my reviews anyway, so whatevs). And this review doesn’t do justice to people wanting to know why I loved this book so much.

I wish I could say more about The Raven Boys.  I wish I could analyze the crap out of the dialogue, the action, the mystery and whatnot, but the fact of the matter is, I really, really, really, really enjoyed this book A LOT.  It was just THAT simple.

And all of these paragraphs... well, they might just be moot.

There have only been few other books in the past that had all the pieces I loved in all the right places for me, personally (Harry Potter series books and Book of a Thousand Days are recent ones from recent years). It’s been a long time, actually, that I’ve come across a book that just hit on all the elements I love about storytelling.

Today, this book is The Raven Boys, and I hope to anything in the universe that I will continue to enjoy the rest of the series as I have loved this first book.


And now on a separate tangent altogether....

Why I love Gansey:

While Blue Sargent was certainly the main character in this book, and while her character and development and quirky personality was lovable and relatable, the true star character who stood out for me was none other than Richard “Dick” Campbell Gansey III -- or just Gansey.

To be totally honest, I don’t even really know what it is I love about him.  To many others, he’s the entitled, spoiled rich boy with ivory tower ideals and an extraordinary mission.  If this were the fantasy or medieval world, he’d be THAT prince with nothing better to do in his life than to accomplish some self-serving task he’s given himself.  And of course, this task also ends up being something so huge that it affects so many other things and people in the lives around him.

Self-serving Prince maybe needs to find a new hobby that doesn’t involve ghosts, evil spirits and death.

But that kind of description of Gansey is just the basis of his characterization in this time frame. There was so much more depth to Gansey than even I expected to come across, because, to be honest, it hadn’t been until much further into the book that I started appreciating how much I felt I could relate with Gansey compared to the rest of the characters. I began to see a wit and an intelligence in this spoiled rich noble that made me really think about him as another person WITHOUT his defining characteristics.

And what did I end up finding? Honestly, I’m still not quite sure.

Gansey is a boy who shuns away from his father because (as is typical of a lot of more noble rich brats) he doesn’t like the way his father operates life.  However, he also doesn’t seem to shy away from taking advantage of the fact that he’s a Gansey--that his power is a very highly influential playing card in getting what he wants for the sake of the people he cares about and for the sake of his mission.  Which brings us to the fact that while Gansey is a carefree boy who has his life set, he also seems to be a boy who wants to live life like everyone else.  He wants to have true friendships and he wants to be able to take care of his friends.  He desires that deep companionship that comes along with a set of friends bonding over a common cause.  He loves his friends and would do anything for them, and yet, at the same time, said friends are either making it hard for him to accomplish this task, or said friends will shove him away, criticizing him for trying to work life into his own liking.

I know it sounds like Gansey really is nothing but a nosy busybody.  It sounds like he DOES like having all of his “ducks in a row”, so to speak.  It sounds like he’s just another rich boy who likes to see things occur for him in his own ideal way.  He sees life happening in one direction, while others see him trying to force life to happen in that direction.  He just tries too hard to make life around him into “his” perfect, ideal world.

Things like that can get rather annoying for someone like Gansey who seems to be lacking in tact or social skill.

But there is no denying that underneath all of that ignorant, bumbling naivete, Gansey has a very big heart.

Gansey has had a life-altering moment that we see in flashback.  And because of this life-altering moment is why he’s so dead set on finding the ley lines and pursuing an entity who can grant him that one favor.

I might be making excuses for this boy.  In a certain light, anyone can see that he’s just another rich boy.  But to me, for any amount of odd reasoning, I just really fell in love with him.  In certain aspects, he’s an arrogant dumbass who needs to check his mouth before he talks.  He certainly needs to really think about what he’s saying to whom.  But in a way, isn’t it kind of unfair to him to force him to walk on eggshells around his friends just because they get offended easily?  Because they’ve already classified Gansey in the same exact light that a random stranger would classify him?

I’m usually one of the last people to take the side of the standard rich boy, because, honestly, they’re all the same as... say, Ronan.  You’ve got money, you’ve got power, you’ve got your life set for the rest of your life (and maybe even the hereafter).  But you’re destructive and arrogant and troublesome and you’re still unhappy with your life and under-appreciative of what you have.  Granted, I like Ronan too, but that has more to do with his latent dark humor and wit than it has to do with his actual personality, ‘cause he’s a Grade A Asshole, from what I can see.

And maybe that’s just it.  In a very rough comparison, Gansey has all the same defining characteristics as Ronan, as any other typical rich boy depicted in every other book.  Except, rather than being a thorn in everyone’s side as some emo drama king, Gansey actually tries.  He tries to be everyone’s friend.  He tries to see the positive side of things.  He's genuine when he tries to keep everyone happy; when he works so hard NOT to offend even his closest friends.  He’s trying so hard to make something of his life outside of being a rich and powerful Gansey.  He’s trying to take care of his friends because he cares about them.  Again, he’s just trying to make everyone happy.

He’s such a noble idiot that you can’t help BUT to fall in love with him.

It’s a rather interesting dynamic.  Because I personally hate everything about his defining characteristics: rich, entitled, powerful, carefree, ignorant.  He’s got a very stereotypical rich boy dilemma in which he’s expected to behave and react in certain ways.  And I’m also not much a fan of the noble idiot’s naive, frustrating ideals about life.

But you give Gansey enough of an uncertainty about himself, enough of a big heart when it comes to others, enough of an unexpected ambition for some mission in his life, and enough of his charming wit and humor and intelligence and somehow, I’m now obsessed with him.

In a nutshell, there are reasons why I love Gansey and there are reasons why I shouldn’t. And there they are. And I lean towards loving him.

This review was originally posted at Goodreads in August 2013.

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