The Raven Boys (Maggie Steifvalter)

The only thing weirder than growing up in a family of psychics is being the only non-psychic in the group. Blue Sargent is that girl, and she happens to (or is destined to?) cross paths with a group of boys from the local prep school; just the type of boys she always loved to hate. Her “Raven Boys” each come with a set of mysterious characteristics that she finds irresistible yet also hates to love. Gansey, the boy who has too much and is too much; Noah, the one who is most comfortable on the fringe; Ronan, the fiercely angry yet tenaciously loyal boy who always seems to be looking for a fight; and Adam, the one who wants only to be his own man.

ravenboys

First in a series of three (so far), The Raven Boys contains an adventurous coming-of-age sort of story but seems to mostly serve a foundational purpose for the full series. There are many notable moments that are presented as important yet never fully explained. Gansey’s obsession with discovering magical ley lines drives the plot, as well as the firmly repeated prophecy by Blue’s psychic family that she will kill her first love. These aspects, in addition to scenes of murder and abuse, make this story darker than some may prefer.  

The Raven Boys is a solidly compelling tale, though the emotional tone of the characters varies wildly. Just when it seems Adam has found his stride as a strong, independent boy, he takes a turn that indicates entirely the opposite. On one page, Gansey is in the clear leader of the tribe, tinted only by the angst that comes from unintentionally offending his friends; on another, he arrogantly seeks to do as he pleases regardless of the consequences. Blue is the most constant of the five and it’s no small irony that as the one who came from the family of psychics, she’s the most reasonable of them all.

I’d recommend The Raven Boys for 7th graders and up, given the harshness of the domestic violence contained therein. There is no explicit content and very few curse words, but the concept of ley lines, magic, and witchcraft will be off-putting to some. Stiefvalter definitely does something right with this book, however, because the characters are fantastically intriguing. Since its conclusion I have wondered incessantly what ever happened to Ronan, Noah, Gansey, Adam, and Blue...good thing I know where to find these and other great YA lit!    

 

Best books of 2015

You guys, I read so much last year. So much. More than I have ever read in one year...except maybe 2004 when I was in library school and had so many lit assignments I would literally be listening to an audio book while also reading a different book. It was every bit as crazy and ineffective as it sounds, but skimming two books at once became a whole thing for me in grad school. I usually set my reading goal somewhere around 30-50. Last year I went for the big 75...and blew that goal out of the water, I am proud to say! It took every ounce of reading focus I had, y'all. I was listening to audiobooks on my daily commute, reading ebooks through Overdrive on my phone and Kindle, reading books on my iPad, and also reading my way through the monstrous stack of books beside my bed. I read classics, nonfiction, emerging lit, young adult fiction, biographies...everything! It was a literary buffet.

 *Image from Unsplash under CC0.

*Image from Unsplash under CC0.

My 2016 goal is...100 books. One HUNDRED BOOKS. The hecto-fecta. If I pull this off, I may need a t-shirt like those marathon runners. Or perhaps a car sticker. Keep your 26.2, babe. I'll take the One-Zero-Zero hecto-fecta.

Best books I read in 2015 (I tried cutting it to a Top 10, but it was just too painful. Top 17 is the best I can do.)

Each of these made my list for a unique reason. For some, it was purely the quality of literature. For others, it may simply have been the significance of the book in literary history. Regardless, they're each worth your time!

P.S. I've mentioned my love for Goodreads a time or two already. If you're a reader or want to be a readers or don't know what to read or just want to know what people who do read read...hop on the Goodreads train. For avid readers, it helps you organize your books into categories, whether simple - think "books I want to read" and "books I already read" - or complex ("dystopian with female protagonist featuring a global natural disaster") and...the best part...you get recommendations from other actual people, not just what Amazon or the brick and mortars want to sell you.

What were your top 10...ish books in 2015? Fellow bloggers, please leave your links in the comments!


Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury)

Ever have those books that have been sitting on your "To-Read" list for, like, forever? The classics, that book everybody was talking about two years ago but now it feels like you're the only one that hasn't read it? For me, Fahrenheit 451 was that book. 

I mean, I went to library school for crying out loud. There is literally no excuse for my not having read this novel. I am surprised they gave me an MLIS without this on my list, as a matter of fact. 

So what's it all about? Well, it's a book about books...the role of books and knowledge and freedom of information in society. It's a book about censorship and how that works out for the world. It's about a dude named Guy Montag. 

Guy Montag is Fireman #451, just an ordinary fireman in futuristic American society. The thing is, in this time period that means firemen set fires instead of putting them out. More specifically, he sets fire to books. For that is what the firemen do in the year 2300-whatever...they exist to seek out and burn books. Books, they are told, make people unhappy because they make people think, and thinking makes people unhappy. Therefore, to preserve happiness and for the betterment of society, the books are banned and then burned. 

The "happiness" of society looks something like this: absurdly frequent suicide rates, immense depression, children killing their siblings, widespread substance abuse, a government that lies to its citizens about war, global nuclear anarchy, mothers who say their kids would just as soon kick them as kiss them, rampant abuse of animals, and people who refer to "the walls" (large TVs) as "the family."   

But then one night Guy Montag meets someone who somehow challenges him to think beyond the sad little box this dystopia has put him in. Eventually he transforms from Guy the book-burning fireman to a reading rebel who finds himself on the adventure of a lifetime, becoming the great defender of the very things he once had sought to destroy. 

Fahrenheit 451 is officially on my list of favorite novels, and wow it would be exciting to teach this work to a high school literature class. Also, Ray Bradbury? He must have been an actual, bonafide genius for penning this work way back in the yesteryear of 1953.    

Fahrenheit 451: A Novel
By Ray Bradbury