The Raven Cycle Reread: 2.06

Summary:

We start the chapter off having been thrown, rather abruptly, back into the thick of things at 300 Fox Way. And by “the thick of things,” I mean that Blue is getting ready for work and calling her cousin a phone tramp. I don’t know if that’s slang I’m missing or if it’s just a thing Blue likes to say, but either way I’m just happy to be included.

The argument stems from the fact that Blue is the only one in the family who doesn’t have to man the psychic phone line they run because, well, she’s just not a psychic. And apparently she’s now not the only one who gets an OOTD, since we hear all about Orla’s loud, skintight top and bellbottom jeans.

Blue’s inferiority complex is in full swing, too, since she’s a) not a psychic, b) much shorter than Orla, and c) the fact that Orla is cool without trying and she herself is only cool after Maximum Effort. But despite all of this (cousinly?) rivalry, I really do love watching Blue interact with other young people. Especially when they’re not Raven Boys, and especially when they’re ladies. Blue has too much teenage masculine energy and just the right amount of middle-aged feminine energy. Our girl needs some friends her own age, preferably that aren’t magic and obsessed with a dead Welsh king. You know, to balance things out.

But Orla is being annoying about Blue’s job and her lack of psychic ability and she has to go to work. But in trying to get Maura to intervene, she gets herself into a single card reading. It’s the page of cups. It’s always the page of cups, because in Maura’s deck, the picture on the card looks like Blue.

In this deck, the art was of a fresh-faced young person holding a jewel-studded goblet. The suit of cups represented relationships—love and friendship—and the page stood for new and budding possibilities. This particular bedtime story was one Blue had heard too many times before. She could anticipate exactly what her mother was going to say next: Look at all the potential she holds inside her!

Blue cut her off. “When does the potential start being a real thing?”

It all boils down to this: Blue doesn’t want to be a sidekick forever. I want to sit her down and show her the movie Sky High, a masterpiece in which high schoolers with superpowers are split up into “Heroes” and “Sidekicks” and when the supervillain turns all the adults into babies, it’s the sidekicks who end up saving the day and abolishing the distinction forever. I don’t know if that would make her feel better, but it is pertinent to the situation and it’s a pretty good movie.

Orla is too busy being a real asshole to watch anything, though; she keeps repeating Blue’s words back to her in a bad version of Gansey’s accent and making everyone involved self-conscious.

But it’s okay! Because when she gets to work, guess who’s already waiting for her? Yes, that’s right. It’s her boys ❤ And Blue looks at them and thinks about them and in a very heartfelt moment, she realizes that when she’s with them, she’s totally herself. It’s an amazing internal monologue and also very cute. But, back to the Gangsey:

Blue brought a pitched of iced tea to the table. “What’s that?”

“Jane!” Gansey said joyfully.

Adam said, “It’s a wizard in a box.”

“It will do your homework,” Noah added.

“And it’s been dating your girlfriend,” Ronan finished.

Perfection.

Blue does her job for a bit and, as she waits tables, gets the real explanation of the box and a demonstration of its powers. There’s also a moment where Adam touches her wrist and she gets mad at herself for not knowing what to do in response, and to that I would like to say: COMMUNICATE. It’s totally reasonable to be like “hey, I like when you do that, but I don’t know what to do back. What do you like?” Conversations are always a good idea and are necessary in any healthy relationship!!

Back to the story: Blue gets the chance to operate the box herself, and compares it to Gansey’s journal. She spends a split second attracted to Ronan’s mind, but it’s fleeting because I think she has an inkling about the gay elephant in the pizzeria. She’s just attracted to lavishly academic objects, it’s her thing. She couldn’t help herself.

This soap bubble of almost-attractedness pops when Blue accuses Ronan of knowing what the last language on the box is and he snaps at her.

It was true that this sort of venom was not unusual from Ronan. But it had been a very long while since it had been used so forcefully on Blue. She drew herself up, everything prickling.

Then Gansey said, very slowly, “Ronan, you’re never going to talk to Jane like that again.”

Blue, unconsciously flattered, lets Gansey know she can fight her own battles before heading to the hostess stand to seat a party. Little did she know, she’d have to be fighting a battle by herself almost immediately, because the person waiting to be seated is Kavinsky.

Let me tell you, this chapter is really raising the bar for who gets an OOTD. We hear all about his sunglasses and 2000s era spiked hair and his gross white tank top. Frankly, it sounds like he’s cosplaying as a character from the Sopranos, but I guess it’s supposed to be scary? At least Blue is, understandably, scared. He has a reputation for being able to procure pills or orchestrate violence for anyone with a couple bucks, and, well, he’s gross. Exhibit A:

“Hey, baby doll,” he greeted Blue. He was already standing too close, moving restlessly. He was always moving. There was something erratic and vulgar about the full line of his lips, like he’d swallow her if he got close enough.

Blue lets him know that she is not, in fact, his baby doll, but he doesn’t even pay attention. He’s on a mission to insult Ronan and co., and Blue is just in his way. There’s some talk about how Blue hates him for simultaneously ignoring her and treating her like shit, and also herself for caring. I’m here to jump in and say screw that mentality! That’s the patriarchy talking. Blue being like, “wow I hate myself for knowing he’s going to treat me like shit and yet still expecting basic human decency from him” is understandable but should be addressed and subsequently squashed. It’s not dumb for girls (or anyone, but in this case we’re talking about girls Blue’s age) to expect to be treated like people. /rant over

I’d try to describe what Kavinsky does to each individual Gangsey member, but it’s just way easier to put a quote in here, so excuse my laziness.

Kavinsky headed directly towards the large table in the back, and the postures of all the other boys changed drastically. Adam looked at the table with a studied disinterest. Smudgy Noah ducked his head down into his shoulders, but couldn’t take his eyes off the newcomer. Gansey stood, leaning against the table, and there was something threatening rather than respectful about it. Ronan, however, was the one who had transformed the most. Though his casual position—arms crossed—remained the same, his shoulders were knotted with visible tension. Something about his eyes was ferocious and alive in the same way that they had been when he’d launched the plane in the field.

Friendship, solidarity, gay tension. What more could you ask for?

Kavinsky only came over so he could give Ronan a bunch of leather bracelets that look exactly like the ones he already has on his wrists, which is wrong on so many levels (wait for thoughts and feelings, guys, this summary is too long already). He touches Ronan’s head without asking and then bounces, and everyone feels gross and inadequate. End scene.

Thoughts and Feelings:

This chapter is so Blue-centric and it makes me a happy bean. There’s so much to love about Blue, most of all that she’s complicated and self-aware, and this chapter showcases those traits really well. From what I remember her relationship with Orla continues to be contentious and hilarious throughout the rest of the book, and I’m excited about that. As for the rest of the chapter, there are some scenes that I want to break down and feel some feelings about.

First off, Ronan’s reaction to Blue. I’m not going to pretend to know exactly what Stiefvater was doing there, but from my perspective, the scene serves as a reminder that to Ronan, Blue is an add-on to the group, and to Gansey she’s a full member. It also differentiates Adam’s reaction from Ganseys: Gansey goes after Ronan immediately in a way that protects Blue, whereas Adam just calls Ronan a dick once Blue leaves.

We can take this two different ways. First, we can see the immediacy of Gansey’s reaction as proof that he cares more about Blue, or is at least more willing to stand up to Ronan on her behalf. Second, we can look Adam and say he was consciously letting Blue handle it herself because he knows that’s what she would want. I don’t know which one I think is true, or if it’s even an either/or situation. But the reason I wanted to talk about this scene is that I don’t think I’m fully behind its purpose.

We just spent a whole book doing the whole “Blue integrates herself as a group member” thing. Ronan told her one of the biggest secrets he’s ever kept at the end! And, okay, trust is an ongoing process, but I don’t think I understand why we need to revisit it? And then for Gansey to step in and be so firmly On Blue’s Side, and everyone else to be uncomfortable about both what he said and how he said it? And then there’s the sense of ownership that Gansey exerts over Ronan… I just don’t see what purpose the whole moment serves. It’s always made me just a little bit uncomfy, and that feeling is only intensified when I come at it from a critical angle.

Moving on to the very next page, where Blue describes Kavinsky. I just wanted to point out that when you compare her description to Ronan’s, there are some similarities but also a couple of key differences. They both use adjectives that have some connotation of emptiness and danger, but Blue’s focused on the fact that Kavinsky is so clearly Other. Ronan still calls him “hollow-eyed,” yes, but he’s also “innocent.”

I know I’ve been going on and on about hints that Ronan’s gay, and yeah, there’s some of that there. But there’s also the understanding that Ronan sees himself in Kavinsky in a way that nobody else does, and while that’s both more important and more explicit later, it starts here. I don’t know, I just think it’s cool to point out the trail of breadcrumbs Stiefvater leaves, and how good she is at perspective switching.

And then, lastly, the “real meaning” of the bracelets that Kavinsky gives to Ronan. When I first read these books, I was definitely a naïve child and didn’t get what was going on here, so I want to talk about it just in case you breezed over these hints. There’s reference in the first book to Noah finding Ronan in some sort of trouble, and that’s why Gansey and Adam look for him so frantically when he’s gone. It’s never stated outright, but I think it’s reasonable to infer that Gansey perceived it to be a suicide attempt. Now, though, given what we know about Ronan and the danger of his nightmares, I think it’s safe to say that whatever the bracelets are covering probably weren’t self-inflicted.

Not only is Kavinsky observant enough to get the bracelets exactly correct (*ahem* he’s watching Ronan very carefully), but fixating on the bracelets is an interesting choice, given everything I just said in the last paragraph. Because this is from Blue’s perspective, she doesn’t know any of this, but her pointing this out is like a neon sign from the author saying “SHE DOESN’T KNOW BUT YOU DO! THINK ABOUT IT!!!!!!”

So, I thought about it and I felt about it. See y’all next time, for another Gray Man chapter!

Best Character Moment:

She was less surprised than most people would have been to discover it was a magical translating box. She was more surprised to discover the boys had possessed the forethought to bring the other dictionaries.

Best Turn of Phrase:

Ever since she was small, she’d loved the ritual of a single card reading. Unlike the elaborate Celtic cross tarot spreads her mother usually did for her clients, the single card reading she did for Blue was playful, fond, and brief. It wasn’t so much a clairvoyant experience as a thirty-second bedtime story where Blue was always the hero.

Action: The only weapon used in this chapter were words. They hurt, but they’re not so good for the excitement factor, you know? 7/10

Magic: The magic puzzle box was cooler in the last chapter, honestly. 4/10

Comic Relief: Love when a chapter can get me discussing the patriarchy and also describe a magical object as being able to do your homework and steal your girlfriend. 9/10

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