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.
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!