The Raven Cycle Reread: 2.09

Summary:

Will I always be a little late posting these now? Yes. That’s just who I am as a person. Does that stop me from getting excited to talk about a beautiful bottle episode chapter in which Gansey, Ronan, and Noah terrorize a dollar store cashier? No, of course not.

Last chapter, Adam and Blue had a fight and then Cabeswater sent Adam an image. For this new scene, we’re teleported to Dollar City, where Gansey receives a phone call. Southern dollar stores have such a distinct aura to them. I’m not sure how to describe it, but I’ve spent enough time messing around in Dollar Generals in South Carolina looking for the perfect thing to spend my single dollar bill on to know it’s something else. Our boys and their slightly domesticated bird definitely belong there, that’s all I have to say.

We’re given a beautiful portrait of all the things you can buy at this Dollar City: animal shaped erasers, notebooks with guns on them, a clock shaped like a turkey (upon discovery, Gansey says “mon dieu” and it’s probably the worst thing he’s ever said).

But the whole reason they’re in the store is because Ronan’s angry and this is how to distract him. The only problem is that now Gansey’s on the phone and all that does is stoke Ronan’s anger:

But tonight, under the fluorescent lights of Dollar City, Gansey’s hair was scuffed and his cargo shorts were a greasy ruin from mucking over the Pig. He was barelegged and sockless in his boat shoes and very clearly a real human, an attainable human, and this, somehow, made Ronan want to smash his fist through a wall.

Like okay, I get it, we’re all in love with Gansey and need his OOTDs and want him to kiss us all the time… stop being so mad about it.

We spend a lot of time alternating between Ronan eavesdropping on the Gansey side of the phone conversation and musing about Kavinsky or longing to go back to the Barns and be with his family. The only thing that can break that spell is Noah, appearing with a snow globe full of glitter like a ghost in shining armor.

And then, a revelation: remember how Adam’s rent got changed to reflect exactly the raising of his tuition? And how he immediately blamed Gansey, and was so mad about it? Yeah, it was Ronan.

If Adam had been thinking straight, though, he would’ve considered how it was Ronan who had infinite connections to St. Agnes. And how whoever was behind the rent change would have had to enter a church office with both a wad of cash and a burning intention to persuade a church lady to lie about a fake tax assessment. Taken apart this way, in seemed to have Ronan written all over it. But one of the marvelous things about being Ronan Lynch was that no one ever expected him to do anything nice for anyone.

The emotional ramifications of this admission are cleverly avoided when Noah blinks out of existence, dropping the glitter filled snow globe and freaking everyone out in the process. He reemerges from the void quickly enough, grabbing onto Ronan and using all his body heat as energy. Ghost Noah is always to chill and cuddly that it’s easy to forget he’s the spirit of a murder victim and therefore inherently unpredictable.

Noah’s explanation is that they ley line just disappeared. The apparition Adam saw in his apartment corroborates that story: something funky is going on. And then, in classic Stiefvater ending, Noah tells Ronan he knows where the anger comes from, and when Ronan asks what he knows Noah is like “it’s not my job to tell other people’s secrets” which, like, okay I guess? But it’s such an annoying way to end a chapter because it’s just not addressed and is also very frustrating. The end.

Thoughts and Feelings:

I’ve come to the conclusion that I love this chapter’s ambiance but I don’t necessarily like its contents. I love the idea of the Gangsey in a dollar store just messing around while the clerk wonders why the hell they brought a raven pretending to be a pet, but the reality of it—the ley line disappearing and the fact that they’re always being so weird about Adam—makes the whole scene less enjoyable than you think it would be.

Like, okay, let’s talk about Adam. Every single time he’s mentioned in a scene, whoever’s point of view it is dedicates at least a paragraph to talking about how different he is after the sacrifice. How he’s something “other,” that they don’t know how to deal with anymore. First of all, did they ever know how to deal with Adam? They treated him like just as much of a mystery in the first book, and there wasn’t even a dream forest in the equation. Secondly, so what if he’s different than everyone else? Ronan pulls things out of his dreams, Blue is a human battery, Gansey died and came back to life, and Noah died and is still dead. But yeah, sure, I’ll believe that Adam’s the one who just doesn’t fit in anymore.

I don’t know why it makes me so frustrated. Actually, yeah, I do know why. It’s because it’s chapter nine and we’re still sitting around talking about how we don’t understand what’s going on with Adam yet, meanwhile not once have they gone to Cabeswater and, I don’t know, asked. We get the feeling that it’s been weeks since the bargain was made, and yet nobody seems interested in doing anything but speculating about it.

But I’m tired of being indignant, so I want to end on some happy feelings: the warm and fuzzies I got when Noah held up the glitter snow globe to Ronan and everyone looked at it in wonder. Thank you and good night.

Best Character Moment:

Noah made a rude gesture, a hilariously unthreatening act coming from him, like a growl from a kitten.

Best Turn of Phrase:

Chainsaw let out a terrible creaking sound.

She cried, “Kerah!”

He laid a frozen hand over her head, comforting her, though he was not comforted.

Action: Absolutely none, unless you count dropping a snow globe. 3/10

Magic: Noah, being both a real boy and a ghost, all in the same chapter? Amazing. 10/10

Comic Relief: Also Noah- amazing!!!! 12/10!!!!!!!!

The Raven Cycle Reread: 2.08

Summary:

Hello and welcome to a segment I like to call Emily Posts a Day Late Because She Was Visiting a Small Irish Seaside Town! Apologies from both me and the friends I walked around with, but it was very beautiful and pictures will be included in a life update probably none of you will want to read in the coming weeks, but. A consolation, I guess? Now, back to Virginia.

Finally, finally, we return to Adam Parrish: our boy of the perpetual self-loathing and beautiful bone structure. Not only am I excited to hear about the aftermath of the sacrifice from the character himself, but we finally get to figure out where he’s living! It’s a room in a church called St. Agnes, and I love that for Adam. Long live St. Agnes, Adam’s IKEA mattress, and his cardboard box bedside table set.

He doesn’t spend nearly enough time in his apartment, though, because he’s too busy working three jobs so that during the year he has any small amount of time to do his homework. It sounds like everything with him is pretty fraught, and it gets even more so once he sees Blue waiting for him on the stairs to his apartment.

Blue was pretty in a way that was physically painful to him. He was attracted to her like a heart attack.

My astute summary at this point in the chapter is that Adam is far too stressed and horny, and he needs both a long nap and a girlfriend who can kiss him without accidentally killing him, neither of which he will be getting any time soon.

After an OOTD and some complaints about how Blue is too considerate of Adam’s feelings and it’s annoying, we move into the awkward conversation portion of the chapter. It lasts a reasonable amount of time, in which Blue and Adam dance around each other verbally and are both clearly baffled by the fact that they have no idea what to say or do. Adam does something that, in any normal circumstance, would be perfect: he touches Blue’s face, hugs her, and then moves in for the kiss.

Of course, this is Blue we’re talking about. She freaks out and has some reasonable points: why isn’t her desire to not kiss Adam enough? Why does he need a reason? I can see it from both sides, but more on that later. For now, we have to talk about how Adam gets into the shower as an avoidance tactic and leaves Blue to hang out until he’s done.

This is when Cabeswater reintroduces itself:

From inside the sloped old shower, he caught a half-image of himself in the mirror and startled. For a moment something about his own reflection had seemed wrong. His wide eyes and gaunt face peered back at him, troubled but not unusual.

And just like that, he was thinking of Cabeswater again.

In short, Adam thinks about Cabeswater all the time. It’s because he knows he made a sacrifice but he doesn’t know what the specificities entail, except that sometimes things feel or look strange. He gets images, or things look weird, and then he wonders what’s going on with him. Frankly, I don’t get why everyone is so certain that he’s something “other” (Gansey is literally a walking zombie, if you want to get technical), but okay. I get it. Something weird is happening and I don’t want to be dismissive about it.

But real life rears its head with a vengeance in the form of a lovely lady who works for the church. She tells Blue and Adam that because of a “tax reassessment,” his rent is much lower than it otherwise would be. Curiously, that matches up with the exact amount that Aglionby has raised his tuition. He’s mad at Gansey, even though he has no proof that it was him, and there are all kinds of complicated emotions.

I don’t feel super qualified to talk about Adam’s relationship to/struggles with money because I haven’t experienced this extent of financial insecurity in my life, so I don’t want to make snarky comments about this section of the chapter or express my annoyance at his refusal to accept help. I’m not sure how I would feel in Adam’s situation, and that makes me lucky. Now let’s move on.

Gansey isn’t there for Adam to be mad at so he takes it out on Blue. We’ve all spent a significant amount of time with Blue, so we know how she’d react, and she doesn’t disappoint. The argument is short and furious and ends with Adam kicking his cardboard-box bedside table across the room.

Blue gives a self-righteous speech and goes to sit outside, leaving Adam inside to compare himself to his father.

After a moment, he calmed down enough to see how his anger was a separate thing inside of him, a dingy, surprise gift from his father. He calmed down enough to remember that if he waited long enough, carefully analyzing how it felt, the emotion would lose its inertia. It was the same as physical pain. The more he tried to mentally decide what made pain hurt, the less his brain seemed able to remember the pain at all.

He thinks of anger as an inheritance, and himself as a monster right down to the strands of his DNA. He’s working three jobs and studying and paying for his whole life by himself, and also participating in the hunt for Glendower because he wants that favor. He thinks that he needs an old Welsh king so that he can be fixed.

And then, Cabeswater again. Another image. And the end of the chapter.

Thoughts and Feelings:

I wait so long for chapters about Adam, and then when they come I procrastinate this part so much. Writing about Adam is hard. I don’t know how Stiefvater does it—she manages to write this boy who not only has such a strict personal code and set of rules and goals for himself, but doesn’t understand the emotions behind these rules or what he wants from his future. I find it nearly impossible to talk about without feeling as though I’m trivializing it somehow. I don’t want to make Adam small, not only because he’s such a large character, but because he’s already been made small by so many people, himself included.

And then there’s the way this chapter functions as the beginning of the end for Adam and Blue’s romantic relationship. The scene where Adam caresses her face and goes in for this kiss is, for starters, fantastic. I’ve decided, for the first time, to insert an illustrative meme below.

y.a. kisses

The yearning!!!!!!!!!!!

But also, if Blue just trusted Adam enough to explain to him what’s going on, he wouldn’t be acting like this. Blue has to know how willing Adam is to think it’s because there’s something wrong with him. And this is when we get into a complicated question of consent: it should 100% be enough for Blue to simply say no. But in a committed relationship, there should also be a discussion that follows this statement. Under no circumstances should Adam be coercive, or shame Blue for making this choice. But there needs to be an honest conversation, at least, if both of them want to continue with a relationship.

But she doesn’t trust him enough. Or she’s embarrassed, or shy, or just sixteen and stupid. Whatever reason, this is the definitive beginning of the end for them as a romantic pairing. While I think it’s for the best, I’m always going to mourn it a little here because it ended badly. Because it forces them to be awkward around each other, when they are capable of being such fantastic friends. It’s frustrating, especially when it becomes just another reason for Adam to liken himself to his father.

But at least towards the end of the chapter we get back to the discussion of Cabeswater, and the magic. Yes, please, get everyone in the same place. Yes, please, let that place be a magical forest with talking trees. But that’s for next time.

Best Character Moment:

Want and need were words that got eaten smaller and smaller: freedom, autonomy, a perennial bank balance, a stainless-steel condo in a dustless city, a silky black car, to make out with Blue, eight hours of sleep, a cell phone, to kiss Blue just once, a blister-less heel, bacon for breakfast, to hold Blue’s hand, one hour of sleep, toilet paper, deodorant, a soda, a minute to close his eyes.

What do you want, Adam?

To feel awake when my eyes are open.

Best Turn of Phrase:

That might have been good enough, if he hadn’t known what else was out there. If he hadn’t grown up next to Aglionby Academy. If you never saw the stars, candles were enough.

Action: There was a fight, but it was all words and it made me sad. 4/10

Magic: Besides allowing Adam to catch a couple of images, magic has only done damage!! It is so rude. 4/10

Comic Relief: I’m sticking with a theme here. 4/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 2.07

Summary:

The first thing we learn in this chapter is that, unlike me, Stiefvater really likes cars. She liked to talk about how different people drive different cars and what that says about them, except she often says it in a way that only people who also like cars understand. So here I am, reading a paragraph about the Gray Man strongly disliking a rental car because it doesn’t drive fast and also it keeps trying to bite him…?

I have an image in my head of Lightning McQueen going “kerchow” and then taking a bite out of the Gray Man in my head, and frankly, I want it gone. Let’s move on from this paragraph with only the understanding that the Gray Man wishes he’d rented a better car.

But, hooray! We move onto something I love! Aggressive suburbia. I don’t mean to always have heart eyes when I talk about cookie-cutter America, because it has a lot of problems, but it also has pizzerias and local diners and tiny public libraries that always carry the sequels and not the first book. It’s so charmingly ineffectual and easy to love. The Gray Man is not as easily swayed, but that’s a character trait I’m willing to forgive since he named his car the Champagne Monstrosity, which is a great name for a car that you love to hate. My very large minivan was called the White Whale, and it never did anything right and I cried when it got scrapped.

I just realized I haven’t said anything about the plot yet, so here we go: the Gray Man is looking for the Graywaren using electronic doodads procured by Colin Greenmantle, and because he hasn’t found anything he stopped for a tuna fish sandwich (tuna fish is the best lunch meat and I’ll fight you on that).

The power goes out while he’s eating and he’s curious, because he has the type of analytical mind that Barrington Whelk did not have.  He’s like, hmm. I wonder what that could mean? And then the tuna fish lady tells him it means nothing, that the power goes out and comes back on all the time, but the Gray Man doesn’t believe her! Good sleuthing, Gray Man.

The tuna fish lady is very talkative, so we learn about how the Aglionby Boys shoot off probably illegal fireworks on the Fourth of July (which the Gray Man has to pull up a “mental calendar” to figure out… okay sir) and how she hates one boy in particular. You know, the one who drives a white Mistubishi and spends 95% of his time taking pills and harassing the very magical being the Gray Man is looking for. But the Gray Man doesn’t know that, so he finishes his tuna fish, keeps driving, and gets a very important call.

The phone rang only twice. Missed call. His brother had never intended for him to pick up; he merely wanted this: the Gray Man stopping the car, wondering if he was supposed to return the call. Wondering if his brother was going to call back. Untangling the wired threads in his gut.

Now, I don’t remember this next part, and I’ve read this book probably upwards of five times. In fact, the post-it note I placed last night in my overview chapter says, quote, “I don’t remember this part but it’s eerie and I do not like it.” Strap in, kids, it’s gonna get weird.

The electronic doodads are going crazy over something, and upon investigation we discover it’s because of this field of dead plants, at the center of which is a rose “growing itself to death.” Here’s the thing: I’ve been reading this same passage for like ten minutes, and I read it a bunch of times last night, and I can’t for the life of me picture what this is supposed to look like.

Above an ordinary green trunk, dozens of twisted shoots clawed from the old canes, contorting tightly around one another. Each mutated cane was tinged the florid red of new growth; it looked eerily as if blood ran through them. The new shoots bristled with malevolent red spines.

The ultimate result of this furious growth was apparent in the blackened knot of branches above. Dead. The rose was growing itself to death.

Do with that what you will.

He opens up a well, which is located behind the creepy death rose, and his electric doodads go absolutely insane and then fully quiet. It’s a pickle, but one that the Grey Man intends to solve. He heads back to the Champagne Monstrosity and gets the hell out of dodge.

Thoughts and Feelings:

I really do appreciate the Gray Man. He’s doing the sleuthing for me and letting me add my own information, whereas when it was Whelk I felt like I was doing all the detective work and he was just thinking about guacamole. I know he’s an assassin who’s hunting our favorite snake (who happens to be named Ronan Lynch and takes the shape of a cute Irish boy), but, I don’t know. We’ve all made some weird career choices. I know people I like very much who have jobs with Wall Street banking companies, and even though killing people isn’t the same thing as being a banker, I’m still finding redeeming qualities in the Gray Man.

Not the least of which is that he reminds me of Blue. I’d like to draw your attention to the adventures of the Gray Man and his tuna fish sandwich, at a restaurant which claims it has the best tuna in town.

The tuna fish was good. It was the only one he’d had since he arrived, however, so he couldn’t say whether it was the best in town.

Just a few pages ago, Blue was talking about the ethics of Nino’s proclamation that they have the best iced tea in town. Now, okay, I know it’s a stretch: a five-foot environmentally conscious teenager and an Old English professor turned hit man are not usually similar people. But if you can call “being skeptical about restaurants saying they have the best type of food or drink” a character trait, then they share at least one character trait.

I’m probably reading into it because I have nothing else to say about this chapter. I don’t know how any of it ties into the large plot because, like I mentioned, I don’t remember it happening. But next chapter, we get to hear from Adam, and I do remember that one. It’s a doozy! I can’t wait.

Best Character Moment:

The Gray Man was impressed with the deep wrongness of it.

Best Turn of Phrase:

Henrietta had considerable charms. The downtown was populated by daintily greasy sandwich shops and aggressively down-home junk shops, swaybacked porches and square columns, all of the buildings tired but tidy as library books. He peered through the car window as he passed by. Locals on chairs on porches peered back.

Action: A pretty good sandwich and a rose with a death wish… call it Fast and Furious 8: tuna fish drift. 5/10

Magic: Magic isn’t always benevolent! Even the most friendly-seeming magic can turn dark at any moment! Woohoo! 8/10

Comic Relief: The Gray Man’s internal monologue is funny, yeah, but without some outside intervention it’s getting a bit stale. 7/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 2.06

Summary:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Jane!” Gansey said joyfully.

Adam said, “It’s a wizard in a box.”

“It will do your homework,” Noah added.

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

Perfection.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thoughts and Feelings:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best Character Moment:

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

Best Turn of Phrase:

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

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

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

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

The Raven Cycle Reread: 2.05

Summary:

Seeing that Ronan and the Gray Man have a good little POV hand-off going on right now, there seems to be no good reason to break it up. When we reenter our plot we’re back in Ronan’s head, just after a dream. We catch him just as he wakes up, just in time for him to describe the dream he just had.

All it was is a drive home, the twists and turns back to Ronan’s house a couple towns over. But it contains this mess of a tragic backstory. In Niall Lynch’s will, he stipulated that while his sons got all the money they could possibly want, they weren’t allowed to set foot inside their home. And since their mother, who went to sleep after their father died and never woke back up, wasn’t going to fight it in court, neither was Declan.

The Lynch brothers were wealthy, princes of Virginia, but they were exiles. All of the money was theirs, but on one condition: the boys were never to set foot on the property again. They were to disturb neither the house nor its contents.

Including their mother.

And this is why Ronan hates his brother.

But the dream gave him an object this time, a strange, wooden box that seems to translate words from one language to another. And while this is a marvelous object, and so is the plane, Ronan reminds us that taking a nightmare out of his head is just as likely as taking a dream. And, well, Ronan’s kind of messed up. If you hadn’t noticed. His nightmares are, if possible, even more messed up. Like, messed up enough to have claws, and teeth, and bloodlust.

Anyways, Ronan goes to get Gansey because they have the most pure and heartbreaking friendship of them all. Exhibit A:

Ronan and Gansey both suffered from insomnia, although they had very different solutions for it… Neither could really help the other find sleep. But sometimes it was better just to know you weren’t the only one awake.

Exhibit B: the long and lovely description we get about how often we see the two of them like this, tired but unable to sleep, standing in front of each other on the floor of an abandoned factory. And then we get Ronan remembering how they cleaned up Monmouth. How they burned trash in the parking lot and searched for Glendower and set up their fridge in the upstairs bathroom (FYI, the bathroom fridge is iconic and I’m undeniably right about that).

And then Gansey makes the moment strange and wonderful by shattering the illusion of familiarity and asking Ronan about his dreams. Now that the secret is somewhat out, Ronan seems relieved. He’s happy to tell Gansey about it. We hear about the first time he took something out of his dreams: a bunch of strange flowers that he grabbed while being chased by a nightmare. And that Ronan dreams in Latin, so he doesn’t have to study to do well in the class.

“Is it your—your thoughts that are in Latin? Or the dialogue? Do other people speak Latin in them? Like, I am I in your dreams?” 

“Oh, yes, baby.” It amused Ronan to say this, a lot. He laughed enough that Chainsaw abandoned her paper shredding to verify that he wasn’t dying. Ronan sometimes dreamt of Adam, too, the latter boy sullen and elegant and fluently disdainful of dream-Ronan’s clumsy attempts to communicate.

(That’s a gay hint pass it on!)

Ronan spends some time trying to explain what it feels like to take something out of a dream. It’s a little bit of a self-call about how hard it is to write something, because Gansey is actively rude about all of Ronan’s attempts to tell him how it feels. It’s knowing if someone’s hand will be sweaty before you shake it, it’s getting bitten in a dream and waking up hurt, it’s nonsensical. It’s also magic, and we’re establishing its clear rules and boundaries, so I don’t care what words are used to describe it. I’m happy.

They end up just spending some time looking at the puzzle box Ronan pulled out of his dream. It’s been decided that it’s like a sentient Rosetta’s stone; whatever you input in one language comes out in others. And, even more weird, they’re old languages, one of them unknown even to Gansey. It would be smart to try and figure out which language it is, but hey, they’re tired. Instead, they go get some orange juice.

Thoughts and Feelings:

The first thing I want to do is apologize for being MIA the past couple of weeks. It was the end of my term and I spent most of my time writing papers and finishing projects and, in one case, creating a geological map of the Catskills. Some things had to go for the sake of my GPA, this blog and my rewatch of Glee among them.

Second, I’d like to get into my thoughts and feelings about this chapter. It’s one of the ones that’s easy to forget about but is so amazing because of its closeness and simplicity. It’s two boys, touched by magic, sitting cross-legged in their apartment and trying to figure something out. It all makes me happy: the magic, the easy relationship between the boys, the indulgent sleepiness of their behavior. The elegant Adam that crops up only in Ronan’s dreams.

And then, there’s this:

Just after waking, after dreaming, his body belonged to no one. He looked at it from above, like a mourner at a funeral. The exterior of this early-morning Ronan didn’t look at all like how he felt on the inside. Anything that didn’t impale itself on the sharp line of this sleeping boy’s cruel mouth would be tangled in the merciless hooks of his tattoo, pulled beneath his skin to drown.

This is it. This is why I feel so conflicted about hearing of how sharp and edgy Ronan is. I mean it is partly because it’s played out, but there’s also moments like this, when we’re in his head for ourselves and realize that it’s a mask. We’ve spent an entire book getting to know a defense mechanism instead of a boy, and now that that’s removed, we can get on with his character development.

The last thing I’m going to say is that I don’t think I like this book’s relationship to alcohol. It’s confusing to me now in a way that it wasn’t when I was in high school. Firstly, Ronan says that when he needs to take something out of his dreams, he gets a beer. For some reason, Gansey is very upset about this.

Here’s what I’m thinking: Ronan would not drink beer. He’s a rich and insolent teenager with unlimited money and disdain for everything including himself. He would be reaching for the hard stuff. Quick, effective, and easier than a beer. Cooler, too, and more fitting. And sure, it might be more plausible for a sixteen-year-old to get his hands on beer, but remember that this particular sixteen-year-old has a full back tattoo. He wasn’t allowed to get that, either, and somehow he managed. I think he can get his hands on a handle of vodka.

And then, Gansey’s reaction to his drinking. I don’t understand the “withering look” he gives to Ronan any time alcohol is mentioned. We know for a fact that Gansey drinks, too, and even if it’s in a seemingly healthier way, I don’t see how he has a leg to stand on? As much as he acts like an old man, he’s not old enough to be making his own decisions either. It just seems, from the point of view of an actual teenager who is in college surrounded by people who have complicated relationships to alcohol, to be a bit contrived. But hey, what would I know, I’ve never been a rich teenager in Virginia.

Best Character Moment:

Gansey gave him another look. It was a look that asked how Ronan, of all people, could be so stupid as to think that Gansey would agree to something so illegal on so little sleep.

Ronan said, “so let’s go get some orange juice.”

Gansey considered. He looked to where his keys sat on the desk beside his mint plant. The clock beside it, a repellently ugly vintage number Gansey had found lying in the bin at the dump, said 3:32.

Gansey said, “OK.”

They went and got some orange juice.

Best Turn of Phrase:

“So what you’re saying is you can’t explain it.”

“I did explain it.”

“No, you used nouns and verbs together in a pleasing but illogical format.”

Action: There was a nightmare, but it was a memory and not the real thing. If we were rating sleepy energy, I’d give it a full score, but alas. That isn’t the category. 6/10

Magic: Rules! Ravens! Magic Rubik’s cubes made out of words! Sleepy magical boys! 11/10

Comic Relief: Chainsaw is a physical version of comedic relief with wings. 9/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 2.04

Summary:

At the start of this chapter, we launch ourselves right back into the Gray Man’s beautiful brain, starting off with his reasoning for becoming an assassin. Unlike Barrington Whelk, who was just a murdering bastard, our new villain is in his current line of employment because being an academic focused on Anglo-Saxon poetry isn’t a very lucrative profession.

He preferred a job he could approach with pragmatism, one that gave him the freedom to read and study at his convenience. So here he was in Henrietta.

Although he had to give up on his dream we do get a nice little description of a book the Gray Man wrote (“Fraternity in Anglo-Saxon Verse”) which made it onto a fair number of college syllabi and resulted in two instances of polite fan mail. I’m glad he has something else to live for, especially something as pure as looking for the old-English equivalent of the found-family trope.

But back to the action. The Gray Man is staying at a very quaint bed and breakfast run by a couple that seem nice, but overinvested. We learn two new things about our antagonist: he looks hot in V-neck sweaters and he likes his Corona with lime. He’s also very good at small talk and blending in, but then again he’s an assassin, so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised.

The Wetzel’s hadn’t had a boarder in several weeks, and the Gray Man allowed himself to be the focus of their intense welcome for about an hour before excusing himself with another Corona. By the time the door shut behind him, the Wetzels were decided supporters of the Gray Man.

So many of the world’s problems, he mused, were solved by sheer human decency.

That’s tea right there!! Just be nice to people, and they won’t even care that you kill stuff for a living.

He’s trying to use an EMF reader and other fun gadgets to figure out where the Greywaren is, but none of them are working. We love static-noise Henrietta, especially when it keeps Ronan from getting pistol-whipped like his brother.

Then comes, what I call, the Page of Discovery. Over the course of one typed page, we discover that the Gray Man is employed by a professor named Colin Greenmantle (remember that name). We discover that they’re looking for an object that can take things out of dreams. We discover that that object is, in fact, Ronan. We also discover that Declan is a marginally less shitty brother, since he obviously knows what his brother is capable and did a fantastic job of lying to an assassin under the threat of death.

See? Page of Discovery.

In the end, Greenmantle is pissed the Gray Man isn’t working faster. But the Gray Man is such a dope and polite villain that he doesn’t particularly care. He knows he’ll get it done. He’s confident, self-assured, and has his folder of nice words about his poetry book. We love him.

What we don’t love is the final line, where we realize why Greenmantle is so anxious to get this thing found: there are other people looking, and they’ve found Henrietta too.

Thoughts and Feelings:

Why is every adversary in this series an academic? First a high school teacher, then a man with a graduate degree hired by a Professor? Is Stiefvater trying to tell me something? Should I drop out of college so I don’t become someone else’s worst enemy? I’m not so sure my father, who also reads this blog, would be too happy about hearing that.

I just think this chapter was wonderfully inserted. It answers a lot of questions we might have about a character like the Gray Man. I’m not wondering about his motivations. I’m not wondering about where he’s staying, or what he does in his free time. I’m not wondering who sent him (even though we don’t know a lot about Greenmantle, I’m glad the reveal isn’t dragged out for too long). Stiefvater sprinkles in little hints that the Gray Man and his parents aren’t on good terms, and that something is off about his family life. That foreshadowing is immensely helpful in the chapters to come.

This is how you drop in a villain. Especially because he’s not even a villain, per se, he’s just a guy trying to make a living. And a funny one, at that.

I’m still excited to get back to the Gangsey. I want to figure out what’s going on with Adam, and watch Blue sort out her many romantic feelings, and Ronan have crushes on any boy who knows his way around a car. But this interlude wasn’t so bad. And that is a huge compliment.

Best Character Moment:

The Gray Man tugged a folder out of his duffle bag and opened it on the bedspread. A course syllabus lay on top: Medieval History, Part I. Required reading: Fraternity in Anglo-Saxon Verse. Sliding on a set of headphones, he queued up a playlist of The Flaming Lips. He felt essentially happy.

Best Turn of Phrase:

For a moment, there was no sound but that of three consenting adults mutually enjoying an alcoholic beverage after a long day. The three emerged from the other side of silence firm friends.

Action: While checking into a hotel would be a very action-packed and anxiety inducing event for me, the Gray Man handled it without too much fanfare. 4/10

Magic: Static Henrietta is a wonderful place. 7/10

Comic Relief: The Gray Man is a wry comedic God and should be worshipped as such. 11/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 2.03

Summary:

This chapter brings us an immediate answer to the question posed by Declan last time: “Ronan, where the hell are you?” He’s in the Camaro with all of his Best Friends™, and Gansey’s talking on the phone to Mallory. Everyone’s just kind of lounging around, so we get a fair bit of Ronan’s internal monologue. He notices Adam half asleep, Blue getting seeds off her clothes, and Noah being ghosty.

He makes a side comment that Gansey is driving because he always drives, and talking about Glendower because he doesn’t talk about anything else. I found this bit kind of fishy, not because of the car thing—we all have that one Friend Who Drives Everywhere—but because of the conversation topic. I don’t know if I could be friends with a guy who only talks about one thing? There’s got to be some interesting conversation dynamics here, and frankly I’m not seeing them.

Anyways, back to the inside of Ronan’s head. He wants to drive and can’t so he’s being dramatic and pretending to die of heat stroke while looking for something else to do.

Ronan leaned on the cracked black vinyl of the passenger-side door and chewed on the leather bands on his wrist. They tasted like gasoline, a flavor that struck Ronan as both sexy and summery.

This is one of my favorite Ronan lines of all time. First of all, he is willingly ingesting something that tastes like gasoline. Secondly, he likes it. And thirdly, he uses the adjectives “sexy” and “summery” to describe something that’s—well, you’ve probably all smelled gasoline. I don’t know if those adjectives ever came to mind.

This beautiful descriptive imagery is interrupted by Gansey’s stunningly boring conversation about how to look for Glendower under a lake they encountered in their quest to map all of Cabeswater, and whether or not they can use ground-penetrating radar to do it. Mallory’s side of the conversation is not transcribed but is probably equally as boring, so it’s a relief when Gansey hangs up the phone.

Then his mother texts, and we’re stuck in the same boring loop of Adult-Gansey Obligations again. She wants him to come help out on the campaign trail, because she’s rich and bored and running for Congress. I have to say, I’m appreciative that it’s Gansey’s mother running for Congress and not Gansey, Sr., but I suppose I’d be happier if neither of them ran and the Democrat got the seat instead.

Thankfully, all of this chatter is interrupted when another car pulls up next to the Gangsey. Stiefvater, who knows much more about cars than I do, describes it beautifully and gets across the dangerous characteristics without me needing to understand big words like “horsepower” or “transmission.” But, in case you want to know more about the Pig’s current rival, here’s some description by someone who actually knows what they’re talking about:

Kavinsky’s Mitsubishi Evo was a thing of boyish beauty, moon-white with a voracious black mouth of a grille and an immense splattered graphic of a knife on either side of the body.

So, the car looks like gasoline tastes. Sexy and summery.

Kavinsky calls Gansey some bad words and Ronan wants to street race. It’s the same underdevelopment of impulse control that leads me or a cat to think “push” every time we see a glass on the edge of a table. Adam shoots down the idea using his extensive knowledge of cars (Adam, Ronan, and cars is the true romantic coupling we deserve), but Ronan is still trying to convince Gansey. Until, of course, Blue weighs in that Kavinsky’s an asshole and he speeds off into the night.

The last line is Gansey calling Kavinsky trouble, which is very lazy and yet very appreciated forshadowing to Ronan’s relationship with young adult’s classic Hot Dirtbag.

Thoughts and Feelings:

I love being inside Ronan’s head like this. I love it. It’s the first Ronan POV and it starts of with pure wrath. Ronan is pissed, antsy, bored. His narrative and his mind whir so much faster than any of the other characters, and now that we see that he gains like 65 facets per second.

He spends half a page talking about death, and how excited he is to ask St. Peter questions at the pearly gates (it’s deliciously Catholic). He’s constantly moving and shifting. The language used to describe him is so tactile I started to feel itchy and restless myself. It’s not so surprising, after reading this, how Ronan is able to constantly create.

And, then, there’s the pairing you’ve probably seen in popular media if you’ve ever googled the Raven Cycle: Adam and Ronan. To all the people who said that Ronan being gay came out of left field, y’all we’re wrong. Kavinsky rolls up and we get a rundown of every rumor Kavinsky’s ever been involved in. Not to mention a careful description of his “boyishly beautiful” car and Ronan explicitly saying that even though he knows he should hate Kavinsky, he doesn’t. And if you’re not convinced yet, don’t worry. I will be pointing out every instance in this text that the Ronan Is Gay squad painstakingly searched for before it was stated in canon.

The last thing I’m going to say is that the next chapter is from the Gray Man’s POV, and I’m not even mad about it. That’s when you know our villain had a glow up.

Best Character Moment:

Ronan shifted restlessly. The successful demonstration of the plane had left him hyper-alive. He felt like burning something to the ground. He pressed his hand directly over the air-conditioning vent to prevent heat exhaustion. “You’re driving like an old woman.”

Best Turn of Phrase:

He had a refugee’s face, hollow-eyed and innocent.

He wore a lazy smile, and he mouthed something to Gansey that ended with “—unt.”

Action: The lack of street racing was disappointing, but I approve of the gang keeping Ronan out of trouble. 7/10

Magic: Ronan’s POV is the closest non-magic thing to magic I can think of. 9/10

Comic Relief: Sexy. And. Summery. 9/10