The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.34

Summary:

Hello everyone and welcome back to the long and agonizingly slow moving Raven Boys reread I torture myself with twice a week! I used to be at least two weeks ahead every time I posted a chapter but this one is a race against the clock, since not only have I used up all my extras and must write this real time, I have a midterm to study for and two papers due tomorrow. But, nevertheless, this chapter features Calla, whose presence magically makes all my troubles disappear.

Remember when Calla kept reminding Blue about this snooping expedition they had planned to Neeve’s attic to touch her stuff? Yeah, me neither. I started reading this chapter and I was like “why are we in the attic” and then I realized that for the past 100 pages every time we see Calla she’s reminding Blue not to forget about their Scooby Doo-esque fact-finding mission, and I straight up ignored her. Calla, I’m so sorry. You know I love you and I didn’t mean it.

So they’re in the attic. Or, they’re walking up the stairs to the attic while Blue thinks about how to send Barrington Whelk to jail. Remember that angry rant I went on where I was like “they could not possibly guess that it was Barrington Whelk who killed Noah because they do not have enough information?” Well, they immediately guessed it was Barrington Whelk. But I stand by my statement. There was no evidence gathering or bulletin boards with pinned string, and thus there is no way they could have figured it out.

Anyways, back to the attic (even while I’m writing this summary I seem to forget Neeve’s spookiness is a major plot point). It smells really bad, which is apparently due to the asafetida Neeve is keeping in there. You put it in a cauldron and make either curry or some witchy potion, so I guess Neeve is a supernatural sous chef.

All jokes aside, what she’s done to the attic is creepy. There’s statues, and mirrors, and candles, and burned up plants. Blue is remarking on the creepiness when, right on cue, Persephone appears to let them know that she wants to help. And that Maura knows they’re snooping and she’s giving them until midnight.

Persephone crouched to look at a black leather mask with a long pointed beak. “You didn’t think she believed you about the dwarf movie, did you?”

Calla and Blue exchanged a look. Blue mused over what they meant: that Maura wanted to know more about Neeve as much as they did.

They start with the easiest part: Neeve said she was coming to look for Blue’s father, who showed up, melted Maura into a puddle of goo, got her pregnant, and then left. Blue isn’t bothered by this because she is very sensible, and happy that Calla said he was cute. They go over all the nicknames Maura used for him (Puppy, Lover, Butternut) which makes Blue physically ill.

The gist of what they discover is that Neeve wants to be more famous than she is (more famous than Leila Polotsky, who apparently is well known in some circles). It’s implied that Persephone was very famous at some point, which I want elaborated on. And then Calla stops touching things and looks instead to Neeve’s day planner, which tells her everything and involves no psychic ability whatsoever.

Basically Neeve got a call from a guy who wanted to pay her lots of money to come to Henrietta and find Glendower on the ley line. She declined his request and then decided to look for it anyways, without getting paid, and figured telling Maura she was looking for Blue’s dad would give her a good place to crash. Then Blue grabs the planner and realizes the mysterious man who wanted to find the ley line is Barrington Whelk, and she’s like, “this guy again? Ugh.”

But before she can tell Calla what’s going on, Persephone lets them know that the Gangsey is here, Gansey broke his thumb on a gun, and Maura brought Neeve back early. Thus concludes the snooping session, thank you and goodnight. 

Thoughts and Feelings:

Here’s what I took from this chapter: Neeve is witchier than a psychic should be, and that combined with her inferiority complex has made for a pretty bad situation. Also, Gansey broke his thumb because he is a big idiot and now Blue knows all about it.

I was a little shocked by the parallels between Gansey and Maura, because when Maura asks Neeve why she didn’t just tell her she was looking into the ley line, she sounded an awful lot like Gansey handing his journal to Whelk. The leaders of both gangs, the raven boys and the women of Fox Way, don’t seem concerned with keeping knowledge private. It’s kind of refreshing, to not have to deal with secrets being guarded so closely.

It also would have been nice if Maura had this philosophy all the way back when Gansey came in for the reading. It probably would have saved us a lot of drama. And me a lot of time spent summarizing said drama.

I’m in a creative writing workshop right now and one of the things my professor and the rest of the people in the workshop are saying is that they can’t see the space around them. I never noticed it before but now it’s all I can think about when I read a piece (“where am I? Can I see the world around me? Is that gopher rendered anatomically correct?”). I’ll give Steifvater this one, she definitely fleshes out Neeve’s room for me, and in doing so, her character. There were no pretty gloves for her pretty hands, though, so minus one point for consistency.

Best Character Moment:

“I refuse to believe Mom ever called some man puppy,” Blue said.

“Oh, but she did. Also lover.” Calla picked up an empty bowl. There was a crust in the bottom, as if it had once help a liquid with some body to it. Like pudding. Or blood. “And butternut.”

Best Turn of Phrase:

Blue didn’t touch anything, but she did walk further into the room, peering at a small statue of a woman with eyes in her belly. The entire room was giving her a crawling feeling. “She must be making a lot of curry.”

Action: We’re just sneaking around…just sneakin! 5/10

Magic: I mean the mirrors looked cool but the whole point was that Neeve is a fake magician who needs a mask to feel self-love so… 5/10

Comic relief: I laughed out loud at a line in this chapter when I was reading it before class but when I read it out loud my prof roasted me for it, so that’s why it didn’t get a perfect score. 9/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.33

Summary:

I don’t want to be rude but after the events of last chapter I kind of forgot Gansey wasn’t around, so reading the beginning of this chapter was a little like whiplash. We’re thrown immediately back into Gansey’s rich white guilt, which slowly becomes anger at Ronan for making him use his privilege.

I don’t want to keep talking about the fact that I’m a college student (have I mentioned that yet? I take classes and everything), but there’s this point where Gansey is driving in his car being all mad, and he goes “is it so hard to just go to class and do your homework?” and, like, yeah. It is. Just because you’re Mr. Gentleman and Scholar doesn’t mean the rest of us can just breeze through life. Okay, rant over. Back to the plot.

Gansey’s so pissed that he’s ready to slam on the gas pedal, and for a split second I thought he was going to let loose. But that’s asking for too much from him, especially after such a trying day. The kicker is that the minute he eases on the brakes, the Pig starts to die. Damn Ronan, and damn the Pig, apparently.

There’s no cell reception and he doesn’t know anything about car engines, so Gansey’s getting ready to walk to the nearest gas station when a pair of headlights comes up behind him. He expects the driver to get out of the car and help him, but, plot twist! It’s the man we love to hate, Barrington Whelk.

Gansey is like “Mr Whelk?” which made me laugh because calling him Mister is just…so counter to the way I speak about this man. And to how we as readers think about him. He’s a shriveled, sad little man and frankly I’d forgotten he was actually a Latin teacher. But, you know, he’s also an evil bad guy and he has a literal gun, so. I guess Barrington Whelk gets 10 villain points for actually following through on an evil scheme.

It was somehow difficult to process the fact of the gun. It was hard to go from the idea that Barrington Whelk was creepy in a way that was entertaining to joke about with Ronan and Adam to the idea that Barrington Whelk has a gun and was pointing it at Gansey.

“Well.” Gansey blinked. “Okay.”

This is the point where I was wishing for a little bit more emotion from Gansey, but also not, if that makes any sense. The way he’s just bemusedly cooperating is the definition of hilarity, but I also wanted there to be some kind of Clueless moment here. “I can’t lie on the ground, Sir, my chinos would be ruined!” I don’t know, I think it would be fun.

This emotionlessness goes away, however, when Whelk starts getting mad that he’s no longer getting away with Noah’s murder. This is when Gansey realizes this man, the one in front of him, is the one who killed Noah, and he finally starts to feel something. The fact that Gansey’s own life means less to him than Noah’s is not only emotionally devastating but also very stupid, because, as a quick reminder: Barrington Whelk is holding a literal gun.

And then he takes the safety off (cue internal screaming) and presses it to Gansey’s forehead (CUE INTERNAL SCREAMING), and Gansey has this beautiful moment of self-confidence and rebirth that you should totally go and read (page 324, in the paperback). It doesn’t help anything, obviously, because Barrington Whelk is a pile of human suck with absolutely nothing to lose.

When he said that, Gansey knew Whelk was going to kill him. That there was no way that someone could have that much hatred and bitterness in his voice while holding a gun and not pull the trigger.

(CUE INTERNAL SCREAMING)

But then Gansey flashes back to Ronan teaching him how to throw a punch—hilarious, because the lessons went so poorly—and because of this, when Gansey swings at Whelk he manages to connect and send the gun flying. There’s a quick scuffle and then another car comes driving down the road, headlights on, and Whelk runs away with Gansey’s journal and without his gun.

Gansey takes the gun and the Camaro miraculously starts, and so he drives home. Whelk knows Gansey knows, and he has nothing to lose. Gangsey, assemble.

Thoughts and Feelings:

So, here we are. The chapter where the Gangsey is split up, becoming one Gang and one Gansey, and as a result Gansey almost gets shot in the head. Stick together, guys. It’s best for all of us, me included.

I like this chapter a lot, and I think it’s because of a confluence of reasons. First off, Gansey’s complete and utter detachment when his life is being threatened. The perfect adjective for it is bemused, because he spends most of this interaction being like “Mr. Whelk? My Latin teacher? What are you doing here?” instead of the appropriate reaction, which is “hi please don’t shoot me.”

And I mentioned this in the summary but I think it’s worth repeating: the moment Gansey figures out Whelk is the one that killed Noah, the confusion and numbness goes out the window and he is ready to kill. The portrayal of friendship in this book is why I have so few friends; my standards are astronomical. If you won’t let your creepy high school Latin teacher hold a gun to your head to avenge my death, then we can’t eat lunch together. Sorry!

I apologize for this being a little scattered but I also want to talk about this quote:

The journal weighted his hands. He didn’t need it. He knew everything in it.

 But it was him. He was giving everything that he’d worked for away.

I will get a new one.

Like, I’m sorry. This is such a beautiful moment. Gansey has been having these internal struggles over who he is and who he wants to be for so long, and he finally realizes that it’s this thing. This carefully curated love letter to the search for something fantastic, this thing that Blue can’t help thinking of when she tries to write Gansey off as just another rich asshole. His identity is caught up in this book (and in the Camaro, which we shouldn’t neglect in this analysis but we are because it makes everything too complicated), but the fact that he’s willing to let it go and rebuild his identity? SO IMPORTANT. I want the phrase “I will get a new one” shouted at every birthday party I have. I want it on my gravestone. I want it tattooed on my forehead!!

And then, of course, this moment is so beautifully juxtaposed by the image of Gansey, lying in a ditch, thinking about how much his thumb hurts.

Really, he’d gotten off light. But still. It hurt.

This is the duality of man. And, also, me every time I get a paper cut.

I can’t tell you how aggressively in love I am with the fact that Steifvater has created a narrative in which a teenage boy is allowed to be exactly what he should be: as stupid as an adult and as complex as a child, and growing, always growing. Also, still alive. Thanks for not letting him get shot with a gun, that would suck.

Okay this has gone on for far too long so I’m going to sign up but thanks for listening to my insane rambling okay byeeee:)

Best Character Moment:

“If you’d just asked,” Gansey said “I would’ve told you everything in there. I would’ve been happy to. It wasn’t a secret.”

The handgun trembled against Gansey’s forehead. Whelk said, “I can’t believe you’re saying anything when I have a gun to your head. I can’t believe you would bother to say that.”

Best Turn of Phrase:

Gansey was beginning to feel something somewhere in his gut. It didn’t feel like fear. It was something strung out like a rope bridge, barely supporting weight. It was the suspicion that nothing else in Gansey’s life had ever been real except for this moment.

Action: This chapter had a literal gun pointed at the literal head of a LITERAL MAIN CHARACTER. Literally action packed. 100/10

Magic: No magic except for the magic of self discovery, which we love. 6/10

Comic relief: Everything about this chapter was so morbidly funny I really don’t know what else to say about it. 8/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.32

Summary:

So this is the chapter where Blue meets Monmouth, the sixth member of the Gangsey and the only one she hasn’t been acquainted with yet. The chapter starts with Blue knocking on the door feeling self conscious, and we’re reminded that the only character who uses a cell phone like it’s intended is Gansey. Blue and Adam don’t have one, and Ronan treats his like a useless metal brick, so that’s why Blue just assumes they’ll always be waiting outside for her after school instead of, I don’t know, texting them. One “wya” could go a long way for this group of friends, honestly.

When the boys invite her inside, they’re clearly putting Blue through some sort of test that hinges on her reaction to the space, but she’s not even a little bit fazed. She does ask what the downstairs looks like, though, and our resident comedy duo lets her know what’s up.

“Dust,” Adam replied. He used his foot to discreetly move a pair of dirty jeans, boxers still tucked inside them, out of Blue’s direct line of sight. “And concrete. And more dust. And dirt.”

“Also,” Ronan said, moving off towards a pair of doors at the other end of the floor, “dust.”

But this doesn’t distract Blue from her careful inspection of the space. She finds it beautiful. She finds it so beautiful, in fact, that she’s reminded of her tree vision and wants Gansey to kiss her. The interior designers on HGTV dream about a reaction like that, and they’ll never get it because they aren’t sixteen-year-old mad geniuses with old money Virginia accents.

Ronan goes to feed Chainsaw (which makes Blue very confused, because she has no context for the statement and thinks he means a literal power tool), and Adam decides it’s time for them to hang out. Blue ruins the mood by asking the loaded question “Adam do you live here,” which opens up the whole “I’m not rich” dialogue and lasts a couple pages. They get it together once Blue admits that she’s not rich, either, and then Adam takes Blue to see some old trinkets Gansey keeps in boxes.

The examination of artifacts gets real romantic real fast. They pick up a pair of stones, each with a hole bored into it by seawater, and they hold them up to their eyes and look at each other, and then Adam touches her face. (I don’t know how else to phrase that in the summary, because the book literally just says “he reached out and touched her face,” which doesn’t sound descriptive or romantic).

Her skin felt warm; his fingertip touched just the very edge of her mouth. “It’s very flattering.”

Adam gently pulled the stone out of her hand and set it on the floorboards between them. Through his fingers he threaded one of the flyaway hairs by her cheek. “My mother used to say, ‘don’t throw compliments away, so long as they’re free.’” His face was very earnest. “That one wasn’t meant to cost you anything, Blue.”

And thus begins the 32 chapters and a prologue dilemma: Blue is sixteen and wants to make out but a psychic told her not to. Her way around telling Adam is to say that she doesn’t want to be kissed because she’s “very young,” which is very funny but not very believable. Thankfully, though, Ronan makes an appearance with Chainsaw and ends the whole conversation.

He asks Blue if she wants to hold Chainsaw, and Blue is like “oh my God, a Raven boy with a literal raven bird,” and it takes her a second to tell Ronan that she’s down to pet his familiar. But she wants to do the impossible and impress Ronan, so she holds the bird and lets it melt her heart. And then Noah shows up! They sit on the floor like a lil family and I love it! Except then it gets sad, fast:

“I want you to know,” Noah said, pressing the carved bone against his Adam’s apple, hard, as if it would squeeze the words from him, “I was…more…when I was alive.”

It’s all very fraught, and that feeling leads the gang into the murder mystery they’re trying to solve. Ronan tells Noah to cut the shit and tell them who did it, but Noah doesn’t want to. Contrary to everything we know about Barrington Whelk, he was once capable of having friends, and Noah keeps making excuses for him. They keep asking for a name, until finally Noah tells them they already know. Which, um, how would they? But I’ll get into that a little bit more in my next segment, coming up right now!

Thoughts and Feelings:

I mean, come on, Noah. You were friends with this guy seven years ago, you’ve never said his name out loud, and you expect your friends—one of who doesn’t even go to the school this guy works at—to just know his name? The reader already knows, but we’ve known since Gansey picked up the driver’s license like 50 pages ago. This reveal does nothing for anybody and frankly I’m mad.

Other than that this chapter read like a bottle episode, which isn’t a bad thing. I mean, I am ready for some car chases or boxing matches or tree rituals, anything that would move them closer to magic and farther from self-pity on the floor of Monmouth Manufacturing, but when does anyone listen to me? Never, because this book was published seven years ago and these people are fake.

I’m too tired to have any other thoughts and/or feelings beyond the fact that I missed Gansey and that’s that. The end goodbye:)

Best Character Moment:

So she truly was sensible. This was distressing. She felt like she’d done so much work to appear as eccentric as possible, and still, when it came down to it, she was sensible.

Best Turn of Phrase:

Noah’s resemblance to the crookedly smiling photo on the driver’s license Gansey had discovered was akin to a photocopy’s resemblance to an original painting.

Action: None! No action! Just Blue not kissing Adam and Noah not telling anyone anything and a lot of sitting cross legged on the floor! 4/10

Magic: Blue let Noah use her magical Starbucks outlet energy which is both cute and practical. 8/10

Comic Relief: All of this was situational comedy and I thought it was halfway effective. 6/10

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

The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.30

Summary:

Remember when I was like “hey I’ll be back to putting out chapters twice a week now?” Well, I lied. I’m always out here pretending college isn’t hard when really it’s designed to be hard, so, I’ve learned nothing. But that’s not news. Also, I’ve been rewatching Game of Thrones, which takes up the majority of my non-homework time, but I digress. Even though Arya Stark owns my ass, this is a Steifvater only zone.

Back to the (ir)regularly scheduled content!

If last chapter was all of the boys’s reactions about Noah being dead, this one is more about Blue’s. In short, she’s very upset. She has the most experience with spirits, seeing that every woman in her family talks to them all the time, but figuring out Noah’s dead has changed more than just her perception of him. He’s not able to pass for alive anymore, and he doesn’t hang out like he used to. This is sad! All they get is a phantom voice, or a shadow, or Ronan will get scratches on his body (of course Ronan is the only one who gets scratched, that’s like the most emo way to interact with a ghost). Blue’s takeaway from all of this is that she wants to find the person who murdered Noah and put him in jail to rot, and honestly? GO OFF BLUE. Find Whelk and make him SUFFER.

So anyways, beyond the new ghost situation, it’s Friday morning and Blue’s off to school. Calla’s left her a suspicious post-it note so she won’t forget about movie/snoop night, and while she’s grabbing it off the fridge Neeve decides to scare her by revealing that she’s been sitting at the kitchen table this whole time, wearing a shirt that’s the same color as the walls. Say what you want about the woman, but accessorizing with a literal house is a power move.

Blue’s trying very hard not to act suspicious, but Neeve has no personal boundaries and she’s already telling Blue she looks sad and she should have a reading. Blue is like, no, dude, I’m gonna go to school, but Neeve waves with her beautiful and graceful and also beautiful hands (have I mentioned how pretty her hands are? They’re very pretty) and get’s in Blue’s business anyway.

Neeve said to her back, “you’re looking for a god. Didn’t you suspect that there might also be a devil?”

Goddamn.

Apparently death is an easy subject for Neeve to see, and she knew that Blue was touching death every time she went to see Noah. Then she goes even creepier, and tells Blue there’ll be more death before the journey’s done.

Thoughts and Feelings:

We all knew Neeve was creepy, but this is next level. Especially since this time she can’t blame it on some monster that took over while she was scrying. This was all Neeve and her stupid calm expression and her pretty hands and her lack of boundaries.

It’s a weird forshadowing that suggests Glendower’s the thing they’re looking for but he might not be the thing they find, and that’s kind of scary and would also probably suck for Gansey. Imagine if he gets to a tomb and it’s, like, an evil mummy in there. He’s looking for Glendower but someone other than the Welsh got there first, and not only does he not get his favor but he’s also cursed forever. That would suck.

This chapter’s pretty short, though, so there’s not much for me to feel about it besides sad that Blue’s sad, and weirded out by Neeve’s comments. So I’m basically just empathizing with Blue, which I’ve been doing throughout this whole novel, and probably will keep doing until the series is over. The end.

Best Character Moment:

Blue just kept thinking of the skull with its face smashed in, of Noah retching at the sight of the Mustang. Not throwing up. Just going through the actions of it, because he was dead.

She wanted to find whoever did this to him and she wanted him to fester in a cell for the rest of his life.

Best Turn of Phrase:

“I’m just warning you,” Neeve said. “Watch for the devil. When there’s a god, there’s always a legion of devils.”

Action: Absolutely no action. Just Neeve blending into a wall and foreshadowing some action. 5/10

Magic: Also no magic?? Or, maybe Neeve actively uses magic to creep on us, but I’m not counting it because I’m scared. 4/10

Comic relief: I guess I can laugh at the post-it note Calla left. Thanks for saving the day, you magnificent woman. 5/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.29

Summary:

I want to start by saying I’m sorry that I took a week off, but I just entered midterm season and I needed a break to focus on other work (that gets graded) rather than this work, which brings me satisfaction and joy but absolutely nothing else. I’ll do my best to stick to the schedule in the future but I think I’d be deluding myself to think that anyone’s sitting on the edge of their seat waiting for these updates, so my best is just going to have to suffice for me and anyone out there reading this.

So, here we are. And by “here” I mean the same chapter in the book, because I sincerely hope you aren’t in the back of a very large van as your coach speeds over a bumpy two-lane highway. It’s not fun and I’d like to take a nap, but Noah is too important to me, so I’ll press on.

So, Gansey and Blue know that Noah is no longer alive. Or, has not been alive for some time. It’s time to tell Adam and Ronan, so he picks up Adam at work (which means this must be an emergency, because Adam’s job is one of those things you don’t get in the way of. When they get to Monmouth, Gansey just starts yelling for Noah.

He backed into the center of the room, turning to look at the corners, the rafters, searching places no one would ever find a roommate. Adam hesitated by the door. He couldn’t figure out how this could be over Noah: Noah, who could go unnoticed for hours, whose room was pristine, whose voice was never raised.

Now I know why Gansey is credited at “the one who finds things” and Adam is “the one who will go to an Ivy League college.” Gansey has the deductive skills of an explorer, and Adam has those of an observer. Ronan has the deductive skills of someone who doesn’t give a shit what they’re deducing, which he makes clear by doing nothing but shrugging and telling Gansey he’s crazy. Well, actually, he says “flipped” but that’s such a non-Ronan thing to say that I refuse to acknowledge its place in the narrative except to call it stupid.

They look in Noah’s room but it’s empty. Empty, in fact, of any signs of life at all. His bed is made perfectly, there’s nothing on the walls or scattered across the floor like there would be in any teenager’s room. Gansey makes the whole situation worse by asking what classes they have with Noah, and everyone’s forced to admit that there aren’t any. Ronan reasserts that he doesn’t care and Adam is still silently doing his best to process everything that’s being thrown at him: Noah doesn’t pay rent, Noah doesn’t eat, none of them can remember when Noah moved in with them or what is last name is.

Gansey then drops the news that he went to the church with Blue (which makes Adam feel blindingly jealous and makes me a little uncomfortable, because as much as I love the idea of love triangles the execution always leaves me feeling angry and hurt) and then spent the afternoon with the police. I don’t know why, but I guess I never imagined the Gangsey going to the police? This seems like one of those novels where everything they’re doing is a big secret and only for the kids to know about, and the police would ruin it. How would they explain their walk in the woods? Was there a fake romantic walk story that we were denied the chance to read about? Stiefvater, how dare you!

But, more important than that, Gansey tells them that they were at the police station because they found a dead body. He asks if they want to know whose it was. Noah, in an entrance that has the most drama and panache, says from the doorway of his previously empty room “mine.”

His skin was pale as parchment and his eyes were shadowed and unspecific, as they always were after dark. There was the ubiquitous smudge on his face, only now, it looked like dirt, or blood, or possibly like a hollow, his bones crushed beneath his skin.

The rest of the chapter is spent finding various ways to say “shocked and offended.” Adam is shocked, and a little confused about how he didn’t notice. Ronan is offended, because Noah didn’t tell him. Noah is both, because he did tell them, over and over, but they just didn’t listen. And can you blame them? He looked real, he acted real, so why would any reasonable teenager assume that their roommate was actually murdered seven years ago?

Gansey is the one to bring up the fact that Noah was killed (very different than just dying, if he’d just died he probably wouldn’t have stuck around). He wants to know if Noah can tell him, so Gansey can put the police on the trail of his killer. Noah doesn’t want to tell them. He draws inward, and Adam wonders if he was this shy when he was alive, or if it’s a side effect of being dead. He never finds out, though, because Noah has disappeared.

Thoughts and Feelings:

For this episode of “I have thoughts and also several feelings,” I’m going to zoom in on a particular passage and tell you why I’m disappointed in it. But, first, an overview of the chapter: it was good and well written and I liked most of it. Now back to the part I didn’t like.

Ronan began to swear, long and filthy and continuous, without stopping for breath.

Gansey’s thumb worried over his bottom lip. He asked Adam, “what’s going on?”

Adam replied, “we’re being haunted.”

I take issue with this passage as the ending to the chapter. Stiefvater has a habit of ending chapters with a line of dialogue that acts as a summation and a cliffhanger all at once, and often she succeeds. I’m thinking of the ends of the Cabeswater chapters, or when Persephone locks the narrative down with a spot-on interpretation. But this one doesn’t look forward, and it doesn’t accurately represent what was going on in the story.

First of all, I understand that Ronan likes to swear. I’m cool with the fact that he does it a lot, and I’m content with Steifvater telling us he’s swearing rather than writing out the language more often than not. However, this idea that Ronan is swearing “without stopping for breath” is giving me pause. I’ve never heard anyone swear like that. I don’t think people do swear like that. From what I’ve experienced, reactive swears are one single word, spoken with feeling:fuck.” I’m okay with calling Ronan’s swears “black painted poetry.” There’s an art to calling someone a dickwad, and I don’t deny that he’s mastered it. But this whole “long and filthy and continuous” thing is what I’m just not buying.

Moving on: why would Gansey ask what’s going on? He’s the one who gathered them in Monmouth to tell them what’s going on. He found the bones, he’s done extensive research on the ley line, and he turns to Adam—who’s smart, but who’s had literally 30 seconds to process this news—and asks him what’s going on? I’m just being nitpicky here, but that’s out of character.

And, lastly, “we’re being haunted” is just a lame last line. It has no sting. It’s not particularly true (sure Noah’s a ghost, but the word haunted comes with a connotation of malice that just isn’t there). It’s not a fun way to end the chapter, it doesn’t do the situation justice, and I know that Steifvater can do better than that.

That’s all. Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk.

Best Character Moment:

He stroked Chainsaw’s head with a single finger and she tilted her beak up in response. It was a strange movement in a strange evening, and if it had happened the day before, it would’ve struck Adam that he rarely saw such thoughtless kindness from Ronan.

Best Turn of Phrase:

The world hummed around Adam, suddenly charged with possibilities, not all of them pleasant. He felt like he was sleepwalking. Nothing was the truth until he could put his hands on it.

Action: This chapter was emotionally charged but I’m loathe to call all those feelings action…it was more along the vein of “everyone stands around in disbelief.” 5/10

Magic: All magic used in this chapter went into keeping Noah a corporeal character that we can still spend time with. If that’s not a worthy cause, what is? 11/10

Comic Relief: Literally none. This chapter was so heavy. Even Ronan asking if they were looking for drugs, girls, and guns in Noah’s room wasn’t that funny, given the circumstances. 6/10

The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir

I’m not in the business of writing “books reviews” so much as I’m in the business of writing “book reactions,” so my disclaimer is that I’m going to be talking about what I liked and didn’t like about whatever book I read most recently. That doesn’t mean things are necessarily good or bad, it just means they were either words in an order I appreciated, or words in an order that I didn’t.

Also, there probaby won’t be spoilers. I’m going to try and talk in circles so that I don’t reveal anything. I definitely don’t have that kind of talent, but I’ll do my best. Anyways, here goes: my review/reaction to The Book of Essie

I saw this book come up on Goodreads, and I have to say, it has one of the most captivating blurbs of all time. You’re hit with intrigue at all angles. Essie (you know, the titular character) is pregnant and needs to get married to save face for her family’s evangelical reality show. Her sister is missing. She’s trying to start a sham marriage with Roarke, who also has a secret. And guess who else has a secret? Conservative blogger turned liberal reporter, Liberty Bell.

Read that paragraph again and tell me you don’t want to go pick this book up from your local library immediately. I don’t think you can.

Now, I’m not going to sit here and say that it was high-brow literature. It read like an elevated version of a Lifetime movie. I’m not saying that to be mean, either–I love Lifetime movies. My mom and I record “Stalked By My Doctor” every time it comes on. What I’m saying is that many of the plot twists are overdramatized and it makes this one of the most captivating reads I’ve picked up in a while. And, unlike a Lifetime movie, it has a moral center! It deals with hard topics like conversion therapy and domestic abuse and not once does anyone in the narrative say those things are okay and get away with it. There’s a lot of forgiveness, but no lack of culpability, and that’s a win.

I’m a sucker for platonic relationships and we get the ultimate one between Roarke and Essie, which is nice. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by revealing that he agrees to fake marry her (if he didn’t would there even be a book at all?), but that decision marks the start of a very beautiful friendship. Even though there are times when both Essie and Roarke talk about their friendship to each other (which no character would do in real life so we know it’s purely for the sake of the young adult reader that may not pick up on the emotion that’s shown and not told), they’re cute like all the time.

Roarke does not say anything, but he reaches out a finger to touch my hand. I wonder if he’s doing it just to shore up the story of our romance, but when his finger hooks around my pinky, I realize that he really means to comfort me. I smile shyly, grateful for his friendship at least, even though it can never be more than that.

See? It’s nice. Platonic hand holding and trustworthiness is good for young adult readers.

Beyond that, though, there are times that the characters feel flat. Just a little too perfect in their goodness or in their wickedness. But I don’t begrudge MacLean Weir her right to make certain characters all bad. I think she did her research on evangelical reality TV (and by “evangelical reality TV” I mean 19 Kids and Counting) and realized that the people who let that kind of stuff continue in order to preserve a television show are despicable.

Others, as well, some devout and others less so, watching with morbid fascination the seeming contradiction that we epitomized. Our family rejected materialism and popular culture, and yet we also produced it…

The show paid for everything. 

The book is very clear that this kind of show is hypocritical, and created for all the wrong reasons. This sentiment is helped along as the point of view switches from Essie to Roarke to Liberty, and so the reader wants to agree with them about all things.

There were times, though, when I was mad at them I wanted them to not be perfect. I wanted Liberty to mess up and say something stupid, I wanted Roarke to yell at someone, I wanted Essie to throw something. There was a lot of forgiveness, which makes for a nice message but doesn’t allow for the kind of anger that’s also acceptable in Essie, Roarke, or Liberty’s situation. The only person who throws a punch was Lissa, and it happens off screen and is distinctly unsatisfying.

But overall, this book’s strengths lie in the fact that it explores the kind of things that fascinate people but repulse them at the same time. Essie’s situation is the kind of horrible I wanted to pretend has never and could never happen in the real world, and yet I know it has, and I’m grateful for the happy ending both she and I were given.