The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.31

Summary:

Welcome back, folks! It’s time for a rare yet unfortunate Blue-less chapter, in which the central conflict is that Ronan is the only one enjoying the present because everyone else is still too worried about his future. Cue emotional angst.

Aglionby has a day off of school but the local public school doesn’t (you know what they say: the more you pay, the less you go, and it’s pretty much true). This means Gansey can go home for his mother’s birthday, Ronan can get drunk in his bedroom, and Adam can catch up on homework and feel sad about the fact that nobody’s around to hang out with. If Noah were there his problem might be solved, but ever since they discovered his skeleton he’s been feeling extra ghosty.

Adam remained at Gansey’s desk, scratching at some Latin homework, aware that the light that came in the windows didn’t seem to light the floorboards as well as it ordinarily did. The shadows shifted and clung. Adam smelled the mint plant on Gansey’s desk, but he also smelled Noah—that combination of his soap and deodorant and sweat.

It’s a beautifully haunting scene, made even more so by the gross reminder that no matter what teenage boys do or how much soap they use or if they’re literally dead, they will always have to contend with an underlying smell of BO.

Instead of answering Adam when he asks how he can help, Noah goes full cat and knocks the mint plant off Gansey’s desk. The police don’t have any leads and the Gangsey isn’t telling them about the Mustang they found (finally, the caution and weariness of adults I expected) because it might lead them to Cabeswater. It doesn’t seem like there’s anything they can do, beyond talking to Noah when he shows up, which has Adam in a foul mood. When there’s a knock on the door that reveals itself to be Declan, the day gets even worse.

Declan’s looking for Ronan, and although Adam gently steers him back out the door without any physical alteration, he doesn’t get spared the news that Ronan’s getting kicked out of Aglionby for bad grades. Declan’s blaming it all on Gansey, which doesn’t make any sense because it’s not like he’s a college consultant that Declan paid to sneak Ronan onto USC’s crew team. Gansey promised he’d help Ronan, but if Ronan doesn’t give him anything, there’s nothing Gansey can do. And Adam agrees with me! He tells Declan as much, and I am so very proud of him.

Declan’s parting words are “no Aglionby, no Monmouth,” and we all know that if Ronan had to live with Declan he would land in jail for murder in less than a week, which is what Adam calls Gansey to explain. Gansey’s having a horrible terrible no good very bad day as well, and we catch him as the argument over that stupid plate Helen bought his mother is heating up. I’m tired of that plate and so is Gansey, so he moved into his dad’s fancy garage and we get a discussion of how rich Richard Campbell Gansey III really is.

Most important, his father’s cars were all famous in some way: they’d been owned by a celebrity or been part of a movie shoot or had once been involved in a collision with a historical figure.

Gansey settled on a Peugeot the color of vanilla ice cream that had probably been owned by Lindbergh or Hitler or Marilyn Monroe.

In my copy of the book, there is a post-it note stuck next to this scene that reads: “THIS IS SOME RICH BULLSHIT” and I stand by that statement. Things only get richer and more full of bullshit when Gansey calls the guidance counselor of Aglionby Academy and offers him a $30,000 donation and a very sweet story in which Ronan has become like a brother to Gansey and like a son to his parents. Or, as another post-it past me wrote put it, “this sweet moment is ruined by the rich bullshit.”

But the bribery works! Ronan is allowed to stay at Aglionby if he gets B’s in his finals and stops being an asshole, both of which are long shots but possible with a lot of training and positive reinforcement. And then, like a physical manifestation of Gansey’s rich guilt, his father shows up to make fun of the Camaro and extend the metaphor to include each man’s vehicle.

The garage door opened on the Camaro, parked directly in front of them, blocking their exit. The Pig was low and defiant and rough around the edges in comparison to the demure, self-contained, always smiling Peugeot. Gansey felt a sudden and irrepressible love for his car. Buying it was the best decision of his life.

Hot take: what’s a Peugeot? Okay, I just googled them and honestly they’re kind of ugly. Expensive, but ugly. Which makes sense, because if you thought the garage full of cars wasn’t a ridiculously extended metaphor, you’ve got another thing coming:

A car was a wrapper for its contents, he thought, and if he looked on the inside like any of the cars in this garage looked on the outside, he couldn’t live with himself.

Oof. If only Blue was as omniscient as this narration, then maybe we can stop hearing about how every word out of Gansey’s mouth oozes money and power. Or at least we could get out of this ugly car and do what this chapter’s very last post-it note requests of us: “I vote we go back to Cabeswater!!”

Thoughts and Feelings:

I always forget that our protagonists attend an incredibly difficult Ivy League prep school. When chapters like these force me to remember I long for the simplicity of the third book in the series, Blue Lily, Lily Blue, in which it is summer vacation and I don’t have to deal with any of this. But then again it’s important that Gansey’s bribing his guidance counselor and Ronan is being a shit and Adam is lonely. I so often extoll these characters for the beautiful things they say and do, because they’re all deeply compassionate and empathetic people who are all trying their best to do good things. But I wouldn’t love them nearly so much if they weren’t deeply flawed as well, which is where this bribe comes in.

As for the scene in the garage, I don’t know much about cars but I do know plenty about Maggie Stiefvater. Or, at least, enough to have heard that she loves old cars and probably knew what a Peugeot was without having to google it like I did. This scene didn’t hit as hard as it could with me because my first car (which wasn’t even mine, I could only take it about ¼ of the time my brother did because he had infinitely more friends than I did in high school) was a 15-year-old Chrysler minivan. The check engine light was on for all three years I drove it around, and it was still on when we scrapped it last summer. So, no, I can’t understand the subtleties of car metaphors, and I wasn’t particularly interested in hearing what Gansey, Sr. had to say about them. But I did like what the chapter revealed about Gansey, so I guess that’s a win.

Best Character Moment:

On the outside, he knew he looked a lot like his father. On the inside, he sort of wished he looked more like the Camaro. Which was to say, more like Adam.

Best Turn of Phrase:

The apartment felt oppressive without anyone else in the main room. Part of Adam wanted to lure Ronan out of his room for company, but most of him realized that Ronan was, in his unappealing and unspoken way, grieving for Noah.

Action: I mean, the biggest fight was about a three-thousand-dollar bronze plate. I don’t know what else to say. 4/10

Magic: Noah is using his ghost magic to act like the apartment cat. As nice as that is, I wish he was back to being one of the apartment humans, but I guess we can’t have everything. 7/10

Comic Relief: Gansey’s family is so rich it makes me laugh. Everything they do is gold plated and futile. I don’t know if I can call that comedy, per se, but it sure was funny. 5/10

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