Welp. 5 stars. Hard to believe I almost didn't finish The Raven Boys, huh?
But oh man. Ooooh man. There is something so magical about Stiefvater's storytelling ability that I'm actually really disappointed that I didn't appreciate it right off the bat. I was so caught up in digging around for the plot and trying to find something relatable about the main characters that I completely forgot to put some trust in the author and simply sit back and enjoy the ride. And I have to share something that I'm actually a little embarrassed to admit at this point: in the beginning, I didn't like the writing.
Yep. *Insert ashamed face here.* Much like your typical YA romance, I hated it with a passion when we were first introduced. I thought it was dry and pretentious. I thought it was broody and arrogant. I thought the plot was unrealistic and slow. (I actually stand by this. It was slow. Only now I realize it was more of a slow burn rather than just, well, slow.) And then, something magical happened.
I fell in love.
As I mentioned in my review for The Raven Boys, I read half the first book (exactly half, actually) and I couldn't get through any more. I put it aside for a solid four months, and continued on my way. But the thing about this series it that it couldn't be ignored. As difficult was it was for me to read The Raven Boys, I didn't want to not finish it. I'd heard too many amazing things from reviewers I totally trust, and it sounded like so much my cuppa tea that I just couldn't completely abandon it.
Then, while browsing one of the audiobook sites my library provides, I stumbled across The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves in audiobook format. I reluctantly decided to borrow them, thinking: aw, shoot, what the hell? I'd never listened an audiobook before, but I had a free weekend, a house to clean, and a giant pile of laundry staring at me from the corner of my bedroom, so I figured it might be a good way to ease the pain of spending my weekend cleaning house.
And man, was my house fucking spotless by the time I finished the first book.
Believe it or not, I kept looking for more chores to keep me occupied while reading. Er, listening. Whatever.
Those wonderful, mysterious Aglionby boys began to feel like brothers, quirky Blue Sargent began to feel like a little sister. Stiefvater's world felt so real that I swear I could reach out and touch it. Her prose swept me off my feet; her descriptions had me searching for beauty in cigarette clouds and dust motes and exhaust fumes. The interactions between the characters had me gasping, grimacing and giggling, sometimes all at once. One of my favorite scenes in the book is this:
Ronan's bedroom door burst open. Hanging on the door frame, Ronan leaned out to peer past Gansey. He was doing that thing where he looked like both the dangerous Ronan he was now and the cheerier Ronan he had been when Gansey first met him.(show spoiler)
"Hold on," Gansey told Adam. Then, to Ronan: "Why would he be?"
"No reason. Just no reason." Ronan slammed his door.
Gansey asked Adam, "Sorry. You still have that suit for the party?"
Adam's response was buried in the sound of the second-story door falling open. Noah slouched in. In a wounded tone, he said, "He threw me out the window!"Ronan's voice sang out from behind his closed door:
Ahaha. And this. THIS. Show me where someone, anyone, has ever come up for a more clever way to say THIS, and I'll... I'll... I don't know. I'll something, though:
She wore a dress Ronan thought looked like a lampshade. Whatever sort of lamp it belonged on, Gansey clearly wished he had one.
Ronan wasn't a fan of lamps.
I love that so, so much. That little slice somehow manages to tell you so much about the characters without even really saying anything at all. This has got to be one of the best-written, most well-rounded novels I've read in a long time. There's isn't much about it that screams in your face, the beauty is subtle, just like the humor and the romance and, at times, even the plot. I actually can't wait to get a chance to re-read both the books in this series. I have a feeling I missed out on a lot of little hints and nudges --(show spoiler)
I highly recommend that anyone who likes this sort of thing give this series a try. It's undoubtedly a YA series, though maybe it would be better characterized as mature young-adult. (Is this a thing? It should be a thing.) I appreciate the well-placed fucks (thank-you, Ronan) and nods to realistic teenage stupidity -- from drinking to drugs to drag-racing. I felt like all the characters were so much more teenagery in this novel than the first, and I think that a large part of this is due to the fact that this book takes place during summer vacation, while the group was still in school for the first. Something about the summer and being young, wild, free, and all that jazz.
So, if you haven't read this and you're thinking maaaybe, I say give it a shot. And if you're having trouble getting through the books, try out the audiobook. Serious.
Plus, hearing it narrated in a wonderful, twangy Henrietta accent? Worth it.