(Well, 3.5 stars.)
Note: It’s been a while since I actually read this book (yes, I had preordered it and was eagerly waiting for the mailman the day it came out), but hadn’t been able to put together a review until now – and I felt that I should still write down my thoughts, since some of you have been asking for my opinion on the final installment in the Raven Cycle series.
I will be back to posting book reviews on a more regular basis from now on, hopefully. I have read about thirty books since my last review (as you can see on my Goodreads page) and there is no way I can possibly catch up, but I hope to at least make a dent of sorts.
That said, on to the review!
This was a first for me – a book cover that informs you of the main elements of the plot (see picture above). Pranks? Infiltration? Secret society? Boys? How thrilling! On top of this premise, I had heard good things about this author’s other book, We Were Liars, so I was very excited to start reading this novel. In some respects The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks was better than I had expected it to be; Lockhart manages to tackle issues of gender and power in a thoughtful yet accessible way. How many young adult books introduce their readers to Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon? I know sixteen-year-old me would have been hooked (and would have worked the Panopticon into every single one of her school essays and presentations for the rest of the year).
“A Monster Calls” illustration by Jim Kay.
We tend to think of grief and mourning as maladies of the mind, but the loss can grow and expand until it feels like more like a presence than an absence. In the poem “Death Barged In,” Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno describes her pain as a mysterious figure in a Russian greatcoat who barges in, slams the door, and now makes all her decisions for her:
Even as I sit here,
he stands behind me
colossal hands on my shoulders
and bends down
and whispers to my neck,
From now on,
you write about me.
I read A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness and Last Night I Sang To The Monster by Benjamin Alire Sáenz back to back on a whim, only to find out that they have much more in common than just the word ‘monster’ in the title. Both are by incredibly talented young adult authors, both are about troubled families, and in both books, the loss these protagonists so desperately refuse to acknowledge takes on the physical form of a monster, looming over them.
I think I finally understand the true meaning of the phrase “one step forward, two steps back.”
Don’t get me wrong: this is not a bad book – even worse, it is disappointing. Stiefvater showed me in The Dream Thieves that she can create something exciting and thoughtful, but where this previous installment in the Raven Cycle series was focused and coherent, Blue Lily, Lily Blue is all over the place and flies right past a few crucial loose ends without looking back. The two-star rating is harsh, but it comes from a place of love, because I know that this could have been so much more.
It seems that Maggie Stiefvater has heard the prayers from my last Raven Cycle book review (two years after this book was first published whatever shut up), because The Dream Thieves fixes many of the flaws of the first installment and turns to where the focus of the story should be. Sure, Blue’s name is still Blue, and sure, the love triangle has turned into a love pentagon I’m sure fanfiction writers are having an absolute ball with. …And I don’t mind. Not one bit. That’s how entertaining this book is.
First things first: every time I read the name “Owen Glendower,” this Horrible Histories song popped into my head. This is not a bad thing.
Now, full disclosure: I did not expect to like The Raven Boys, especially not after reading the first couple of pages. The main character is a girl called Blue (because of course) who was raised by a family of witches and has to live with the knowledge that, if she ever kisses her true love, he will die. She is just another girl, but also Super Special, has a slightly eccentric fashion sense, and her milkshake brings all the boys to the yard. Basically, Stiefvater has taken every single supernatural YA cliché she could think of and put them in a blender to create her protagonist.
“Nighthawks” (1942) by Edward Hopper.
Aristotle is a Mexican-American teenager living in El Paso. He has never had a friend. His father has closed off emotionally after coming back from the war in Vietnam. His brother is in prison. His mother won’t talk about it. And then he meets Dante.