The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.20

Summary:

It is now time for our resident Flower Boy to ride his rusty bike over to Monmouth to MAKE TROUBLE! Or, actually, to be quietly angry at Ronan for making trouble instead of doing his homework. Let me set the scene:

Adam is struggling with the kickstand of his bike, which is very old and the only way he is able to get around to his numerous jobs. Ronan is struggling with his BMW, inherited (well, stolen) from his father, so that he can build a ramp and possibly wreck his car for no other reason than the fact that he’s bored. Adam does not have enough time to contemplate the concept of boredom. Ronan is failing his classes. Adam is pissed. Meanwhile, Noah is wandering around being altogether too adorable to ever be mistaken for a teenage boy, mirroring the utter dysfunction of the three of them:

Ronan climbed to his feet and they both turned to watch Noah working with the plywood for the ramps. Working with really meant staring at. Noah had his fingertips ten inches apart and he looked through the space between them to the wood below, perplexed. There were no tools in sight.

(I included that quote because everyone else seems to be reacting just as bemusedly as I am, it has 0 plot significance.)

They’re trying to answer two questions: how do you build a ramp with no tools, and should Adam call Blue? Ronan is being stupid about both problems. He definitely has a chainsaw in his room (the tool not the bird) that could easily be used to cut wood up for the ramp. He’s also being rude about Blue, which is a conflict of interest for me because I love all three people involved in this situation—even though Ronan insists on being a shit to both Adam and Blue.

But for Adam, it’s something deeper, and we finally get the whole picture: Two years ago, Adam tried to buy toothpaste and canned ravioli at the grocery store with his mother’s debit card. The card got declined because the account had insufficient funds, and there Adam was, watching an Aglionby boy with a buzz cut grab his food quickly and easily. He acknowledges that it couldn’t have been Ronan specifically, but he also knows that it doesn’t matter. Ronan would’ve moved through the supermarket with that same attitude and privilege, and that’s what Adam wants. That’s what he needs.

That day wasn’t the only reason he’d decided to fight to come to Aglionby. By it was the catalyst. The imagined memory of Ronan, careless and shallow but with pride fully intact, and Adam, cowed and humiliated while a line of old ladies waited behind him.

He wasn’t that other boy at the register. But he was closer.

And so he decides to do his best to project that confidence, demands Ronan hand over his phone, and calls Blue. You go, Adam. Go after what you want but cannot have for reasons out of your control! I believe in you, buddy.

Of course Persephone picks up the phone, and, instead of saying hello (like a normal person), she just goes “Adam?” Imagine calling someone else’s number for the first time, when you’re not even using your own phone, and someone calls you by your name. That’s spooky as hell.

So Adam asks if it’s Blue, and Persephone is like “no dude it’s Persephone and I guessed right and Orla you owe me ten dollars.” She calls him “Coca-Cola T-shirt one” and gives us THE BEST nickname for Adam that comes out of all four books of the series. I love how one fashion choice not only defined this boy forever but also caused me to buy my own Coke T-shirt for $15 at my local Old Navy.

Anyways Persephone knows Adam is calling for Blue and goes to get her without being asked, which is nice of her. Their conversation is very sweet. I’ll give you the highlights.

“It seems busy there.”

“It’s always busy here. There are three hundred and forty-two people who live here, and they all want to be in this room. What are you doing today?” She asked it very naturally, like it was the most logical thing in the world for them to have a conversation on the phone, like they were already friends.

It made it easier for Adam to say, “Exploring. Do you want to come with?”

Ronan’s eyes widened. No matter what she said now, the phone call has been worth it for the genuine shock on Ronan’s face.

They hammer out the details, and by that I mean Adam informs Blue that means they’ll be riding in a helicopter because Gansey is the kind of person who can just charter a helicopter whenever he wants with absolutely no problem. Blue says that she’ll come, because she’s Blue.

They don’t call it a date but they don’t call it not a date. I for one don’t care what it’s called, so long as the Gangsey can get together for a fun family outing before Ronan succeeds in building his ramp and subsequently totals his car. This is a win for everyone involved.

Thoughts and Feelings:

The emotional roller coaster this chapter took me on was pretty jarring, to say the least. Usually the transition from fun and lighthearted is done with more finesse than this. I think it’s because we usually have outside factors to shift our attention: a comment, a wasp, a fistfight. This time is was just that Adam was having a bad day and Ronan was being so undeniably and infuriatingly Ronan. It was just a tough sell, for me, to go from Ronan talking about Blue chopping off nuts to angsty grocery store Adam so fast. 0 to 100 in one paragraph.

I think this might be, for me, one of those “kill you darlings” situations. It’s clear to me that Stiefvater thought a lot about Adam’s backstory and understood the reasoning behind his choices. She wants us to understand Adam’s frustrations with Ronan the same way she does, and this incident is a manifestation of that anger. She probably really liked this scene, and I understand why—there’s some really beautiful phrasing and imagery in it. It feels real. I just don’t think it had to be here. I wouldn’t necessarily want it 100% gone, I just don’t think it fits where it is in the plot. This scene might have been Stiefvater’s darling, and a favorite of hers to write, but in my opinion it needed to be killed from this scene. Trust in the reader to understand why Adam feels resentment towards Ronan without spelling it out for me.

I don’t want to be too harsh, because I do really love this chapter. Noah is fantastic throughout, we get a great sense of Ronan’s paradoxical childishness (aka the iconic line, “Ramp. BMW. The goddamn moon.”), and the Adam/Blue phone call is more than I could have asked for. But all of the things I liked about it were light, and I would’ve liked to have seen them without needing to delve into the deep and existential soup that was the middle of this chapter.

That’s the only beef I had. Thanks for indulging me; I don’t often get to complain about the words Stiefvater puts on the page. It’s refreshing. Next up, HELICOPTER!

Best character moment:

Adam lifted his eyes to the sky. He thought he could hear Gansey coming. “Mountains. How do you feel about helicopters?”

There was a long pause. “How do you mean? Ethically?”

“As a mode of transportation.”

“Faster than camels, but less sustainable. Is there going to be a helicopter in your future today?”

Best turn of phrase:

Even the way the other boy had moved, Adam recalled, struck him: confident and careless, chin tilted, an emperor’s son.

Action: Ronan and Noah never finished their ramp, Adam never figured out his kickstand, the helicopter has not arrived. All the real action happened in Adam’s head—it’s a slow day so far. 5/10

Magic: Persephone and Orla not only forgo caller ID because they’re psychics, they are also not above betting over who’s calling on the phone. That’s magic used right. 8/10

Comic relief: As much as I love Ronan joking about Blue cutting Adam’s nuts off and Blue’s comparison of helicopters to camels, the middle of this chapter did not hold up its end of the comedic bargain. 7/10

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