Monday, July 9, 2012

YA Book Pick: The Raven Boys

On the second Monday of every month, we choose an outstanding YA book to review. We want to spotlight books of interest to aspiring writers, as well as highlight some of our favorite books and authors!

Synopsis (from Goodreads): 
Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

From Maggie Stiefvater, the bestselling and acclaimed author of the Shiver trilogy and The Scorpio Races, comes a spellbinding new series where the inevitability of death and the nature of love lead us to a place we’ve never been before

First Line: “It was freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrived.”

While the passive voice has been (has been=passive) frowned upon by many writers since Strunk & White’s attack on it in Elements of Style nearly a hundred years ago, many writers make passive sing as Stiefvater does in her opening line.

The power and danger of the passive voice is that it is passive, and renders its nouns passive as well. Here, the passive “was” removes the power from the churchyard; she then juxtaposes an active “arrived” immediately following the passive churchyard empowering those who are arriving: the dead. That move immediately sets the tone that those in power here are the dead. So subtle. So well done.

The verb unpower play here reminds me of my all-time favorite use of the passive voice: James Joyce’s Dubliners. Joyce de-activates his verbs as a political warning to his fellow Dubliners that they are losing voice and power to the Brits. His culminating story in the work haunts like Stiefvater’s opening line as it is aptly entitled “The Dead.” Both also use a haunting cold to prime the reader for fear, which I like.


I was delighted by her plot twists. I was surprised multiple times, and each time it felt as though I should have seen it coming, a tough thing to pull off. Having grown up with all brothers in a neighborhood of boys, I also liked being surrounded by a pack of well-drawn guys, each fitting a different archetype: a trope perfected by One Direction, BIg Time Rush, The Jonas Brothers, Backstreet Boys, In Sync, NKOTB, and the like, but done far less cheesily here.

Notes for Writers: 

Signing at ALA
Stiefvater wrote a spine shivery fun book, but she also was able to weave in some timely and interesting thematic elements really naturally. A lot of the dystopian novels have been playing with the big questions of our day by taking them to their worst natural conclusion as is the job of dystopia; here Stiefvater also tackles a big question, but through character development.

Much of the tension in the pack of boys here is derived from an economic gap. Readers may wrestle with issues of the 1 percent-ers and the 99 percent-ers through the subtle and overt friendship struggle between best friends on either side. Interesting that the book will be released a few months before a presidential election that may be won or lost on how candidates treat the economy.

A Good Read For: Fans of Maggie Stiefvater (obviously), but also anyone who likes a good ghost story, is into astrology, or who grew up on Harry Potter and now wants to spend time with a bunch of rich boys and the quirky daughter of psychics helicoptering through forests in search of power.  

The Raven Boys will hit the shelves September 2012
She signed both for me. So nice!

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