Once a 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!
This month's book pick is Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater, though this is really an ode to the entire Raven Cycle series.
Blue Lily, Lily Blue is the third book in what (I think) will be a four book series called the Raven Cycle, which started with The Raven Boys followed by The Dream Thieves.
Synopsis (from Goodreads): There is danger in dreaming. But there is even more danger in waking up.
Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs.
The trick with found things though, is how easily they can be lost.
Friends can betray.
Mothers can disappear.
Visions can mislead.
Certainties can unravel.
Highlights: It's hard for me not to get all fan-girly when I talk about Maggie Stiefvater's writing. She is, without a doubt, one of my all time favorites, and the Raven Cycle series highlights the many reasons why.
In The Raven Boys, Stiefvater does a flawless job of setting the stage and the world for the books to come. The story is set in Henrietta, Virginia, where Blue Sargent lives with her psychic mother and their associates. The Raven Boys is the nickname for the boys attending the wealthy and prestigious Aglionby Academy, and Blue has spent all of her youth avoiding them. That is, until she meets Gansey, Adam and Ronan.
Stiefvater is the perfect example of a confident writer. She expertly places readers into the southern town of Henrietta, never explicitly telling readers about the undercurrent of magic, the ley lines or Gansey's quest to find and wake the king that may be buried somewhere in the Henreitta hills. She shows us these things little by little, letting the world unravel for readers one page at a time, until you're completely immersed and accepting of the magical elements in the story. While concepts like psychics and magic are commonly used in YA, this story feels completely unique, and the elements of magic are used in ways I haven't experienced in other paranormal/magical realism books before.
Stiefvater is also an expert at character development. Every character in the book is layered and distinct, with clear motivations and unique voices. Which is no easy feat given the number of characters she introduces us to.
With series, so often I find that the second and third books never quite live up to the expectations set by the first. Not so with The Raven Cycle series. Blue Lily, Lily Blue was as good, if not better, than The Dream Thieves which was better than The Raven Boys, which on its own was a phenomenal read. And each story, while building on the central plotline developed in the first book, has it's own distinct sub-plot, which I found to be a refreshing approach and made each book independently enjoyable.
My only criticism is that I still have to wait a year to find out how the series will end.
Notes for writers: Pay attention to the way Stiefvater introduces us to the magical elements of the story. There's a lot to be learned from her effortless way of world building via showing.
A good read for: Fans of paranormal and magical realism looking for something new and different. Writers looking to get a better grasp of world building, showing vs. telling, and confident writing.
Have I mentioned how much I love this series? And while I'm gushing about Maggie Stiefvater, let me also recommend The Scorpio Races, The Wolves of Mercy Falls, Sinner, and pretty much anything else she has ever written.