Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Oh my goodness, The Raven Boys. This book is about a girl named Blue, four boys from a private school called Aglionby, and their adventures together. Blue has been told as long as she can remember that she will kill her true love with a kiss, and when she sees Gansey’s spirit on St. Mark’s Eve, it’s fated that he’s either her true love or the boy she kills (or both?). Blue, Gansey, and Gansey’s three friends eventually band together to find this ancient Welsh king on an energy line. There’s magic and dead things and psychics, which isn’t usually my forte, but the incredibly real characters made everything worth it. Though I’m not reading the next book in the series right away, I’m looking forward to it, because it will feel like reuniting with old friends. Overall, I give The Raven Boys 8/10 in energy points (lol book jokes… because the ley line… energy… ha).

*SPOILER ALERT*

Things I Liked:

  • Maggie Stiefvater’s characters are on point. Everyone is different and everyone has a well-developed backstory. Blue is sassy but worried; Adam is gentle but tragic; Ronan is rough around the edges but tragic; Gansey is pulled together but insecure; Noah is FREAKING AWESOME but ALSO FREAKING DEAD. Without these characters, the plot would have lost me by page thirty. With them, I had a blast.
  • The plot twists kept things going and distracted me from how weird the story really is. The gang is literally looking for a dead Welsh king on an energy line, prompted by Gansey, who died because he’s deathly allergic to bugs but whose life was saved when Noah, who’s been with them as a ghost, died at the hand of their psycho Latin teacher. Crazy, right? But the twists made it feel so surprising that it was almost more believable.
  • The humor in this book was fantastic. Several points in my review notes are just “HAHAHAHAHAHA” because I found myself laughing out loud. The lines that caused these moments, you ask?
    • When Blue’s sass hit me in the face like a sack of bricks: “I am not a prostitute.
    • When Gansey asks how Ronan found out about raven feeding: “Jesus, the Internet, Gansey.”
    • When Blue and Gansey encounter each other for the first time after the restaurant incident: “We had a discussion about alternative professions for women.”
    • When Adam talked about kissing Blue and Blue didn’t want to: “I’m very young.”
  • Blue’s relationship with each of the boys is perfect. She and Adam are total cuties (but see my theories below, because I don’t think that will last). She and Gansey are a little tense, but in a way that makes their relationship feel charged with energy and full of possibility. She and Ronan are pure sass. But my favorite? Blue and Noah. Not romantically, of course, but it’s adorable the way Noah just latches onto Blue. Even when you find out that it was because he was sort of feeding off her energy, I still loved whenever he ruffled her hair or they hugged or anything. Their friendship is just too great.

Things I Didn’t Like:

  • The prophecy about Blue killing her true love with a kiss is just a little bit cheesy. And then she meets Gansey’s spirit and discovers that he’s fated either to be her true love or the boy she kills… Everything on the kiss prophecy front seemed to fit together a little too well.
  • The magic stuff overall was just a little weird. It probably seemed that way because the magic stayed inside the normal world, and I’m used to books where the magic world is completely separate from this mortal one. Dead Welsh kings just seemed like a little bit of a stretch.

Theories:

I predict that Adam is going to become angrier and rougher around the edges, which is going to lead to a break-up between him and Blue. I also predict that we’re going to get to see more of Gansey’s vulnerable side. (That’s it. I’m a sucky theorist.)

The Raven Boys isn’t my usual type of book, but the sass, writing, and especially the characters made everything worthwhile. I’m excited to continue with the series and hopefully check out more Maggie Stiefvater in the future.

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Things I Learned From Middle Schoolers

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to be a small group leader at a sixth grade church retreat known as Boot Camp. My group consisted of two adult co-leaders, myself, and twenty sixth grade girls. Though I hope I was able to shine some light into those girls’ lives, they taught me so much this weekend. My girls have something special: in their wisdom, in their passion, in the way they love one another. It’s no surprise that this amazing group showed me so much while the love of God was shown to all of us.

Here are some things I learned from middle schoolers this weekend:

  1. The best dance moves are ones done with friends but without regard to what others might think. (Our group danced on chairs during mealtimes to “Shower” and T-Swizzle’s new song “Shake It Off,” and though I am not a skilled dancer, I just let go and had a blast.)
  2. The best songs are the ones you sing at the top of your longs surrounded by people you love.
  3. There are no bad questions. My girls asked deep, hard, honest questions, and it made me realize that there’s no need to be ashamed about not knowing something. Whenever I don’t understand something, I try to bury and hide that feeling as much as possible. I need to learn to embrace it, because life is a learning experience.
  4. Don’t be afraid of being attached to people. If any of my girls wanted to hug me, they did. If they wanted to be goofballs around me, they did. If they wanted to open up to me about the difficulties in their lives, they did. Being attached to people makes us feel vulnerable, so we close ourselves off. But being attached is also the only way to friendship, and these middle schoolers reminded me that true relationships are worth the risk.
  5. The only thing that is truly lame is thinking that other things are lame. Middle schoolers are unironic screamers, enthusiastic worshipers, energetic as they do their thing. When do we lose that? Because I can tell you that’s not what most high schoolers look like. We suffer from so much cynicism and derision, thinking that loving something isn’t the cool thing to do. When and why did that happen? My biggest takeaway from my amazing group of girls was that we need to shine our unique little light as bright as we can, without stopping to care if it’s too bright for others.

I love that while I was trying to give some wisdom to these girls, God used them to teach me about being Godfident in who He’s made me to be. That’s a lesson I’m continually learning, and I’m so grateful that Boot Camp was a part of it.

So Not Pulled Together

I am a person who likes formal beginnings. I enter into new things with plans and resolutions, with ideas and lots of hope. I try to start new phases with everything pulled together. (Actually, I generally try to live my life with everything pulled together.)

But right now? My room is a mess. I haven’t finished half of the things I wanted to do before school starts, including writing myself a series of pep talks for rough days. I’m stressing away my final hours of summer. And why?

Because I am a person who likes formal beginnings, who tries to start new phases with everything pulled together.

I’ve made such a big deal about Junior Year Haley being better, wiser, less stressed, friendlier, etc. I’ve had such a vision for my junior year self, like she’s this other person whom I am destined to become. The only problem is, Junior Year Haley is also perfect, and therefore, pretty out of reach. She has everything figured out. She makes new friends with ease. She is a constant prayer warrior, gentle-hearted servant, loving friend. And for the past few weeks, I have been doing everything in my power to frantically morph myself into her before the year starts.

But tonight, I ran out of a few things: time, energy, and hope. I have less than thirty-six hours before the new school year begins, and Junior Year Haley had too much to do. I’m getting exhausted trying to keep up with my own expectations, and Junior Year Haley’s emotional strength was being evasive. I’m so stressed that I’m beginning to think Junior Year Haley doesn’t even exist… but then I stop and think. And I realize that I don’t think she should.

What has God called me to do? Not to become Junior Year Haley, that’s for sure. If anywhere in the Bible, God told us to pull ourselves together before He could work… we’d all be screwed. Fortunately, that’s not what He says. He says, through Paul, that it is He who works in us to will and to act according to His good purpose (Philippians 2:13). It is not up to us to get all of our ducks in a row before we follow Him. It is up to us to listen and obey, listen and trust, listen and follow. It is our job to let Him work, not to work for Him.

Right now, God is not telling me to clean my room and finish the eight million things I feel like I have to do and take more AP classes before I even think about drawing close to Him. He is telling me to trust that He is going to do immeasurably more (Ephesians 3:20-21) this year. He is telling me to depend on Him for everything I need, especially peace. He is telling me that growth is the way, not rapidly trying to figure everything out on my own. I need to be okay with not having all the answers. I need to be okay with not having everything exactly how I planned and exactly the way that makes me comfortable. I need to know that I am growing closer to Jesus each day and that He will never stop loving me just the way I am.

It’s not about pulling ourselves together. It’s not even about God pulling us together. It’s about trusting Him every single step of the way, living in dependence on His provision, power, and unconditional love as we change and grow to be less of ourselves and more of Him.