Tuesday, July 2, 2013

If Books were Rock Stars

Sometimes, when I go out at night to hear a new band playing somewhere I'll be listening to the opening act and I'll think "These guys are pretty good. I wonder why they're not headlining." Then the headliner will come out and deliver something so much more powerful or subtle or technically perfect or otherwise imbued with such awesomeness that I'll be left thinking, simply, "Oh, that's why."

The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater was like that for me. It's a book so rich and strange and funny and, above all, spooky, that as soon as I started it, it left my previous summer reading--good books, all--feeling like inferior warm-up acts, humbly packing up their gear while the real show got underway.

Blue lives with her mother and some aunts, all of them psychics. A problem with living with psychics is that they may tell you things about your future that you don't necessarily want to know. In Blue Sargeant's case, it's that if she kisses her true love , he will die.

For Blue, though, this is not a huge problem. She simply swears off boys.

Although she is not psychic herself, her mother and aunts all depend on her to do their work. When Blue is around, the psychics feed off of her energy and can better perform their readings. This is why, on the eve of each St. Mark's day, one of the psychics takes Blue with her to watch the souls of the soon-to-be-dead walk past. The event reveals who amongst the people of their small southern town can be expected to perish within the next year. Blue never sees these souls, until one St. Mark's eve, when one reveals himself to her. He calls himself Gansey and he wears the uniform of one of the Raven Boys, those who attend Aglionby, the town's prestigious private boarding school.

Blue's aunt explains to her that the only way a non-seer could see one of these souls on St. Mark's eve is if the soul is her true love, or if she is the one who kills him. Or, of course, both.

Gansey hails from a fantastically wealthy, old-money family. As such he is among the most privileged of the set of highly privileged Aglionby students. But Gansey cares little about his status. His life is dedicated primarily to his quest to unearth the buried body of the ancient Welsh king Glendower who will grant a wish to whoever finds him. Gansey is convinced that Glendower is somewhere near Aglionby. In addition to squandering his wealth on this quest, Gansey has befriended and leads a group Aglionby misfits who help him chase after clues. These include Adam, a poor but brilliant scholarship student; Ronan, a dangerous and tortured orphan; and Noah, mysterious, reclusive and spookily wise.

Soon Blue's path intersects with the boys' and their quest turns into a thrilling tightrope walk, death always just a misstep away.

The magic in The Raven Boys is the kind that's steeped in folk tradition, making it seem all the more eerie and real. But beyond that, Stiefvater has a gift for revealing and exploring the real angst of the young, no matter whether they are wading waste deep in their parents' money or working multiple jobs to make ends meet. The Raven Boys is about the class strains of the American South as much as it is about magic. Of course, as a top notch YA novel, it's also about the difficult of growing up and making your way in the world.

The best part, though? The sequel to The Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves, is due out shortly. September 17, to be exact. Not a long wait at all.

I'll be reading a lot of great books this summer, but part of me will camped out until fall, waiting for tickets to the next big show. Check back here for my review of The Dream Thieves.

Cross-posted at Critique de Mr Chompchomp

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1 comment:

Man of la Book said...

Nothing like a good summer reading. Glad you enjoyed this book.