From the first page, author Maggie Stiefvater invites the reader into travelling the gloomy roads and hearty trees of rural Henrietta with their eyes wide open. A YA fantasy novel following Blue Sargent, cursed to kill her one true love with a kiss, the Raven Boys offers a delightful twist to exploring friendships and edging into the supernatural.
Despite being the only resident of 300 Fox Way without psychic abilities, Blue's personality is vivid from the prologue and every chapter thereafter. “She wasn't interested in telling other people's futures. She was interested in going out and finding her own.” Her first interaction with the Raven boys, students from the private (or privately pretentious) all-boys high school, is endearing in its awkwardness and comforting to all teens who've had similarly misfortunate first meetings.
Stiefvater's original take on friendships extends to characterization as well, where everyone has subtle nuances that play a crucial component in the novel's framework. Take, for example, Adam Parrish, whose interactions with the rest of the characters are thick with insecurity and rivalry, stemming mainly from his unstable upbringing. Although commonly detested by reviewers for "propagating a toxic mindset", Adam contrasts splendidly with the robust riches and confidence of the others, depicting a boulder heavy road to development. As the story progresses, the reader receives the privilege of enjoying his growth, as catalogued by the change in his tone.
Other characters, such as Blue's cousin Orla, are less purposeful in the scheme of deep socioeconomic conflict but are crafted cleverly nevertheless, involving the idea level of detail to create a concrete image of their identity, yet still remain focused on the main crew.
Beyond character is the brilliant setting of suburban West Virginia, which opens the gates for beautiful worldbuilding. The foreshadowing of magic into the modern location is breathtaking in its description and inspiring in its ingenuity. “At night, Henrietta felt like magic. And at night, magic felt like it might be a terrible thing. After dark, it felt like anything could happen.” The reader cannot help but buzz with the thrill of Henrietta's veil being stripped away to reveal what lurks beneath. Ley lines, the story's medium of the supernatural, are subtly introduced to the reader from the prologue, and as the concept swells to include colour changing fish and tenderhearted ravens, the concrete descriptions prevent any event from even bordering on ridiculous.
Taken as a whole, Stiefvater's The Raven Boys is an evocative story for teens to submerge themselves in the labyrinth of visceral prose and excellent characters. The writing style is ethereal and reads like a dream, leaving pages turning without notice. With an imaginative cast of characters, showing rags, riches, religion and reconnaissance, there's a sense of sitting in a room bursting with personalities in every scene. Whether it be Adam and Blue, Orla and Maura, or Gansey and Ronan, it is only a question of who the reader resonates with, not if.