The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.22

Summary:

Hello and welcome to the Gansey family helicopter! Okay, so technically it’s just Helen’s helicopter, but if Gansey can charter it on a random afternoon for absolutely no charge, I have to assume Richard Campbell Gansey II has given his daughter a lecture on sharing and the helicopter operates as a family object. So, anyways, to explain what I’m talking about: The Gangsey and Helen are in a helicopter, flying over Henrietta, looking for the Corpse Road.

Gansey feels some rich guilt and thinks ~maybe~ he overdid it with the whole helicopter thing, but we also spend like half a page hearing about how turned on he gets when he’s meeting goals efficiently. It makes him sound like a wealthy and socially unfulfilled banker, which isn’t really that far off the mark. Especially not when Helen calls him out by telling everyone Henrietta is Gansey’s girlfriend, and Gansey is like “:0” and it’s all very funny. Helen is a cruel jokester and we should all admire her. Exactly 35% less than we admire Calla, true, but that’s still plenty of admiration.

We then get into a long and tedious discussion about glassware: Helen got their mother a plate that is not glass for her birthday, and since Mrs. Gansey only likes glassware she will not like this plate. This is only compounded by the fact that Gansey’s only gift is the gift of his presence at the birthday dinner, and Helen is feeling very sulky. You can tell Gansey is very cut up about the whole situation, and is feeling very empathetic and caring towards his mother and sister.

He didn’t like to see either of the women in his family disappointed; it ruined perfectly good meals.

A very good son and brother, as you can see. Just full of love and compassion and pumpkin gnocchi, cooked by the family chef.

The glassware conversation is over so Gansey goes back to worrying about Blue, because he has this obsessive need to be liked that Blue has not yet satisfied. And something about her is definitely fishy. To think about what it could possibly be, our guy pulls a mint leaf out of his pocket and sucks on it. Not an altoid, not a stick of gum, but an actual leaf. We’re now left wondering less about Blue and more about where he’s getting these leaves, how many he has in his pocket at any given time, and if he keeps them in a little plastic baggie to keep his khakis from getting all leafy.

Instead of answering out questions, Gansey calls for Adam over the headset and gets no response. He turns to see what’s up and blesses us with one of the best physical descriptions of a realistic teenage love triangle ever published in the YA genre:

Adam’s headphones were looped around his neck and he was leaned over beside Blue, pointing something out on the ground below. As she’d shifted, Blue’s dress had got hitched up and Gansey could see a long, slender triangle of her thigh. Adam’s hand was braced a few inches away on the seat, knuckles pale with his hatred of flying. There was nothing particularly intimate about the way they sat, but something about the scene made Gansey feel strange, like he’s heard and unpleasant statement and later forgotten everything about the words but the way they had made him feel.

An intimate moment! A tasteful triangle of thigh! Gansey refusing to admit he’s uncomfortable because he thinks Blue is hot in a weird sort of way! TEENAGE ANGST!!!!

We get back on track when Gansey gets Adam’s attention and Blue hands him the map to the church and, by extension, the corpse road. When Gansey sees the church, he asks if that’s it, and Blue makes the mistake of replying with “that’s all there is left.” Sound familiar? Yeah, Gansey thinks so too. It’s basically what he said on St. Mark’s Eve, and hearing that is enough to figure out that it was Blue’s voice on the recorder.

Gansey doesn’t say anything, just lets Blue show Helen where to fly the helicopter, but that’s when Ronan gets involved. Frankly I’m glad Ronan’s in the action again, instead of building ramps or sitting passively in his seat. I missed our overly sharp and aggressive boy.

With his fingers linked loosely together, elbows on his knees, Ronan leaned forward across Adam to be closer to Blue. He could be unbelievably threatening.

“And how is it,” he asked, “you came to know Gansey’s name?”

To her credit, Blue didn’t back down. Her hears were pink, but she said, “First of all, get out of my face.”

“What if I don’t?”

Here’s the thing: I love this shit. Our first real Ronan/Blue interaction and she’s meeting him punch for punch. I love my girl!

Beyond that, the rest of the discussion is fairly cookie-cutter. Gansey is like “yeah how do you know my name” and Blue is like “I’ll tell you if you show me what this thing in your journal means,” to which Gansey goes “that’s fine” and then purposefully acts familiar and easy with the journal in a desperate attempt to get Blue to see past the President Cell Phone mask. It’s a cute idea and I love that he’s trying to show everyone the real him, but then why did he spend five minutes talking about his mother’s extensive and frivolous glassware collection? Riddle me that, my guy.

Blue tells them everything except for the fact that seeing a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve means they’re going to die. I get it. Gansey’s sixteen and adorable and he should have his whole stupid rich life ahead of him. He should have years and years of impromptu helicopter rides and hundreds of times where he accidentally offends Blue with his old money mannerisms. I wouldn’t want to tell him death is imminent either.

Anyways this seems to smooth things over, at least until Gansey tells everyone that they have to be straight with each other from them on, which gives Ronan and Adam the opportunity to grace us with some gay shit:

Ronan said, “I’m always straight.”

Adam replied, “Oh, man, that’s the biggest lie you’ve ever told.”

I love these boys so much more than I am able to express.

After we clear the air, the Gangsey spends some time looking out the window to see if they can spot anything that would betray the location of the ley line. And guess what? They find something! It’s a giant raven, and Gansey begs Helen to land the helicopter so he can touch it, and sketch it, and tell it that he loves it. It’s a big moment for him, and I’m kinda upset he’s not crying but I’ll get over it.

Helen gives them two seconds, because they’re on private property and she has a dinner engagement in two hours. Classic Helen. She sets the helicopter down, and this was one of those times on my first read where I was like, you’ve got to be kidding me! I’m supposed to go to bed and you ended a chapter like this?

They land, and that’s the end. Very rude of you, Stiefvater, especially since this was what got me in trouble for reading after bedtime in middle school.

Thoughts and Feelings:

Having Gansey and Blue POV back to back really is a trip. We know what Blue knows and we know what Gansey knows and we’re just sitting here, trying to figure out how these two sweet and lovely people could have such a misguided impression of each other. Adam is their middleman and he’s doing an impressive job, given the magnitude of his task, so we should take a quick pause to thank him for his efforts. Beyond that, I’m a little disappointed in the role Ronan has to play. Just because he’s not involved in the love triangle (yet) doesn’t mean that he gets to be mean for like one paragraph and then shoved aside, never to be heard from again!

I think it’s just because we’re still figuring out who this group is with Blue in it, which I get, since they literally just met her. It’s interesting, giving the reader over 200 pages in which to get to know Blue, whereas the boys have known her for a maximum of 20. They have 10% of the experience we do, and it shows. There’s a complicatedness to how the three of them interact with Blue: Gansey’s need to be liked, Adam’s shared experience and shaky attempts at romance, and Ronan’s guarded anger. I can’t wait for her to meet Noah, just to get a break from all this tension.

Mostly I’m just feeling pissed about this cliffhanger. Being in a helicopter and hearing about Gansey’s Glendower research is nice and all, but I want magic. I want forests and sleeping kings and, I don’t know, exciting things that remind me this isn’t just a novel about a lonely girl and a couple of prep school boys trying to get along. Not that those kinds of books aren’t good, they’re just not as good as these ones, and the magic is a big part of that. So bring it on, Stiefvater! I’m ready.

Best character moment:

He didn’t think it missed her notice how his left hand curved familiarly around the leather binding, how the thumb and forefinger knew just how much pressure to apply to coax the pages to spread where he wanted them to. The journal and Gansey were clearly long-acquainted, and he wanted her to know.

Best turn of phrase:

The drawings were mathematical in their perfection, faultless in their symmetry. And the last thing to hit him, right in his gut, was the emotional impact, a mysterious, raw ache that wouldn’t go away. Gansey felt like he couldn’t survive not knowing if the lines meant something.

Action: As the Gangsey zooms through the air, not only does Gansey get in a fight with his sister, but Blue gets in a fight with dangerous snake-boy Ronan. What more could you want? 10/10

Magic: No magic beyond what Gansey describes from research, which is like doing a term paper on rumors of witchcraft in the 1700s: unfulfilling. 4/10

Comic relief: Blue says Neeve is her half-aunt and Ronan asks where the other half of her is. That’s comedy, folks. 8/10

The Raven Cycle Reread 1.21

Summary:

It’s time for Adam and Blue’s first date, complete with Gansey’s wealth, Ronan’s hostility, and Helen’s pilot license. If someone decides to take you out on a first date and the itinerary is not looking for the supernatural in the Virginia countryside, break up with them immediately. They clearly don’t understand what romance is.

Let’s start from the beginning. Adam walks to 300 Fox Way to pick Blue up, and, because Maura has absolutely no experience disciplining a child, Blue just walks out without telling anybody where she’s going or why. We can’t really call Blue’s behavior rebellious when it’s that easy, but it makes her feel cool, so let’s let her have this one. Rebellious Blue walks down the street with Adam, and we get a fun description of their outfits to explain why Blue feels uncomfortable. They don’t look like a couple, because Adam is dressed like a teenage boy and Blue is dressed like a punk rock grandma with far too much time on her hands. It makes her nervous, and self-conscious, and so she asks Adam why he wanted her number in the first place.

And here comes the cute part! Please remember to brush your teeth afterwards for cavity prevention!

 “I think you’re pretty,” he said.

When he said it, she heard his Henrietta accent for the first time that day: a long vowel and pretty like it rhymed with biddy

She felt like when she’d first read his card with the flowers. Weirdly undone. It was like his words had spun tight some sort of thread between them, and she felt like she ought to somehow ease the tension. “But thanks. I think you’re pretty too.”

He laughed his surprised laugh.

:)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We then get into the meat of the interaction: Blue is like, remember when my mom said she wouldn’t help you? Well I am here to do the opposite. And Adam is like: how do you know what we’re looking for? And Blue is like: lol funny story I found your friend’s journal at Nino’s and I kind of read the entire thing because I’m a curious gal and, well, here’s a map I drew!

Needless to say, Adam is instantly wary. We already know he’s suspicious of everyone, including Ashley, who they all (wrongly) assume is a blonde airhead, so it makes sense that Blue having the journal sets off alarm bells. But Blue tells him the truth, which is small and sad and endears her to Adam even more, because they always seem to be dealing with the same emotions.

“I’m the only person in my family who’s not psychic. You heard my mom; I just make things easier for people who are psychic. If magic exists, I just want to see it. Just once.”

It’s the whole truth, nothing but the truth, so help whatever diety Blue is choosing to swear on that day, and Adam believes her. The rest of the walk is pleasant and actually pretty cheesy, and it fits in pretty well with something I’d expect to see in a teen movie or some sort of Extra Gum commercial. Until the roll up to the lot of Monmouth Manufacturing and Blue discovers Adam was not kidding about the helicopter. It is real and she is standing in front of it and Gansey is running at her looking excited.

This part makes me laugh just because Steifvater seems to be under the impression that both Gansey and Blue need nice little OOTD paragraphs within the narrative so we can fully picture what a motley crew they make together. It’s like punk grandma meets L.L. Bean model, except L.L. Bean is trying to sell that ugly neon yellow polo that they have way to much of in their warehouse, and because Gansey is the hottest model they have he’s the one who has to take one for the team and wear the highlighter shirt.

Despite this, or maybe because of it, Gansey succeeds in making Blue feel small just by standing in front of her, which is inevitable and unfortunate. I really just want my kids to get along, but I understand why everyone has their reservations and I’m willing to wait the duration of one (1) helicopter ride for them to work it out.

The rest of this chapter is a series of necessary movements: Gansey gets his journal back, Blue climbs aboard the helicopter, they all strap themselves in, and Gansey introduces them to the pilot, who happens to be his sister, Helen. But before we move on, Stiefvater makes sure the feeling of Blue and her boys is clear:

When Gansey climbed in beside the pilot, she saw the he was grinning, effusive and earnest, incredibly excited to be going wherever they were going. It was nothing like his previous, polished demeanor. It was some private joy that she managed to be in on by virtue of being in the helicopter and, just like that, Blue was excited too.

Same here!!! I’m excited too!!!!!!!

Thoughts and Feelings:

The fact that this reread (by chapter) is now old enough to drink is wild. I thought I’d be bored of it by now but I’m still having so much fun so TAKE THAT, little voice inside my head that tells me I’m not good at sticking to things! And I’m glad I did keep going, because I put on a brave face during some of the beginning chapters to make them seem interesting, but they really were not. I don’t remember the beginning of the book being this slow—probably because I would devour the entire thing in one day, but that’s neither here nor there. I’m very excited that we are about to take to the skies and discover some mysteries.

I do have some beef with this chapter, which is not something I usually say but here we are anyways. Stiefvater’s dialogue is always so realistic and funny that I think I’m a little bit spoiled, especially when she gives me Blue and Adam calling each other pretty in their twin southern accents. But right afterwards, we’re given this scene:

Adam’s face melted into a grin, an expression so unlike his usual one that his features needed to completely shift to accommodate it. “So you don’t do anything quiet, do you?”

The way he said it, she could tell that he was impressed with her in the way men were usually impressed with Orla. Blue very much liked that, especially since she hadn’t had to do anything other than be herself to earn it. “Nothing worth doing.”

“Well,” he said, “I think you’ll find I do pretty much everything quiet. If you can be all right with that, I guess we’ll be fine.”

Here’s the thing: I was previously blinded by some very cute moments within this exchange. Adam’s face rearranging its whole structure to smile at Blue? Descriptive, sad, goddamn adorable. Blue realizing Adam likes her because she’s being herself? Very wholesome, the young adult content we need but don’t deserve. But the last line—my God, the last line—is cheesiness to the extreme. Only an old man, perhaps named Gansey, would say something so simply self-aware. Most of Adam’s problems come from the fact that he can’t stand to look at himself objectively different from other people, and so the fact that this is thrown out for the sake of some cookie-cutter opposites attract line is incredibly frustrating. It ruined the whole dialogue for me, which sucks because the rest of it is very well done.

Moving past that, I love Gansey’s need to wear neon clothing at all times. I love the romantic close-talking Adam needs to use with Blue when they’re close to the helicopter. I love that Adam hates flying and Blue has never done it and Gansey is bored of it and yet they’re all excited to get up in the air and do academic research that wasn’t assigned to them by a teacher. This feeling of discovery and camaraderie really is the heart of this book, and Stiefvater delivered.

Best character moment:

“I’ve never flown,” she confessed to Adam, a shout to be heard over the whine of the helicopter.

“Ever?” Adam shouted back.

Blue shook her head. He put his mouth right against her ear so that she could hear him. He smelled like summer and cheap shampoo. She felt a tickle go all the way from her belly button to her feet.

Best turn of phrase:

And he had to yell. Now that it was running, the blades of the helicopter didn’t so much roar as scream. Air beat against Blue’s ears, more feeling than sound.

Action: So they’re on the helicopter, but it has yet to take off. We’re halfway there. 5/10

Magic: Absolutely no magic here, good or bad. Just a nice discussion about how Adam doesn’t believe in it and Blue doesn’t have access to it. 2/10

Comic relief: A large deal was made about the fact that Gansey was holding organic apple juice and it was an important character trait, which is the only kind of comedy that matters to me. 8/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.20

Summary:

It is now time for our resident Flower Boy to ride his rusty bike over to Monmouth to MAKE TROUBLE! Or, actually, to be quietly angry at Ronan for making trouble instead of doing his homework. Let me set the scene:

Adam is struggling with the kickstand of his bike, which is very old and the only way he is able to get around to his numerous jobs. Ronan is struggling with his BMW, inherited (well, stolen) from his father, so that he can build a ramp and possibly wreck his car for no other reason than the fact that he’s bored. Adam does not have enough time to contemplate the concept of boredom. Ronan is failing his classes. Adam is pissed. Meanwhile, Noah is wandering around being altogether too adorable to ever be mistaken for a teenage boy, mirroring the utter dysfunction of the three of them:

Ronan climbed to his feet and they both turned to watch Noah working with the plywood for the ramps. Working with really meant staring at. Noah had his fingertips ten inches apart and he looked through the space between them to the wood below, perplexed. There were no tools in sight.

(I included that quote because everyone else seems to be reacting just as bemusedly as I am, it has 0 plot significance.)

They’re trying to answer two questions: how do you build a ramp with no tools, and should Adam call Blue? Ronan is being stupid about both problems. He definitely has a chainsaw in his room (the tool not the bird) that could easily be used to cut wood up for the ramp. He’s also being rude about Blue, which is a conflict of interest for me because I love all three people involved in this situation—even though Ronan insists on being a shit to both Adam and Blue.

But for Adam, it’s something deeper, and we finally get the whole picture: Two years ago, Adam tried to buy toothpaste and canned ravioli at the grocery store with his mother’s debit card. The card got declined because the account had insufficient funds, and there Adam was, watching an Aglionby boy with a buzz cut grab his food quickly and easily. He acknowledges that it couldn’t have been Ronan specifically, but he also knows that it doesn’t matter. Ronan would’ve moved through the supermarket with that same attitude and privilege, and that’s what Adam wants. That’s what he needs.

That day wasn’t the only reason he’d decided to fight to come to Aglionby. By it was the catalyst. The imagined memory of Ronan, careless and shallow but with pride fully intact, and Adam, cowed and humiliated while a line of old ladies waited behind him.

He wasn’t that other boy at the register. But he was closer.

And so he decides to do his best to project that confidence, demands Ronan hand over his phone, and calls Blue. You go, Adam. Go after what you want but cannot have for reasons out of your control! I believe in you, buddy.

Of course Persephone picks up the phone, and, instead of saying hello (like a normal person), she just goes “Adam?” Imagine calling someone else’s number for the first time, when you’re not even using your own phone, and someone calls you by your name. That’s spooky as hell.

So Adam asks if it’s Blue, and Persephone is like “no dude it’s Persephone and I guessed right and Orla you owe me ten dollars.” She calls him “Coca-Cola T-shirt one” and gives us THE BEST nickname for Adam that comes out of all four books of the series. I love how one fashion choice not only defined this boy forever but also caused me to buy my own Coke T-shirt for $15 at my local Old Navy.

Anyways Persephone knows Adam is calling for Blue and goes to get her without being asked, which is nice of her. Their conversation is very sweet. I’ll give you the highlights.

“It seems busy there.”

“It’s always busy here. There are three hundred and forty-two people who live here, and they all want to be in this room. What are you doing today?” She asked it very naturally, like it was the most logical thing in the world for them to have a conversation on the phone, like they were already friends.

It made it easier for Adam to say, “Exploring. Do you want to come with?”

Ronan’s eyes widened. No matter what she said now, the phone call has been worth it for the genuine shock on Ronan’s face.

They hammer out the details, and by that I mean Adam informs Blue that means they’ll be riding in a helicopter because Gansey is the kind of person who can just charter a helicopter whenever he wants with absolutely no problem. Blue says that she’ll come, because she’s Blue.

They don’t call it a date but they don’t call it not a date. I for one don’t care what it’s called, so long as the Gangsey can get together for a fun family outing before Ronan succeeds in building his ramp and subsequently totals his car. This is a win for everyone involved.

Thoughts and Feelings:

The emotional roller coaster this chapter took me on was pretty jarring, to say the least. Usually the transition from fun and lighthearted is done with more finesse than this. I think it’s because we usually have outside factors to shift our attention: a comment, a wasp, a fistfight. This time is was just that Adam was having a bad day and Ronan was being so undeniably and infuriatingly Ronan. It was just a tough sell, for me, to go from Ronan talking about Blue chopping off nuts to angsty grocery store Adam so fast. 0 to 100 in one paragraph.

I think this might be, for me, one of those “kill you darlings” situations. It’s clear to me that Stiefvater thought a lot about Adam’s backstory and understood the reasoning behind his choices. She wants us to understand Adam’s frustrations with Ronan the same way she does, and this incident is a manifestation of that anger. She probably really liked this scene, and I understand why—there’s some really beautiful phrasing and imagery in it. It feels real. I just don’t think it had to be here. I wouldn’t necessarily want it 100% gone, I just don’t think it fits where it is in the plot. This scene might have been Stiefvater’s darling, and a favorite of hers to write, but in my opinion it needed to be killed from this scene. Trust in the reader to understand why Adam feels resentment towards Ronan without spelling it out for me.

I don’t want to be too harsh, because I do really love this chapter. Noah is fantastic throughout, we get a great sense of Ronan’s paradoxical childishness (aka the iconic line, “Ramp. BMW. The goddamn moon.”), and the Adam/Blue phone call is more than I could have asked for. But all of the things I liked about it were light, and I would’ve liked to have seen them without needing to delve into the deep and existential soup that was the middle of this chapter.

That’s the only beef I had. Thanks for indulging me; I don’t often get to complain about the words Stiefvater puts on the page. It’s refreshing. Next up, HELICOPTER!

Best character moment:

Adam lifted his eyes to the sky. He thought he could hear Gansey coming. “Mountains. How do you feel about helicopters?”

There was a long pause. “How do you mean? Ethically?”

“As a mode of transportation.”

“Faster than camels, but less sustainable. Is there going to be a helicopter in your future today?”

Best turn of phrase:

Even the way the other boy had moved, Adam recalled, struck him: confident and careless, chin tilted, an emperor’s son.

Action: Ronan and Noah never finished their ramp, Adam never figured out his kickstand, the helicopter has not arrived. All the real action happened in Adam’s head—it’s a slow day so far. 5/10

Magic: Persephone and Orla not only forgo caller ID because they’re psychics, they are also not above betting over who’s calling on the phone. That’s magic used right. 8/10

Comic relief: As much as I love Ronan joking about Blue cutting Adam’s nuts off and Blue’s comparison of helicopters to camels, the middle of this chapter did not hold up its end of the comedic bargain. 7/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.19

Summary:

Remember when Blue woke up in the middle of the night and Neeve was being super sketchy (and by super sketchy I mean actively summoning a malignant demon)? Yeah, me too. Turns out Blue has been waiting all day to talk to someone about it and everyone is so busy they simply cannot bother with her. This is where Calla comes in. She smells like jalepeños, which means she’s angry, and throughout the course of the conversation she hands Blue all three bags she’s holding and concedes to being a part of Blue’s nefarious plan.

Basically, Calla is going to hold Neeve’s belongings and Blue is going to stand next to her, being the best little battery she possibly can. Calla’s down because she’s ornery and likes to be the baddest bitch in the room (we know nothing Neeve does can change that, but Calla doesn’t have the benefit of hindsight). What they have to contend with is Maura, who, for someone who has only given her daughter one order in her entire life, is being quite domineering. I like it.

Calla had once observed that Maura had no pets because her principles took too much time to take care of. Maura was a big believer in many things, one of them personal privacy.

But wait! The chapter’s not over! We were sent a gift from the gods of mush that consists of one (1) gratuitous flower-receiving scene wherein “Flowers by Andi” pulls up in front of Blue’s house and gives her the tiniest and cutest bunch of baby’s breath and one single white carnation. I might have cried, the first time I read this, mostly because Blue tells Andi the Flower Lady that they’re probably for Orla, but they’re not! They’re for Blue! Because Adam is a southern ass gentleman and none of us deserve him!

The card says “I hope you still want me to call –Adam” (which I would have put in italics if the book hadn’t put it in some weird default handwriting font—always respect the source text except when they do dumb things with fonts). This is a very cute way to resolve a relationship confusion and as much as I was feeling all squirmy because it was too cute, I was also kinda pissed. Nobody has ever sent me flowers like this, probably because real people suck and this scenario is a little beyond the scope of an actual non-magic entrenched high school boy. Still mad though.

But then, LIKE SHE ALWAYS DOES, Steifvater finds some way to slip in the fact that Gansey and his sexy, sexy journal are keeping Blue awake at night. This time it’s because she’s asking Calla for advice on the Disobeying Maura issue, but honestly it seems like Blue will find absolutely any reason to tell us why she hasn’t gotten her 8 hours, waking up before her alarms included.

Blue does what we always knew she would and decides to ignore Maura’s order. I am reminded of every Disney Channel Original Movie, because they all tried the same thing and Stiefvater did it better:

Once she’d seen his death laid out for him, and seen that he was real, and found out that she was meant to have a part in it, there had never been a chance that she would just stand by and let it happen. 

“Don’t tell Mom,” Blue said.

And that’s that! After 18 chapters of exposition and one glorious chapter (15) of confrontation, we are finally taking the plot to the magic and doing our darndest to find Glendower! Scenes from our next episodes include: helicopters, handholding, seashells, and poor boxing technique, but first we need to close with some of Blue’s most famous words.

Today, Blue thought, is the day I stop listening to the future and start living it instead.

Excelsior.

Thoughts and Feelings:

I’m a huge fan of this chapter, mostly because it contains the exact formula to get to my heart. We have Calla and three of her mysterious bags, one of which “manages to have corners”—one of the greatest literary feats of this novel is that Steifvater can say stuff like that and give the reader a precise image and also the giggles. We have Adam and Blue sweetness overload. And, to top it all off, a couple of quotes that I absolutely would have underlined had I been the type of person who is cool with writing in books.

I’m excited for the novel to get going, which you probably know since I’ve been bemoaning the slowness of the plot since I started this reread. But what I haven’t said is that I’m going to miss the slow and careful approach Stiefvater has to exposition, where she sketches out these characters and their backstories in a painstaking and lovely way. There is just enough revealed to us that we understand the key points of each character, but enough left out that we can come and fill in the rest for ourselves, which I do a little differently every time and makes the story that much more fun to read over and over.

That’s not to say new things won’t get revealed about the characters over the course of all four books, or that they won’t go on a journey. The Gangsey grows and changes so much and that’s probably the biggest reason I love this series. What I mean is that we’ve established our baseline, and it’s time for them to start changing. It’s like sending your kids off to preschool and knowing they’re going to come home a little smarter every day. Yeah, you want them to be able to put peas in their mouth instead of all over their face and the floor, but it’s still sad when you realize you won’t get to see their stupid pea-covered face anymore. Right now, Blue is naïve and her face is covered in peas, but she’s going to wipe them off soon. I’m scared and excited about it. Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk.

Best Character Moment:

It was no portrait or fruit basket, but she couldn’t imagine Adam sending anything more dramatic. These little flowers were quiet and sparse, just like him. “I think they’re pretty.”

Best Turn of Phrase:

Calla tapped a finger on her lip. Both her lips and the nail she used to tap were deeply indigo, the color of octopus ink, the color of the deepest shadows in the rocky front yard.

Action: Okay, being real, not much. But Calla makes every moment seem charged, so I’m going to be generous. 5/10

Magic: They mention psychometry briefly, and they also cast doubts on Neeve, which is magic in and of itself. Also, everything Adam Parrish does is magic and I love him. 7/10

Comic Relief: We learn that Calla has bad-day burritos and everyone knows because when she comes home she straight up smelled like jalapeños. If you don’t think that’s hilarious your sense of humor is broken. 9/10

The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.17-1.18

SEVENTEEN

Summary:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thoughts and Feelings:

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

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

Best character moment:

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

Best turn of phrase:

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

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

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

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

EIGHTEEN

Summary:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thoughts and Feelings:

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

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

Best character moment:

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

What is wrong with this kid? Whelk wondered.

Best turn of phrase:

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

Action: NONE! -1/10

Magic: EVEN MORE NONE! -7/10 

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

The Raven Boys Reread: 1.16

Summary:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hilarious.

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

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

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

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

Thoughts and Feelings:

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

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

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

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

Best character moment:

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

Best turn of phrase:

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

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

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

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

The Raven Cycle Reread: 1.15

Summary:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ADAM’S READING:

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

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

RONAN’S READING:

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

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

She hissed, “What are you?”

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

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

GANSEY’S READING:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thoughts and Feelings:

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

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

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

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

Best character moment:

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

Best turn of phrase:

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

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

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

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