The Raven Cycle Reread: 2.12

Summary:

In the beginning of this chapter, for an exceptionally lovely page and a half, we are thrust back into 300 Fox Way. It’s been so long that I almost forgot what their house number was, which is a travesty. I promise it will never happen again.

But, as things go at Fox Way, this is a pretty quiet morning. We’re mostly concerned with Blue’s summer reading and its subsequent interruption as her Aunt Jimi comes in to smudge the room. I didn’t know what that was, but I quickly found out it’s when you burn bundles of herbs and then walk around to cleanse somewhere of bad energy. The bad energy we’re getting rid of today is Neeve’s, because unlike the reader, the occupants of Blue’s house haven’t forgotten that she was doing bad witchy stuff very recently.

Now Jimi waved the lavender and sage in Blue’s face. “Sacred smoke, cleanse the soul of this young woman before me and give her some common sense.”

Blue is waiting for Adam and Gansey to come over and leaves the smokiness of her room, fully preparing to wait for them out there, when she realizes the attic door has been left open. What teenager wouldn’t be inclined to snoop, with an invitation like that? Blue goes upstairs.

She finds that everything has been packed away and shoved to the side except for Neeve’s mirrors and her scrying bowl, which looks like it’s been recently used. That doesn’t make sense, not only because Neeve has been gone for months, but because scrying is dangerous and the women of Fox Way have been sufficiently warned against it. We are (not so subtly) posed the question: who’s scrying? And what are they looking for?

We then switch point-of-view to a nice little flashback where Ronan explains how he once saw the devil. This isn’t a joke, or a fun little metaphor where he describes the human cruelty he’s been witness to. No, Ronan Lynch saw his father shoot a red, horned being in the head. What he called the devil then showed Niall its genitalia and then left.

I’m not entirely sure what to make of this story, except to tell you all that it’s supposed to serve as an explanation for why Ronan is religious and transition to a scene in St. Agnes, with Noah and all three Lynch brothers.

It was the devil who drove him to church every Sunday, but it was his brother Matthew who drove him to a pew beside Declan.

Declan looks terrible. We know why he looks terrible; remember when he got the shit kicked out of him in chapter two? But he doesn’t tell Ronan everything, instead saying it’s a burglary and refusing to say anything more about it. Ronan’s a little jealous; he’s definitely of the fun sibling mentality that dictates nobody but him can beat up his brothers.

That sweet bonding moment is interrupted when Declan, acting with no tact (as per usual), tells Ronan that Kavinsky isn’t Lynch Family Approved and they should stop hanging around each other. Even if there wasn’t gay tension there, Ronan would still have a right to be pissed, but you can see how the setting might up the tension. Catholic church, estranged brother telling you not to talk about the boy you dreamed a present for the night before—it’s a lot to take in.

Sometimes, Declan seemed to think that being a year older gave him special knowledge of the seedier side of Henrietta. What he meant was, did Ronan know that Kavinsky was a cokehead?

In his ear, Noah whispered, “Is crack the same thing as speed?”

Ronan didn’t answer. He didn’t think it was a very church-appropriate conversation.

When church is over and they all leave, we get a wonderful cameo from Declan’s-smart-girlfriend-Ashley, who fights with Ronan and acknowledges the church as an institution is oppressive to women (thank you, Ashely, you underappreciated bottle-blonde goddess). Ronan is having none of this and leaves to look for a street race. Which is to say, he leaves to look for Kavinsky and the spiritual satisfaction he didn’t find at church.

I’m going to gloss over this part, because I know that Stiefvater loves cars but I just don’t know anything about them. Descriptions of souped-up whatevers and loud mufflers just confuses me. Let’s just say that Ronan knows how to find a car with which to race, and that takes the kind of Rich Boy Car Knowledge that he and Kavinsky have in spades.

Noah and Ronan drive in the direction of Kavinsky’s house. Kavinsky shows up in his Mitsubishi, calls Ronan a fag, and then pretends to get offended when he’s called a Russian in return. I realize that I truly do not understand teenage boys, and thank God for that.

Ronan wins the street race. For one second, he is happy. It’s a new experience for the both of us.

Thoughts and Feelings:

These new-fangled chapters with their multiple locations and diversified plot structures are really throwing me for a loop. It feels like years since we were smudging Blue’s room with her Aunt Jimi! Granted, that makes sense, as any church service also seemed to me, in childhood, to take several years, but still. Wow.

We got to meet Matthew for the first time, which is nice. There’s a gratuitous description of his dimples (which makes sense in a couple books when you learn more about the Lynch family structure) and he turns down the church wine which is very adorable and wholesome for a boarding school boy. Declan and Ronan make a lot of angry noises at one another, which makes sense with what we know of their characters.

I was a bit startled by the throwback to Neeve and her mysterious disappearance, because she feels so irrelevant now. It’s also well-within my moral code to just write her off. She messed with stuff she shouldn’t have messed with—she deserves to be gone! Anybody who had a healthy appetite for reading as a kid knows that’s what happens to villains. They don’t die, because killing is ~wrong~, but they deserve whatever odd punishment is granted them.

I wasn’t so much startled by all the anger that was floating around the church. This is Ronan’s book, so seeing what he does on the weekends is inevitable. It was a motley crew, though, there’s no denying that. Ronan, Noah, Declan, Matthew, and then Kavinsky. In hindsight I have to say I’m glad Blue was there to balance it all out.

I’m excited for this to move forward, though. Blue dropped the hint that she’s waiting for Adam and Gansey, Ronan is angry and ready to mess some shit up for everyone, and Noah is being proactive about the state of his soul. It’s pretty much all I can ask for as we transition to figuring out what the hell is going on with Cabeswater and where Glendower is sleeping. If we ever do, in fact, find out either of those things (don’t worry guys, I’ve read the series. We do find them out. It just takes a couple more books).

I’m going to stop rambling and go to the highlights now.

Best Character Moment:

A lady reached over the top of Noah to pat Matthew’s head fondly before continuing down the aisle. She didn’t seem to care that he was fifteen, which was all right, because he didn’t, either. Both Ronan and Declan observed this interaction with the pleased expressions of parents watching their prodigy at work.

Best Turn of Phrase:

And so Ronan became a reverse evangelist. The truth burst and grew inside him, and it was laid upon him to share it with no one.

Action: As street races go, this one took place after a house-cleaning and Catholic mass. Not all that exciting. 5/10

Magic: I personally hated the magic we were presented in this chapter, which was the red devil that Ronan saw with his father. It felt superfluous and creepy for no reason. 2/10

Comic Relief: Man oh man does Matthew provide relief from the tension between his older brothers. But how funny was it, really? 6/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 2.11

Summary:

This is an interesting chapter in that it doesn’t fall into any of the predetermined categories. It’s more like a dream scrapbook, moving from Ronan to the Gray Man to Adam in quick succession. This format was so daunting, in fact, that I took a 2 week break from doing any work with regards to this blog and now I feel like a big idiot who does nothing but sleep and watch YouTube videos. But we all knew that was true even before I stopped reading Dream Thieves, so I don’t know what I was so worried about.

We start off with Ronan’s dreams, which are naturally the most exciting:

It was a massive old forest, oaks and sycamores pushing up through the cold mountain soil. Leaves skittered in the breeze. Ronan could feel the size of the mountain under his feet. The oldness of it. Far below there was a heartbeat that wrapped around the world, slower and stronger and more inexorable than his own.

When I dream, it’s usually about missing class. This is infinitely more interesting.

The trees are calling him Greywaren in Latin and everything is ominous and rustly, so Ronan calls out for a girl. I’m not exaggerating, he says “Girl?” and then she appears. She’s been around since Ronan was a kid, big when he was little and now vice versa. She talks to him in Latin and helps him make things real so he can take them home. He calls her Orphan Girl.

In the time it’s taken for Ronan to describe Orphan Girl, he’s dreamt hundreds of hornets to crawl all over his hands. But this is a dream, and Ronan is the king, and when he decides they aren’t hornets, they aren’t. Now they’re ladybugs, and Ronan is moving forward in the dream.

He scratches on a rock: the trees speak Latin. He grabs a replica of Kavinsky’s sunglasses to take back with him, to prolong the game. The Orphan Girl asks Ronan to take her with him, but he wakes up instead.

Then we’re thrown into the mind of the Gray Man, who is dreaming of a stabbing. He’s never the victim; first he’s the wounds themselves, then he’s the one doing the stabbing, and then he moves on to be the knife itself. That’s weird enough to jar him out of sleep, but remember, this is our Gray Man. Ever the pragmatist. He just rolls over and goes back to bed.

And then, last, Adam. Adam’s not even sleeping.

Curled on the mattress, he covered his face with his summer-hot arm. Sometimes, if he blocked his mouth and nose, just this side of suffocation, sleep would overthrow him.

He’s doing the immensely pleasurable thing we all do while we’re trying to go sleep where we think about every awkward and horrible things we did the day before. Adam is thinking about when he lost his temper in front of Blue, and when he sacrificed himself, and whether he even deserves to be alive. You know, everyday stuff.

Basically, everyone else gets to dream instead of Adam. What a surprise.

Thoughts and Feelings:

Here’s the thing about this chapter: it’s almost entirely contenders for my best turn of phrase category. It’s a transitional chapter to get us away from the exposition and into the action, and it’s beautifully written. But it’s ultimately unsatisfying. I didn’t learn anything from these characters that I didn’t already know.

Was it cool? Yeah. Did I get Harry Potter’s Nagini dream from Order of the Phoenix vibes from the Gray Man’s knife dream? Yeah, obviously. But did it enhance my understanding of the story or the characters within it? No, not particularly.

Now in the interest of getting my Ulysses reading done in time for class today, I’m going to cut this short. But an apology is due for being so lax about this, and to compensate for that I’ll be doing another life update complete with pictures very soon! Not that anyone cares, but it does make me feel better.

Best Character Moment:

Time was a circle, a rut, a worn tape Ronan never got tired of playing.

Best Turn of Phrase:

He had been here before, lots of times. He’d grown up with this recurring dream forest. Its roots were tangled in his veins.

Action: Other than several stab wounds and a pair of sunglasses, I have nothing to show for reading this chapter. 3/10

Magic: Dream forest! 7/10

Comic Relief: I laughed at nothing but my own jokes. It’s not a rare occurrence, but it is disappointing. 4/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 2.10

Summary:

At this point all I do is apologize for posting updates late, and I’m tired of it! Especially when it pertains to self-imposed deadlines about a passion project that I’m only doing because I couldn’t find it anywhere else on the internet. Chapter updates will come when they come, and this will be the last one until at least Monday because I’m going on a class trip to Yeats country this weekend and will be too busy hearing about Innisfree 30 million times to think about Maggie Stiefvater and her creations.

But, anyways. Back to the book.

Gansey hung up the phone at the end of last chapter, but somehow he’s back on it, talking to Adam again. He wants Adam to come with him to some fundraising party his mother is throwing, since Adam might find a political internship or something equally as snakey to do with his time. Gansey’s trying to placate Adam’s confusing rules about when he is and isn’t allowed to accept help while also unrolling an enormous satellite map of Henrietta, and it’s proving difficult, to say the least.

For some weird reason, though, everything seems to be going okay at Monmouth. Adam agrees to go to the party, Gansey gets his map pressed flat, Ronan and Noah are dropping expensive things out of second floor windows. And then, as if that wasn’t good enough, Adam asks Gansey for help with Blue. Specifically her whole hang-up on kissing—why won’t she do it? Is it Adam? Has she talked to Gansey at all, and if she hasn’t, could Gansey bring up the subject gracefully and see what’s up?

“I’m really bad at talking, Gansey,” Adam said earnestly. “And you’re really good at it. Maybe—maybe if it just comes up natural?”

I don’t know if you remember, but in the last book Blue and Gansey had a conversation that seemed to be about nothing but kissing. Gansey has the whole story but it’s a secret story that’s not his to tell. He does his best to skirt around the definition of a lie, but it would be a really bad idea to say “yes we’ve talked about it but no I’m not telling you what she said” to your emotionally vulnerable and deeply insecure friend. It would actually transcend really bad and be firmly in the realm of disastrous.

And also, Gansey has a very obvious thing for Blue, and it’s hard for teenage boys to rationalize those feelings. And Gansey still is a teenage boy, no matter how many times he’s described as being an old man. And then there’s this:

“Well, she’s not really like a girl. I mean, sure, she’s a girl. But it’s not like when I was dating someone. It’s Blue. 

Oh, Gansey. This is going to pose such a problem in the future.

The rest of the chapter is consumed with Noah’s righteous anger at being thrown out the window by Ronan (“you’re already dead!”) and questions of whether or not Adam has a red tie to wear to Gansey’s mother’s fundraiser. It’s all very short, and sweet, and it makes me wary. What’s going to explode next?

Thoughts and Feelings:

Although I have to be at the train station in an hour and am therefore glad this chapter was short, I don’t really understand why it wasn’t rolled into the previous one?

Like, okay, I get that Dollar City was a setting for a phone call touched by magic. And this call is distinctly non-magical; in fact, it pertains to everything that I forgot was going on in the Gangsey’s lives because I was too focused on the magic. But it’s suspended in time. I have no idea when this chapter takes place. Is it the same night? Is it several days later? It feels like you could pick up these four pages and plunk them anywhere else in the novel and they’d work just fine.

And I’m not saying I don’t understand the impulse to put them in. I totally get it! I, too, love the background noise of Ronan and Noah breaking expensive things for fun, and who wouldn’t want to throw their dead friend out a window? But to have a cliffhanger (stated by Noah, of all people) lead into a chapter like this is distinctly unsatisfying. It leaves the same taste in my mouth as a chapter about the Gray Man does: okay, that was nice, now what?

I’m not denying the fact that towards the end of the book I’ll be begging for chapters like these. I’ll be like, “boo hoo, where are soft moments with my boys where things are cute and Ronan is engaging in destruction of property?” But for now, I’m spoiled and I want something different.

So apologies for such lackluster thoughts, but I’m only as good as my source material. It was nice, but nothing special.

Best Character Moment:

Blue was a fanciful but sensible thing, like a platypus, or one of those sandwiches that had been cut into circles for a fancy tea party.

Best Turn of Phrase:

Once, he had dreamt that he found Glendower. It wasn’t the actual finding, but the day after. He wouldn’t forget the sensation of the dream. It hadn’t been joy, but instead, the absence of pain. He couldn’t forget that lightness. The freedom.

Action: I said it once and I’ll say it again: Noah gets thrown out of a window!!! 5/10

Magic: Absolutely none, except that Noah doesn’t die upon defenestration. 2/10

Comic Relief: A soft kind of funny that I was mad at but have come to appreciate. 6/10

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.extra (How I Write a Chapter Review)

Hi, and welcome to “Emily gets bored of reviewing chapters and goes looking for other self-indulgent content.” I’m your host, Bored Emily, and I’m here to talk you through how I go about writing each TRC Reread post. I’ve done this upwards of 55 times, so I’d like to say I have it down to a science, but I really don’t.

There’s a couple different style of chapters that you’ll find in The Raven Cycle, some more common than others, and after the standard first look process I go through with every chapter, they mandate different processes and styles of writing. I’m going to do my best to talk about the process overall, as well as go into a little more depth about three distinct styles of chapter you can find in Stiefvater’s writing.

Post-It Noting

Before I even crack open the word document where I write all of the chapter reviews, I go through the chapter with a pen and a stack of post-it notes. This is partially for me–I discovered that if I went straight into summary I wasn’t enjoying the content–and partially because without getting a sense of the chapter as a whole, the reviews were really top-heavy and unfocused. I spent a lot of time talking about what was going on at the beginning and then ran out of steam by the end, and there was no understanding of the chapter as a whole narrative unit.

I drop a comment whenever I see something that might be a good quote for the ratings at the end, or when I notice something interesting or dumb. A lot of it is just me cheering on Blue whenever she does something sassy.

They’re helpful because a lot of the time I’ll be tired of writing once I get to Thoughts and Feelings, and that sucks because I do have a lot of those during the first pass at a chapter, I just forget them while I’m summarizing. Being able to go back through and scan for notes not only jogs the old memory but also creates a process of inherent revision: I get to tweak the original post-it idea into something that makes a little more sense and flows better in whatever section of the review it’s going in.

the fun thing about post-its is that they can be helpful, cute, or so unnecessary I don’t even want to address them

The timing varies; I sometimes do this right before I jump into a review, and sometimes I’m too lazy to write so I just get a couple weeks ahead on post-it noting. There’s pros and cons to both methods; fresh eyes can be good but if I wait too long I might have no idea what the hell I was trying to say.

Whether or not anything on the Post-Its makes sense, after I’m finished marking up a chapter I have to jump into summary and review. This process is pretty different for each type of chapter, so I’m gonna go through them one by one.

Short Villainous Interludes

Stiefvater likes to throw in a word from our resident bad guy every couple of chapters. I was more against this in Raven Boys because I didn’t like the villain, and less so in Dream Thieves because the Gray Man has a sense of humor. But regardless of the character, Short Villainous Interludes have a couple of key characteristics: 1) They’re less than 5 pages, 2) They feed the reader 1-2 important nuggets of information that the Gangsey doesn’t know about yet, and 3) For the first 2/3 of the book there is little to no emotional weight to them.

These are easy to bang out because there’s very little plot to cover. The summaries are quick and consist mostly of me just making fun of people, and my thoughts and feelings are most generally something in the realm of “ugh” and “this is not as bad as I thought it was going to be.”

Where I run into trouble, sometimes, is the ratings. I’m supposed to pick out a character moment and a turn of phrase, but often these chapters are so short I’m left feeling like I’ve already copied the entire thing in quotations. But while that feels morally wrong, it’s not the worst thing. I wasn’t lying when I said these chapters are, at most, five pages. It’s not a lot to be copying down.

Bottle Episodes

This term comes officially from television, when, to save money on sets and extras (and maybe for the writers to do an in-depth character study, but this feels like wishful thinking on my part) there is an entire episode spent in one place. Think “The One Where No One is Ready” from Friends.

What I mean when I talk about books is a chapter where the Gangsey and/or the women of Fox Way are hanging out in one place and talking. This could have emotional weight or be important to the plot, but it could also be utter nonsense. The key to these chapters is that we’re learning about the characters and there’s not a lot going on besides a lot of hilarious side comments I want to include but don’t have room for.

Posts about these chapters end up being far too long and enormously over analyzed because I’m having such a good time learning about and gently making fun of my favorite characters. I write them fast and I mourn them when they’re over.

Long Emotional Rollercoasters

These chapters are exactly what they sound like. They usually involve Adam Parrish or Ronan Lynch and their complicated pasts. Whenever I skip a post or take time off, it’s usually because I ran up against one of these and the work just isn’t that fun anymore.

That’s not to say that these chapters aren’t good-they are, and they’re enormously important, and this series would be absolutely nothing without them. It’s just that there’s so much going on with these characters that I don’t feel qualified to talk about, or that shouldn’t be lightheartedly addressed, and it takes a long time for me to figure out how to go about them. And on top of that, these chapters tend to be the longest in terms of word count, so there’s another reason they come out much slower than the others.

On the plus side, they’re usually the ones where I spent far too much time agonizing over which sections to quote simply because they’re full of words put together in such a lovely way. It’s just that they often talk about such unlovely subjects, and it makes me feel a lot of feelings.

To Sum Up:

There are other kinds of chapters you find in these books, but the three detailed above are the most common. I might do another post later on the other kind, but I also might not. I’ve learned not to promise anything, since I’m so bad at keeping up with anything during the school term.

I’ve wanted to make a post like this for a while, so I’m glad it’s finally happening! I might start including pictures of my post-its in the actual chapter reviews, since frankly that and the summary are my favorite two parts of the process and I’m doing this primarily for me, so why wouldn’t I enjoy myself?

If you have any suggestions for this process, or just think you know a better way and want to tell me about it, please do! I’ve bankrupted myself on post-its and fancy pens, and would welcome an alternative!

(thanks for reading, see you soon, etc.)

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