I'm Ready to Talk About THE RAVEN CYCLE

Fair warning, this is not a review. This is more of an OH MY GOD THIS SERIES rambling post full of gush. Because holy shit, you guys. This was good.

Let me just start off by saying that the only reason I started this series was because so many of my writing friends have fan girled about it. Like, literally every person who I go to for book recs has said "OMG YOU NEED TO READ THE RAVEN CYCLE." I was hesitant because 1) I'm not the biggest fan of magical realism / books centered around prophecies and 2) the only other work I've read by Stiefvater is her SHIVER series and tbh I was not a fan. But, alas, curiosity got the best of me and I decided to dig into this series and WOW I'm so glad I did.

“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

Blue has been told for her entire life that she causes the death of her true love. Which seems like totally traumatizing knowledge, right? Kiss = death seems pretty dramatic, and I'll admit I at first rolled my eyes at this proclamation. Blue sort of just takes it in stride though, not planning on falling in love any time soon. But then there's GANSEY and the rest of the Raven Boys, and Blue quickly gets swept up in their world and in their search to awaken Glendower... also getting swept up in Gansey despite her resistance. She's the only person in her family that's not a psychic, so she gets swept up in the mystery and magic that surrounds The Raven Boys.

To me, though, the strength of this series comes from two components: boys & family.

1. I think I love these Raven Boys just as much as Blue does. Gansey, Adam, Ronan, and Noah are such a unit, and it's so refreshing because for the first time I'm seeing boys as boys, not as these idealized creatures with smoking bodies and perfect personalities to match that so often exists in YA. These boys felt real to me, with wants and desires and feelings, and love for their friendship and for each other. The dependence that the Raven Boys have on each other, how they care about and lean on each other really makes this series for me.

2. And family. I love how important family is in this series. And I love the strong women that make up Blue's weird psychic family. Since this series is told in third person, often times we'd get chapters from the adult's POV and that was pretty cool because it's not something that you see very often in young adult. I love how Stiefvater shows us all of the families, and how the boys and Blue are the way they are because of their upbringing. So many books, particularly in this genre, ignore family, but in THE RAVEN CYCLE it's brought to the forefront and that's pretty awesome. 

2b. The disparity in class / wealth is also refreshing to see. To see a rich kid know that he's privileged. Some of Gansey and Adam's biggest arguments are over Adam not wanting Gansey's charity, he needs to work through everything himself. Blue coming to terms with the fact that going to the college she wants is probably not realistic due to financial reasons. I don't know I just really like the blend, and how even through their friendship, money issues still come up. 

I could ramble on forever about this series. I'm so glad I read it, but part of me wishes that I waited a bit longer because HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO WAIT UNTIL FEBRUARY 2016 FOR THE CONCLUSION.

Have you read this series? Let's talk about it. Not read it yet? You should!

ARC Review: PLACID GIRL by Brenna Ehrlich

Punk was created for the malcontents, something that loner and aspiring drummer Hallie understands all too well. Trapped in a boring suburban life – dysfunctional parents included! – Hallie drowns her angst in the angry songs of Haze, a masked musician who has not been heard from in five years. So naturally she’s surprised – and more than a little skeptical – when someone who seems to be Haze starts flirting with her via her favorite photo-sharing app. Is he who he says he is? What does he want from her? The questions only multiply when Hallie — along with bandmate Sarah and aspiring music journalist Steve — roadtrip to Haze's comeback gig to unmask the reclusive musician once and for all.

I downloaded this book on a whim after reading the description for it on NetGalley. Punk rock, angst, and the road trip drew me toward PLACID GIRL. Then, I did a little bit of research, and learned that this story began in initial drafts as a retelling of LOLITA, and I was sold on the novel conceptually. I had no expectations as I began the reading, as is so often the case with a debut.

Putting it simply, PLACID GIRL blew me away. I read it in one sitting, unable to put down this compelling story where contemporary and psychological thriller converged in a way that was new to me and left me wanting more.

First, the contemporary elements that I love so much. The emotion in the writing alone was palpable from beginning to end. Hallie, the protagonist, was angsty and complex and real. I felt everything along with her as I was reading the book. I identified with her shyness, but still felt her longing for attention and to be heard. The language was spot on the whole way through, with realistic actions and reactions. I loved her friendship with Sarah. Despite her insecurities of always being second-rate compared to Sarah, the friendship was real (even down to the bickering), and you knew that these two girls would do anything for each other. Steve, the music journalist, and his story was an equally compelling subplot, and I loved how him and Hallie found their way to each other through their common love for music.

Based on my comments so far, you'd think that PLACID GIRL is a cute contemporary story with a sprinkle of punk music. Wrong. It's dark, and quite frankly, pretty messed up. There are twists and turns that I didn't even see coming, and using I can spot predictability from a mile away. Hallie loves Haze's music, it speaks to her on a deep visceral level that is difficult to put into words. So, when an anonymous someone starts messaging Hallie though a photo-sharing app, someone who Hallie suspects might be Haze, she can't help but respond. That's where we begin to see the connections with LOLITA. I think that Ehrlich does a fantastic job showing both the dangers and allure of social media in a way that's not shaming or reprimanding, just honest. Hallie's characterization is so well contrived that it's not difficult to understand why she's responding to Haze, why she's sending pictures to him, why she wants his attention.

Haze's identity is finally revealed in the climax of the novel, when his mask is removed, and it is not what anyone is expecting. 

Music is the string that ties this story together, and the descriptions of Hallie playing the drums are among my favorite moments in the entire book. While the situation that Hallie, Sarah, and Steve found themselves in was slightly dramatized and over the top for my usual taste, something about Ehrlich's writing style pulled it off for me. I will definitely be recommending this one to my friends, and I cannot wait until it is out in the world so I have more people to talk about it with!

PLACID GIRL will be released on August 25, 2015 by All Ages Press. You can pre-order it here