The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.17-1.18

SEVENTEEN

Summary:

Blue wakes up before her alarm, again. I mean, I don’t know if it’s a school day or not, but the phrase “well before dawn” means this girl needs to stop waking up when she shouldn’t be. I guess that would make this whole chapter read “and Blue slept through the night,” but frankly, that would be better for her mental and physical health than what happens next.

When she wakes up the first thing she thinks about is Adam, and then Gansey. She calls Adam elegant again, and she’s upset that he probably won’t call. With Gansey, it’s more the fact that he’s a real boy, not just a half-dead guy outside some old church. It’s kind of cute, though. She thinks about her boys! But what’s getting on her nerves the most is that Maura ordered her around. Not just ordered her around, but forbade her to do something. Blue is not the type of girl to take orders, that’s why we love her.

She’s so angry and prickly that she decides to get up and go see her tree. If nothing else, leaves should calm her down (or something). But she doesn’t get her quiet moment with the beech tree, because Neeve is there doing some sort of ritual. We’re not clear on what it is, and neither is Blue—being a psychic doesn’t mean being a witch, and Blue’s life thus far has been fairly ritual free. But this time, it looks like Neeve’s doing something reeeeally weird.

 Neeve didn’t reply. When Blue looked closer, she saw that Neeve’s eyes were unfocused. It was her eyebrows that really did it for Blue; they had no expression to them somehow. Even more vacuous than Neeve’s eyes were those formless eyebrows, waiting for input, drawn in two straight, neutral lines.

So this ritual is legit, and something funky is going on. To be more specific, she’s talking in a deep scary voice to something dark and slithery while sitting on a pentagram. We find out something is speaking through Neeve when it starts talking to her and asks for her name. Like an idiot, Blue says “Neeve” and not some codename, like “Riptide Rush” (is it weird that the first thing I thought of was a Gatorade flavor? Yeah. Are we gonna talk about it? No!). She just threw her aunt under the bus. I don’t like Neeve, but I don’t want her to get devoured by some scary slithery demon.

The demon asks to see Blue. Blue tells it she’s invisible, which is only funny because it works. The magic in the air feels malicious and oppressive so, once Blue learns that the demon is on the ley line and the whole world starts to go cold, she starts destroying the objects Neeve placed on the pentagram.

There was a minute of complete blackness. There was no sound, as if the tree and the garden around it were not in Henrietta anymore. Despite the silence, Blue did not feel alone, and it was a terrible feeling.

But, after some mind strengthening exercises from Maura, everything goes back to normal and Neeve returns to her body. She asks Blue not to tell her mom and Blue is like, “um, hell no, I will be telling her everything.” Which is the right decision, especially when Neeve blames Blue for the fact that she got possessed.

In her mind, she was just scrying into the static space that’s present in Henrietta, and even though Maura told her to leave it alone it was not her fault and everything was fine. It’s a very Neeve excuse and as such we all see right through it. So, here’s the chapter summary in one sentence: Blue finds Neeve looking at things she shouldn’t be, and a scary monster is there.

Thoughts and Feelings:

This chapter is honestly not fun at all? It just feels like we’re being reminded that Something Isn’t Right, which I don’t think I forgot. The reminder was unnecessary. And, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but so was the whole “Neeve is willing to take things too far, look she’s even sitting on a pentagram” situation. I don’t usually stick up for Neeve because she gives me a bad vibe. But she’s already given me a bad vibe before this chapter. I didn’t need the scary witch visual to recognize that her plans may or may not be nefarious.

I did, thought, like the appreciation of Blue’s special tree. It was nice to see her have a friend. Even if that friend is a large plant. Other than that, this chapter is just filler. It proves that time passes between when Blue first met the Gangsey and when she joins it, which isn’t fun but gives the narrative a nice hefty dose of realism.

Best character moment:

Blue had a satchelful of memories of standing by the massive, smooth trunk in the rain, hearing it hiss and tap and scatter across the canopy without ever reaching the ground. Standing under the beech tree, it felt like she was the beech, like the rain rolled off her leaves and off the bark, smooth as skin against her own.

Best turn of phrase:

Something crawled very slowly up the back of Blue’s neck, on the inside of her skin. It was such a hideously real creep that she was badly tempted to slap it or scratch it.

Action: Any time a pentagram is involved, you think it’s going to be more interesting than just a weird feeling, but this time, it wasn’t. 4/10

Magic: It was scary, but it was there. 8/10

Comic relief: There just wasn’t any. Like, at all. 1/10

EIGHTEEN

Summary:

Barrington Whelk! Y’all know how I feel. I don’t need to say it again. Here we go.

We literally start out with Whelk reaching new heights of grossness: he’s breaking into Gansey’s locker. He’s violating the privacy of a high school junior, and, honestly? This just made me freaked out over the security of my lockers in high school. If a teacher didn’t like me, could they just go snoop through my stuff? It sure feels like it. I don’t remember what I kept in there beyond my lunch and some crumpled up worksheets, but I still wouldn’t appreciate Mr. Jones knowing I had egg salad for lunch. That’s creepy.

But Whelk mostly seems interested in mourning the loss of his dad’s fortune, and, as a result, his right to be a complete douchebag. After a couple of minutes of whining and wishing he had his old car back, Whelk realizes he looks ridiculously suspicious and decides to upgrade from snooping to straight up thievery and just take all of Gansey’s stuff. To covers his tracks, he uses quite possibly the worst excuse I’ve ever read:

In case Gansey decided to come into school two hours early, Whelk left a note in the locker (“Belongings have been removed while we spray for roaches”) and then retreated back to one of the unused staff bathrooms to examine his find.

First of all, roaches? In the same building where Congressmen’s sons go to learn how to bluster their way through a scandal? Outrageous. And second, that would be the kind of thing a kid got warned about in homeroom, so the administration wouldn’t have to find a spare room to hold all that stuff in, not to mention catalogue it to make sure the right stuff got back to the right person. I’m sorry if I’m overanalyzing this note, but if I’m smart enough to poke holes in it this quickly, imagine what Gansey could do. Whelk’s plan is idiotic and I want to make sure everyone knows that.

Except that Whelk does learn things from snooping, things that make him even more dangerous than he previously had been. He now knows that Glendower lies along the ley line, and that Whelk can claim a favor if he finds him. Whelk wants power. He wants to control the line, and Glendower can make that possible. So now we know that Whelk’s motives are still crap, and that he’s even more desperate than he was before.

I’d be more impressed if he’d figured that out himself instead of stealing it from a child, but I guess I shouldn’t have expected more from him. I knew what I was getting myself into the moment I started this chapter.

Thoughts and Feelings:

Here’s the thing: this chapter is only three pages long. I respect that! I understand that we don’t need to spend a lot of time with Whelk, we just need to look at his progression every once in a while to show that, yeah, he’s still and asshole, and yeah, he’s still looking for the same thing everyone else is. And that he murdered his best friend. Somehow that comes up in every Whelk-centric chapter more than once, and I’m like, we get it! Czerny got brutally murdered and Whelk’s the worst. I understand this.

But with a three page long chapter, there are very little thoughts and even fewer feelings that I can have about it. Reading it took less than two minutes. I got the one fact I needed to get out of it, and I’m ready to move on. So, let’s move on.

Best character moment:

What he found was that Richard Gansey III was more obsessed with the ley line than he had ever been. Something about the entire research process seemed… frantic.

What is wrong with this kid? Whelk wondered.

Best turn of phrase:

“Glendower,” Whelk said out loud, trying it out. The word echoed off the bathroom walls, hollow and metallic. He wondered what Gansey—strange, desperate Gansey—was thinking he’d ask for as a favor.

Action: NONE! -1/10

Magic: EVEN MORE NONE! -7/10 

Comic relief: It was none, but then Whelk tried to tell me they were spraying Gansey’s locker for roaches and I lost it. 6/10

The Raven Boys Reread: 1.16

Summary:

This chapter is a nice break from the fraught conversations that took place when the Gangsey and the women of Fox Way were all in the same house. It also gives us gratuitous imagery of Gansey and Ronan in their pajamas (which is to say, their underwear). Thanks for that, Stiefvater. In exchange, I’ll try to talk about this chapter as a work of literature and not a teenage fantasy.

Everyone is asleep in Monmouth Maufacturing. Except, nobody is asleep, because Chainsaw is eating and it sounds goddamn disgusting. At first we don’t know it’s Chainsaw, and Gansey’s speculations as to what it could be are hilarious and also gross.

It sounded a little like one of his roommates was being killed by a possum, or possibly the final moments of a fatal cat fight. He wasn’t certain of the specifics, but he was sure death was involved.

Way to be dramatic, Gansey. It’s literally just a bird.

The sanctity of Ronan’s room is violated once again, and there he is in his boxers, feeding a baby bird. Gansey, and by extension me, spent some time admiring his tattoo before starting the argument about how Chainsaw is probably not an indoor bird and needs to shut up. Except that Gansey keeps calling her “Bird” and this is greatly upsetting to Ronan. The argument they have is hilarious, mostly because of Gansey’s polite bewilderedness after Ronan threatens Noah with a pair of tweezers.

The moment is also distinctly heartwarming, because although the noise has Noah close to tears, it’s showing a softer side of Ronan that Gansey has clearly been missing. Also, Chainsaw is a baby and Gansey is the kind of person who is good to babies because of his stern moral compass. Eventually the argument is solved, not because Gansey and Ronan reached an agreement but because they took so long that Chainsaw stopped being hungry. The boys seem unsure of what to do with themselves, so they start another argument. This time it’s about Gansey’s facial hair.

Ronan looked over his shoulder at him. He was sporting the five o’clock shadow that he was capable of growing at any time of the day. “Just stop. You look mangy.”

“It’s irrelevant. It’s not growing. I’m doomed to be a man-child.”

“If you keep saying things like ‘man-child,’ we’re done,” Ronan said. “Hey, man. Don’t let it get you down. Once your balls drop, that beard’ll come in great. Like a fucking rug. You eat soup, it’ll filter out the potatoes. Terrier style. Do you have hair on your legs? I’ve never noticed.”

Gansey didn’t dignify any of this with a response.

Hilarious.

Gansey goes back to lie on his bed but he doesn’t fall asleep. He’s feeling some type of way: lonely, dark, yearning. Before he can get too in his feelings, though, a buzzing comes from the window and we learn all in one sentence that Gansey is the type of person who’s allergic to bees and wasps, but for some reason leaves his epi-pen in the glove compartment of his car. He grabs a shoe and goes to the window to confirm that, yeah, it is a wasp, and yeah, he’s screwed.

Two narratives coexisted in his head. One was the real image: the wasp climbing up the wood, oblivious to his presence. The other was a false image, a possibility: the wasp whirring into the air, finding Gansey’s skin, dipping the stinger into him, Gansey’s allergy making it a deadly weapon.

Ronan runs in and steals the shoe from Gansey, killing the wasp before anything bad can happen. He’s careful about picking the wasp up off the floor and putting it into the trash can, but he’s also pissed off, because Noah told him that if Gansey left, Adam was going with him. Of course Ronan’s invited, we think, but then again we don’t have Ronan’s abandonment issues and can think objectively on the subject.

The chapter ends with Ronan trying desperately to get Gansey to guess his secrets. The only common understanding we get is that “it’s starting.” Good. Let’s begin.

Thoughts and Feelings:

The only word I can use to describe this chapter is sweet. It’s just a couple of really sweet boys, being sweet with baby animals and each other (never with themselves, though, that would be too easy).

I like to think of this bit as Gansey and Ronan’s Big Romantic Chapter. Because this is a young adult series and needed to be marketed to teenagers, you have to set up every pairing as possibly romantic. This chapter shows what you would get with Gansey and Ronan: why it would work (Ronan kills wasps and Gansey allows birds in the apartment) and also, the many reasons why it wouldn’t (everything else thing they do or say).

Just think about the fact that Ronan ran into the room, and not only killed the wasp but picked it up off the floor “so that Gansey wouldn’t step on it.” He hit the wasp twice, once on the window (so hard that it almost broke, might I add) and then again on the floor. Think about that for a goddamn second and tell me they don’t love each other.

Especially since, at this point, we’re pretty starved for Ronan POV. There are a lot of instances where Gansey or Blue or Adam describe how very Ronan something is, but the wasp situation is really the first time that we see the depth of emotion Ronan feels. His anger, which is so often described as being dark and bloody and sharp, is directed at something that could hurt Gansey, and suddenly it becomes caring. And sweet. I can’t tell you enough how sweet it is.

Best character moment:

Gansey didn’t know how to describe how it felt, to see death crawling inches from him, to know that in a few seconds, he could have gone from “a promising student” to “beyond saving.” He turned to Ronan, who had painstakingly picked up the wasp by a broken wing, so that Gansey wouldn’t step on it.

Best turn of phrase:

The monochromatic lines of it were stark in the claustrophobic lamplight, more real than anything else in the room. It was a peculiar tattoo, both vicious and lovely, and every time Gansey saw it, he saw something different in the pattern. Tonight, nestled in an inked glen of wicked, beautiful flowers, was a beak where before he’d seen a scythe.

Action: Frankly? Not a lot going on except for some fighting and a whole lotta love. 5/10

Magic: Magic bird magic bugs magic friendship. It’s all around us. 9/10

Comic relief: It’s gonna be funnier when Gansey actually grows a beard to filter the potatoes out of his soup, but for now this will do. 11/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.15

Summary:

We made it, folks! It’s what we’ve all been waiting for, and it only took 140 pages to get there. But it’s gonna be a doozy of a chapter, so I’ll do my best to give you a summary that makes as much sense as possible. No promises, though. A lot of stuff is about to happen, and I’m just one person.

Gansey is late to the reading. Everyone is anxious, because I assume if they’ve been hyping themselves up for this reading half as much as the reader, they’re about ready to explode with anticipation. Maura offers lots of explanations as to why this could be–maybe there’s traffic, or he had car trouble. Blue dismisses them all and thinks maybe he’s just an asshole (although car troubles is, knowing the Pig, a perfectly plausible explanation). Blue gives up all hope when Persephone decides to make a pie—if Gansey really was going to show up, Persephone would not start something that takes as much time and love as a pie.

Until, of course, Orla starts screaming from the Phone/Sewing/Cat Room that there’s a 1973 Camaro that matches her nails, and it’s parked outside the house. The doorbell rings. Blue decides she isn’t ready to meet the boy she’s going to kill and/or fall in love with, but the door opens anyways, and there are the boys. They’re dramatically backlit and they look fabulous!

Then Gansey opens his mouth, and Blue realizes that she knows that voice. It’s President Cell Phone. She couldn’t see it in Nino’s because it was too dark and too loud, but she sees it now and she’s pissed. Not so pissed, though, that she forgets to spend a whole paragraph talking about how his sleeves are rolled up and his hair is messy and he’s glowing from either money or just because he’s really hot.

But if President Cell Phone is Gansey, that means the journal is his. And it means that Adam and Gansey are best friends, which could get really complicated really fast. In fact, it means a lot of things, none of which Blue likes very much, so she keeps her mouth shut and shrinks into the shadows while Gansey does his best to charm the pants off everyone in the room. And then Maura mentions that her daughter will be in the room during the meeting and all eyes go to Blue. Hilarity ensues.

Gansey’s eyes found Blue. He’s been smiling politely, but now his face froze in the middle of a smile.

“Hi again,” he said. “This is awkward.”

“You’ve met?” Maura shot a poisonous look at Blue. Blue felt unfairly persecuted.

“Yes,” Gansey replied, with dignity. “We had a discussion about alternative professions for women. I didn’t realize she was your daughter.”

A note about this scene: the entirety of it is comedic gold; Stiefvater’s been setting up this moment for 14 chapters and it shows. Please go read the whole thing if you haven’t already, it’s worth it.

Gansey gives Adam a look, but Adam didn’t know about this, either. Blue spends a moment being self-conscious about her fashion choices, because Adam seems to be staring, but then Maura yells at them all to sit down and shut up, so they do. Except for Ronan and Calla, who are having a staring contest to see who can piss off the most friends with blunt honesty. Before they can decide who wins, Maura pronounces the room too loud, and the only way she’ll be able to do the reading is if they just do one-offs.

A one-off is a reading where each boy picks just one card, and all three women interpret. Although Blue makes it too loud, she also focuses the reading, and so she’s asked to shuffle the cards—this is when she indulges in her theatrical side and does some cool card tricks, because whoever these boys are she doesn’t like how small they make her feel. Especially not in her own house.

ADAM’S READING:

No one volunteered immediately to go first, so she offered the deck to Adam. He met her gaze and held it for a moment. There was something forceful and intentional about the gesture, more aggressive than he’d been the night he approached her.

He draws the two of swords, which means that there’s a hard choice he’s avoiding. Maura determines the person who’s asking him to make it is close to him, and Persephone says it’s his brother. Adam says he doesn’t have a brother, but he’s looking at Gansey when he says it and nobody really believes him. The women tell him that he can only see two options, but there is a third he can find if he listens to his emotions.

RONAN’S READING:

Ronan calls bullshit on the whole affair, saying that if he’s going to pick a card, they better tell him something true and specific first. Calla takes it upon herself to use her gift of psychometry (the ability to sense things about an object from touching it) and says, “a secret killed your father and you know what it was.”

There might have been only Ronan and Calla in the room. He was a head taller than her already, but he looked young beside her, like a lanky wildcat not yet up to weight. She was a lioness.

She hissed, “What are you?”

Ronan’s smile chilled Blue. There was something empty in it.

Ronan leaves to wait in the car. Gansey’s President Cell Phone mask slips for a little bit, but he gets it back up just in time for his reading, which, as you’re probably guessing, goes great and nothing is wrong!

GANSEY’S READING:

Reading your tarot cards shouldn’t be a hot scenario. Like, that shouldn’t be hot. Gansey should not be attractive to me, let alone attractive to Blue. And, yet, somehow…

She stopped in front of Gansey. This close, she again caught the scent of mint, and that made Blue’s heart trip unsteadily.

And then, Gansey decides he doesn’t know how to pick his own cards and he asks if Blue can do it for him. It’s explained that it doesn’t matter who turns over the cards, what matters is Gansey’s intentions. Everyone looks around and wonders what Gansey’s going to say next. It lives up to the hype: “I want you to,” he says. “Please.”

Ummmmmmmm… I’m not the kind of person that says “swoon” unironically, but this line really tested my sense of self.

Beyond that, Blue turns over the page of cups. We all know from Barrington Whelk’s disaster of a reading, the page of cups is Blue’s card. Everyone is like “no, Gansey, turn over another one!!! Not for you!” So Gansey turns over another one and IT’S THE PAGE OF CUPS AGAIN! Everyone is like “no! Gansey!” and so he turns over another card and it’s the death card, and then everyone is like “oh noooooooo, Gansey:(”

But Gansey doesn’t care. He just wants to find his dead king, and to do that he has to ask about the ley line. We know Maura can help him out, so it’s a little bit of a shock to hear her say she can’t help him. When she clarifies, it turns out that she didn’t mean that she couldn’t, she meant that she wouldn’t. Blue is just as shocked, and compensates for this by overcharging Gansey for the reading.

The best part of this whole situation is that, after Gansey and friends leave, Maura remembers she’s a character in a young adult novel and forbids Blue to see Gansey ever again.

“The best-case scenario here is that you make friends with a boy who’s going to die.”

“Ah,” said Calla, in a very, very knowing way. “Now I see.”

“Don’t psychoanalyze me,” her mother said.

“I already have. And I say again, ‘ah.’”

The last thing we learn is that Calla touched Ronan and felt some freaky shit: it feels like he’s pregnant with quadruplets, which is a fun image, but that’s not where she was going with that. What she meant is that Ronan’s creating something out of nothing. It’s ominous and cool, and a very Ronan thing to do.

Thoughts and Feelings:

 This is the kind of monster chapter that defies recap, just because it’s the culmination of fourteen chapter’s worth of setup. I don’t think I could do it justice in such a small summary (although this is one of the longest I’ve written so far and is probably really rambly and doesn’t make any sense).

Although it is a monster, it’s also a masterpiece. I remember before Avengers Infinity War came out and everyone was speculating what it would be like for all these characters from different movies to be interacting in the same room. That’s what I felt like in the leadup to Gansey’s reading: not only Blue and her boys, but Persephone, Maura, and Calla, all in the same space! It didn’t get as much hype as a multi-million dollar film franchise, but in my opinion it should have.

There was something so vulnerable about Blue as she moved from boy to boy, holding out tarot cards for them to take, but there’s something in Blue’s voice that made me feel like she was protected. She registered what there was about each boy that made him dangerous (you might think Ronan is the only scary one, but you would be wrong), and she dissected it. I love a character that can do that. I also love a character that can hiss at a boy half their age and feel totally justified in their actions (have I mentioned that I love Calla? Let me do it again: I LOVE CALLA).

To wrap this up, I’m really tired because this chapter is so long and complicated and honestly every sentence deserves some response from me, but that would mean I was just rewriting the book, which I don’t want to do. So, if you’re ever thinking about the Raven Boys but you don’t have time to go back and read the whole thing, just read this chapter and then skip to the end. The buildup is lovely and sometimes soft and sometimes hilarious, but this is where we really start to get going. It was worth the wait.

Best character moment:

“Thanks,” Adam said. It wasn’t quite the right thing to say but it wasn’t entirely wrong, either. Blue liked how polite he was. It seemed different than Gansey’s politeness. When Gansey was polite, it made him powerful. When Adam was polite, he was giving power away.

Best turn of phrase:

There might have only been Ronan and Calla in the room. He was a head taller than her already, but he looked young beside her, like a lanky wildcat not yet up to weight. She was a lioness.

Action: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!ALL MY PEOPLE IN ONE ROOM!!!!!!!!!!!!! 100/10

Magic: Tarot cards, psychometry, and a lot of tension, some of which was sexual. Magic is in the air! 9/10

Comic Relief: Please refer to the page at the beginning of the chapter when Gansey realizes Blue is his devil waitress and Ronan calls Adam a loser. I don’t think I need to provide any more evidence than that. 20/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.14

Summary:

Hello, and welcome back to the series where a teenage girl spends her time getting emotionally devastated by a young adult novel and decides to give other people the same opportunity.

But first, comedy: enter Helen. We love Helen. Helen is Gansey, minus the testosterone and a lot of the rich white guilt. Also minus the great friends and the magical quest, but she does have the decidedly nonmagical quest of figuring out when her mother’s birthday is and buying her a gift, which is also an important journey because moms deserve the world. And that’s how we meet the Gansey siblings.

Gansey siblings were a rare and complicated species, and they didn’t have to pretend to be something they weren’t around each other.

But Gansey wants to hang up the phone, because he’s driving into Adam’s neighborhood to pick him up for the reading. Adam doesn’t live in a trailer park, per se, because all of the homes are double-wides. But it’s still dusty, and colorless, and as he drives into it Gansey is struck by how much money has influenced everything about him, even his perception of the world. He thought it had always been beautiful. He didn’t realize you had to pay for it.

There is no spring here, Gansey realized, and the thought was unexpectedly grim.

Adam’s mother tells Gansey Adam’s out back, and then closes the door in his face. He found Adam underneath an old car, pretending to work so he didn’t have to be inside. Gansey then says “hey, tiger,” and at first I was like, um, what? And then I was like, aww. It’s sweet but not something I can ever picture Gansey saying out loud.

Adam doesn’t come out from under the car, and we all know what that means. It was bad, this time, and so Gansey makes a little bit of small talk before saying that he has to come out of the car eventually, and the waiting is only going to make it worse. He’s wrong, though, and he finds this out when Adam emerges and the bruises are on his face.

I want to preface this by saying that I’m having a really hard time summarizing this, because Adam’s situation is incredibly hard and the argument he’s having with Gansey is nuanced and complicated. They’re both immature and far too insecure about their own issues to understand where the other is coming from. So here I am, trying my best: 

Gansey wants Adam to come live at Monmouth. Adam knows that he can’t. If he accepts Gansey’s help, then any freedom he gets will be a gift, and not something he earns. Any way I spin it would come with me taking a side, and I don’t want to do that. So, to put it as objectively as possible: Gansey doesn’t want Adam to go through anything alone. Adam’s been going through his abuse alone for years, and he doesn’t know how to do it any other way.

Success meant nothing to Adam if he hadn’t done it for himself.

The fight escalates and we think it’s going to end with Gansey driving away, trying not to watch Adam disappear in his rearview mirror. Instead, Adam leans in the window and both of them acknowledge the other’s argument.

Adam looked at Gansey. There wss something fierce and chilling in his eyes, an unnamable something that Gansey was always afraid would take over completely. This, he knew, was a compromise, a risky gift that he could choose to reject.

After a moment’s hesitation, Gansey bumped knuckles with him over the gearshift. Adam rolled down the window and gripped the roof as if he needed to hold on.

The triumph of temporary truce is ruined when, on the way out, Robert Parrish drives by. I’m going to let Stiefvater take this description, because I don’t want to have to rewrite it.

Robert Parrish was a big thing, colorless as August, grown from the dust that surrounded the trailers. His eyes were dark and small and Gansey could see nothing of Adam in them.

Robert Parrish spat out of the window. He didn’t pull over for them to pass. Adam’s face was turned out to the cornfield, but Gansey didn’t look away.

“You don’t have to come,” Gansey said, because he had to say it.

Adam’s voice came from far away. “I’m coming.”

And they drive away from Adam’s house, to hear their future.

Thoughts and Feelings:

I want to start with the nice things about this chapter. Like the fact that we have more nicknames to add to the list, thanks to Helen. With Gansey as Hollywood, Adam as Trailer Park Boy, and Ronan as “the mean one” or Captain Frigid, why would we even call them by their real names? Personally I think Blue has more of a knack for the whole nicknaming thing, but I do want to thank Helen for trying.

Other than that, I don’t know what to say. This chapter is devastating. It’s written with this beautiful attention to language interspersed with dialogue that can completely gut you, and if I’m being honest my thoughts and feelings can just be summed up into anger and helplessness. I assume that’s how Stiefvater wanted me to feel, and she’s done a great job. Kudos, but also, screw you. 

Best character moment:

Adam closed his eyes for a minute. Gansey could see his irises moving underneath the thin skin of his eyelids, a dreamer awake.

And then, in one easy moment, he’d slid into the passenger’s seat.

Best turn of phrase:

red and swelling as a galaxy

Action: A lot of milling around a backyard and a healthy dose of emotional pain, wrapped up in a beautifully written package. 7/10

Magic: There was absolutely no magic at all. Not even the bad kind. 0/10

Comic relief: Helen was there for a little bit, and there was a dog that loved Adam almost as much as I do, which wasn’t comedy but it was certainly a relief from the heartache. 5/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.13

Summary:

The first thing to happen in this chapter is that Blue askes the question we all dream will one day be answered: why is Neeve creeping around? Maura gives her a one-two punch of ridiculous answers. First, that Neeve is family, which Blue obviously does not buy. And then, after that, Maura says Neeve is helping her look for someone. I understand that Google won’t work, but it seems like Neeve isn’t doing anything but stirring the pot and looking mysterious.

Blue isn’t exactly listening to Maura’s excuses, though, because in trying not to think about Gansey and Adam, she’s thinking way too hard about Gansey and Adam. Gansey’s appointment (which we’ve been waiting for since chapter six) is looming, but it seems like the thing Blue’s more worried about is that she gave Adam her number and he hasn’t called her. Are boys supposed to call right away? I’ve never given one my number, so I wouldn’t know, but she seems to be expecting a pretty quick turnaround.

But my wondering was interrupted by, you guessed it! The love of my life, Barrington Whelk. He just let himself into someone else’s house and instead of being like, “hello?” he goes, “this is a strange way to run a business.” I thought we’d maxed out on douchebaggery but apparently I was wrong. Maura does her best to get him the hell out of her house, but before she can shove him out the door Persephone offers him a triple reading. This means she has to go get Calla from upstairs.

Let’s talk about Calla for a second. Actually, no. Let’s let Stiefvater talk about Calla, because nobody does it better than she can and Calla deserves the best.

Calla blew into the room, her eyebrows quite angry at being disturbed. She was wearing lipstick in a dangerous shade of plum, which made her mouth a small, pursed diamond under her pointy nose. Calla gave the man a lacerating look that plumbed the depths of his soul and found it wanting…the room seemed a lot smaller than it had a few minutes before. This was mostly Calla’s fault.

I love Calla. I love Persephone and Maura, too, but Calla is new to the scene and hasn’t gotten any love yet, so I feel like I can be a little indulgent. Anyways, they do a triple reading for Whelk and it doesn’t go well (for those of you that don’t know, a triple reading is when all three women lay their tarot cards at the same time and interpret them together). Strike one is when Blue notices that Whelk’s shower gel smells like it’s called “SHOCK or EXCITE or BLUNT TRAUMA,” which sounds more like his relationship with Czerny than it does a soap, if you ask me. Then, the results of the reading a creepy and specific and nobody in the room likes the vibe they’re getting.

Here’s what the reading reveals

  • Whelk has lost someone close to him
  • Money is a concern, because of a woman
  • He’s good as his job but he hates it
  • Whelk is looking for something, and he’ll do whatever it takes to get it
  • Then they all spot the Page of Cups and kick Whelk out on his ass

Whelk leaves, but not before making sure everyone knows he’s incredibly insulted. And then, the women of Fox Way sum up how we all feel about Barrington Whelk better than I ever could:

Maura whirled towards Blue. “Blue, if you ever see that man again, you just walk the other way.”

“No,” Calla corrected. “Kick him in the nuts. Then run the other way.”

Their reaction makes me feel justified and also vindicated, which is a lovely way to end a chapter.

Thoughts and Feelings: I have some things that didn’t make it into the summary, but that I promised myself I’d mention somehow, so here they are.

When Whelk walks in, one of Maura’s bras (described as both lacy and mauve) is lying on top of the laundry basket. Blue left it there. We get a lovely detail about how she absolutely refuses to feel bad, because how was she supposed to know a strange man would be in their house? She wasn’t. And it made me weirdly happy to read that line and be like, yeah, Blue. You shouldn’t feel bad.

The Sargents have a signed photo of Steve Martin hanging on their wall, and they’re really proud of it. When people look at it, they mention the autograph and are excited about the fact that this is what they’ve chosen to decorate with. I don’t know who’s in charge of handing out shows on HGTV but they need to call the women of Fox Way ASAP so they can get started on an interior design special.

There’s a moment, just at the beginning of the reading, when Maura, Persephone, and Calla all take their seats and prepare to shuffle their cards. The line that follows is the end of this chapter’s character moment, so go read it—and if after you do it doesn’t break your heart what will? Nothing. You’re heartless and now I have proof.

Other than that, this chapter is one of the ones we get in the leadup to Gansey’s reading that is pure setup. It puts Whelk in a better position to be a villain now that he’s pissed off some of our heroes, and confirms that he’ll definitely find something so the Gangsey better get looking and find it first. It introduces the basics of what a reading is like with all three women in the room before the boys show up and make things complicated. It gets us ready for what we’ve all been waiting so patiently for, but that’s coming up next, so hold tight for just a little bit longer.

Best character moment:

The man dropped into a seat. Maura took the chair opposite from him at the table, with Calla and Persephone (and Persephone’s hair) on either side of her. Blue was, as always, just a little apart.

Best turn of phrase:

Blue loved watching Persephone lay down her cards; the limpid turn of her wrist and the swick of the card always made it seem like a sleight of hand or a ballet movement.

Action: Two people jumped off a table and there was a minor break-in. Even after all that, I’m still waiting for the reading we were promised when the book began. 6/10

Magic: Not only is the reading scary accurate, but the Page of Cups gets its first mention! We give a +5 on the magic scale for every mention of our Blue-Faced tarot card and her handful of potential. 13/10

Comic relief: Maura made a joke about psychics not being strippers and only Blue laughed, which was annoying, because it was funny. 8/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.12

Summary:

This summary won’t be very long, because the gist of this chapter is: ADAM ISN’T HERE and SCHOOL IS ANNOYING AND NOBODY WANTS TO GO. But I’m obligated to go into more detail than that, so here we go.

Gansey pulls up to the dirt road that leads into Adam’s neighborhood, and he’s not there. To accurately describe the place where Adam lives, we’re taken back to the first time Gansey ever carpooled with Adam. First, he thought Adam’s road was just a clean spot of grass for him to turn around and look for an actual driveway. Then he pulled up to Adam’s front door, and the piece of human garbage that calls himself Robert Parrish spotted the Aglionby merch Gansey was sporting and gave him our newest nickname: the S.R.F. (soft, rich, etc.). So that’s why Gansey stops at little grove of mailboxes instead of pulling up to Adam’s house. And the human garbage dump that lives at the end of the road is why we’re all worried when Adam doesn’t show.

So, here’s where we are with the whole carpool situation: Adam doesn’t have a phone. Nobody knows where he is. Gansey counts down the minutes until the 15 minute drive to school becomes too long to make it on time, wishing that he could just skip school and go run around in the woods looking for a sleeping Welsh king. But he can’t, because Aglionby is actually a pretty good school, and Gansey doesn’t plan on asking Glendower for a passing grade in pre-calc. This means that, to appease his father and keep his trust fund intact, Gansey has to be at school on time.

Dick Gansey II had let his son know that if he couldn’t hack it in a private school, Gansey was cut out of the will.

He’d said it nicely, though, over a plate of fettucine.

And so Richard Gansey III turns the Pig around and drives to Aglionby, thinking maybe Adam will already be there. Spoiler alert: he isn’t.

Gansey figures this out when he gets to Latin, and, surprise! Adam’s not there. Ronan informs him that Adam wasn’t in second period, either. So nobody knows where Adam is, and they can’t ask, because he doesn’t have a cell phone.

A few months earlier, Gansey had offered to buy Adam a cell phone, and by doing so had launched the longest fight they’d ever had, a week of silence that had resolved itself only when Ronan did something more offensive than either of them could accomplish.

Someone tells Ronan they’re going to “fuck him up” (it’s Kavinsky, but we won’t get into that until book two), and Gansey thinks about needing to hire a babysitter for Friday nights. He’s distracted, though, when he finds out that Ronan is carrying Chainsaw in his bag. Our boy literally smuggled a baby bird into class because Google said he had to feed it every two hours.

“If you get caught with that thing—“ But Gansey couldn’t think of a suitable threat. What was the punishment for smuggling a live bird into classes? He wasn’t certain there was precedent. He finished, instead, “If it dies in your bag, I forbid you to throw it out in a classroom.”

Tell me this kind of banter isn’t exactly what you needed today. And then, like he’s just here to ruin this moment, Whelk turns around and starts eavesdropping on their conversation. Ronan manages to say what we’re all thinking, calling Whelk a “socially awkward shitbird,” and even Gansey admits that he’s a tool. Once that’s established it’s back to Adam: where is he and why isn’t he in school? It’s time for Latin, do you know where your kids are?

Before they can get very far in the conversation, Whelk asks Ronan why his bag is so large. It’s because there’s a baby bird in it, but Ronan can’t say that so instead he asks Whelk if he knows what they say about men with large bags, and then a punchline in Latin. I put it in google translate and it means “you show me yours and I will show,” but I think we can remember that Google Translate is a robot and therefore imperfect, and reasonably assume it means “you show me yours and I’ll show you mine.” Which, um, Ronan said to his teacher.

Whelk doesn’t do anything because Ronan said it in Latin (so even Gansey didn’t know what it meant) and he really can’t complain. The only thing he can do is teach a class, which Adam never shows up to. We can only hope the rest of the day goes quickly.

Thoughts and Feelings:

The story of how Gansey learned where to pick Adam up is heartbreaking in the quiet way that Stiefvater approaches the whole issue of Adam and his father. All throughout the beginning of the novel we hear about it like it’s something everybody knows but doesn’t want to talk about, and because that’s the way the characters understand the situation, it works. I’m certainly not an expert on subjects like this, and so I don’t want to make wild claims or assumptions about domestic abuse or violence. But so far, it’s never been stated explicitly. We all know about it, we’re all miserable about it, and, as readers, there’s nothing we can do.

And then what we hear about Adam refusing to take a cell phone from Gansey, the way he has to earn his own money and buy his own things. The way this plays out over the rest of the series is one of those undeniably human problems. Like, if Adam would just be less stubborn there would be so many less issues to resolve. He could move into Monmouth, he could stop working and Gansey could give him a loan, but Adam wouldn’t be Adam if he did those things. We have to sacrifice the ease of having all our characters in one place, searching for their lost king, for a group of characters that are flawed and human. Except for Barrington Whelk, who is all flaw and no human.

I just think this chapter shows why these books do such a fabulous job of giving us people that live beyond the page, and that’s why as much as it really was just a lot of “Adam isn’t here” and “I don’t want to attend this prestigious boarding school because I have better things to do,” it was also full of important details and moments that should not be overlooked.

Best character moment:

Gansey contemplated if he could give Ronan a curfew. Or if she should quit rowing to spend more time with him on Fridays—he knew that was when Ronan got into trouble with the BMW.

Best turn of phrase:

Ronan kept staring at Whelk. He was good at staring. There was something about his stare that took something from the other person.

Action: Honestly? Not much. But Ronan did talk about his balls in Latin, so. A different kind of action? 4/10

Magic: The only magic mention comes when Gansey says he’s tired and sad and no longer thinks Chainsaw is Not A Coincidence. Boo that. -1/10

Comic relief: Every chapter where Gansey is trying to keep Ronan under any semblance of control is comedic gold. 12/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.11

Summary:

The first thing that happens in this chapter is that Blue wakes up exactly 1 hour and 23 minutes before her alarm. Now, when I was reading about Whelk and his time at Aglionby I absolutely could not relate to the high school experience. But waking up before your alarm and absolutely hating yourself for it? That’s a High School Mood if I’ve ever seen one.

The wake-up call is Maura and Neeve fighting over whether or not Neeve should “look at” Henrietta. Neeve’s argument is that she can’t help it; the town is loud and she’s just listening. Maura’s protective over Henrietta and inadvertently lets slip to Blue that she asked Neeve to come to Henrietta and look for Blue’s father. The only thing we know about him is that we don’t know anything.

In Blue’s head, he was a dashing heroic figure who’s had to vanish because of a tragic past. Possibly to a witness protection program. She liked to image him stealing a glimpse of her over the backyard fence, proudly watching his strange daughter daydream under the beech tree. 

Blue was awfully fond of her father, considering she’d never met him.

Blue falls asleep and then wakes up before her alarm again, which has got to be some kind of sick joke. But what wakes her up this time is realizing that today is the day she’s going to meet Gansey (or so she thinks). In order to comfort herself she looks through his journal, and I can’t decide if that’s cute or weird. Or maybe a little bit of both, since Blue’s reasoning for not having friends is that everyone else is too normal for her. It all sounds like that impassioned speech Jughead makes in Riverdale—have you ever seen Blue take off that stupid hat? That’s weird, she’s weird—because she doesn’t have any friends and isn’t learning anything important, high school is pointless and she doesn’t want to go. Does that sound like anyone to you? Maybe someone who drives an orange Camaro and looks for Welsh kings in his spare time?

Instead of leaving for school like Orla keeps telling her to do, Blue goes to talk to Persephone, one of her mother’s best friends. Persephone is our favorite manic pixie dream girl, except that she’s not a dream nor is she manic, and I wouldn’t call her a girl, either. She fits the trope for about three seconds and then she blows it wide open, making me wish that she was a side character in every book I’ve ever read.

“Good morning,” Blue said.

“Good morning,” Persephone echoed. “It’s too early. My words aren’t working, so I’ll just use as many of the ones that work for you as possible.”

I don’t know what that means, but I do know it’s delightful. Persephone is working on a project that turns out to be a piece of paper with the word three written on it 3 times, and a pie recipe (banana cream, if you’re wondering). Blue suggests this could mean that good things come in threes. Persephone says maybe they come in sevens, you never know.

The real reason Blue knocked on Persephone’s door was to get her opinion on the journal. Persephone then delivers one of the most badass line in the history of the series when Blue asks her how she knows the journal isn’t hers:

Persephone paged back and forth. Her dainty, child’s voice was soft enough that Blue had to hold her breath to hear it. “This is clearly a boy’s journal. Also, it’s taking him forever to find this thing. You’d have already found it.”

Blue wants to know what her next move is. Persephone’s advice is to find the owner of the journal, and then find out if its contents are true. I assume Blue then gets on her bike and goes to school, finally listening to the myriad of Sargent women who have been screaming up the stairs all morning.

Thoughts and Feelings:

The attachment Blue develops to this journal in such a short period of time is wild. This book focuses mostly on Blue’s relationship to Adam, and if anything her interactions with Gansey are focused on the two of them searching for any sort of common ground on which to meet. But I’m surprised that I didn’t notice, in my earlier reading, how hard Blue falls for the side of Gansey she sees in the journal. It’s the Gansey Adam sees outside of Aglionby. And the journal brings the same nesting doll syndrome out of Blue:

She closed the pages. It felt as if there were a larger, terribly curious Blue inside her that was about to bust out of the smaller, more sensible Blue that held her.

When I think about how the plot of the series was originally framed, especially in the first couple of chapters, as “Blue will have a forbidden love because her kiss is cursed” being the main conflict, it can feel like we don’t get enough of that as we’re promised in the first installment. But it is, if you just look for it!

As for Persephone, her and Calla are some of the greatest characters in Henrietta (I know I say that about a lot of people, because if you hadn’t already noticed Steifvater has a knack for creating beautiful and complicated characters). Our introduction to Persephone, as Steifvater takes us through the layers of Persephone that people really see: the hair, the outfits, the mirror-black eyes. And then she strips that all away by giving us a woman who’s a psychic who speaks in echoes and is writing a thesis for her PhD (the PhD bit really endears me to her future relationship with Adam). What a woman.

Best character moment:

When she touched the beech tree, she felt at once comforted and anxious: reassured and driven to action.

Best turn of phrase:

When pressed, people often remembered Persephone’s hair: a long, wavy white-blonde mane that fell to the back of her thighs. If they got past her hair, they sometimes remembered her dresses—elaborate, frothy creations or quizzical smocks. And if they made it past that, they were unsettled by her eyes, true mirror black pupils hidden in the darkness.

Action: Besides people constantly yelling at Blue to get a move on, she never actually got her move on. In the words of many early 2000s movies, come on barf breath, you’re gonna be late for school! 6/10

Magic: Blue is learning about Welsh magic and the magic of a really beautiful scrapbook. Also, Persephone definitely saw some stuff about that banana cream pie. 11/10

Comic relief: I’ll repeat myself: Persephone DEFINITELY saw some stuff about that banana cream pie. 9/10