I want to say The Raven Boys is a puzzle, but that's not quite right. It's more...like a tapestry. It doesn't make sense at first - just a loosely-connected collection of glittering vignettes. You go along with it because by now, you trust her. Maggie. You know it'll be worth it. You know she'll take care of you. You keep reading. And again, she tells you she's telling you a story about one thing, but in fact the story she tells is much bigger - a story about EVERYTHING. A story that needs an omniscient third person narrative - different to Maggie's previous books.
If you want to know what the book's about, you can read the synopsis: ever since Blue was a kid, she's been told that if she kisses her true love, he will die. On St Mark's Eve, as the soon-to-be-dead walk the corpse road, when she's not meant to be able to see anyone, Blue sees Gansey - either because he is her true love, or she will kill him. But the synopsis won't tell you what the book is ABOUT. I can tell you it's about Blue, the only non-psychic in a family full of psychics, or about Gansey, scholarly, distracted, rich, and obsessed with finding the vanished king Glendower. But that doesn't tell you the half of it. That tells you nothing about Adam, carving his way out of a dead-end of a life, or surly and unpleasant Ronan, or shadowy and quiet Noah. It tells you nothing about the bond between these four friends, and their attachment and loyalty to Gansey, or his to them. It tells you nothing about the intricacy of magic and legends woven into the fabric of the story, or the painful immediacy of lives without magic. And it tells you nothing of the artistry with which Maggie's storytelling is executed. Even when you think you know what's coming, you *don't*. Jaw-dropping happened.
Oh Maggie, even though I'm getting the feeling you're about to break my heart, you still make me titter out loud in the middle of the night.
At 3 am, I put the book down, only chapters from the end. You see by then I *knew* Maggie would break my heart, and so I wanted her to do it slowly and while I was fully awake to appreciate it. I wanted to watch the trailer another time or twelve. I stuck on 1.02 at the trailer and felt like that image summed up everything important about The Raven Boys.
I love love LOVE the earnestness of the friendship: the complexity and contrasts of the Aglionby boys, the way that parts of them seem to mismatch but somehow that becomes a symbiotic whole. I like Blue, who is both like Puck and not like Puck, like Isabel and not like Isabel: she's not as desperate and vulnerable as Puck, and she's not as damaged and driven as Isabel. She's a puzzle to herself, and she's tough and smart and not generic (which she's be pleased about, since she works so hard at eccentricity, to the point of artform and coolness).
Also, I love the...togetherness of Blue's family. Maggie's definitely not a preacher - if you've read any of her books, you know they're not full of exemplary parents/adults. But Blue's family leaves you with a warm sense of exactly what family ought to be: trust and love, care and service. And I love the way there is a drawing together of older and younger generations, an intertwining story that rejects the 'adults are useless' and 'only kids can save the world' tropes. Everyone needs everyone - perhaps I'm feeling it more because of my time of life, being caught somewhere between fully adult and sympathy for one's younger selves. We need it to be true, for there to be a middle ground where mother and daughter exist equally and wholly in each other's worlds.
And then I finished.
So sad. In that kind of aching, sharp-edged, dry-eyed way that Maggie is so good at inducing. But also, it ended on a good note, without that awful sense of incompletion. Maggie is good to her readers, not all self-indulgent at her book's expense - she's a reader, she understands. She wraps up with a kind of surgical precision: neither overdone and written into a corner, nor a frustrating confusion of loose ends. She knows we have to wait for a year(/three) for the next one(/three), and I can do so now with some equanimity.
I love this book without reserve. I want to talk about so much more (especially how fascinated I am by Gansey and his layers), but then this review will be endlessly long and impossible to read. Of course it's not perfect, but I think it comes pretty damn close. I stopped so many times - my book is bristling with post-its - to go back over a sentence, a few words, reading and rereading, to savour the way they were put together, appreciating the deliberation with which every word was chosen and arranged. But the best compliment you can really give Maggie about her book is this: when you've turned the last page, and breathed out your final sigh...you flip back to the beginning and start again.