Doomed Love And Psychic Powers In 'Raven Boys' | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

Doomed Love And Psychic Powers In 'Raven Boys'

Play associated audio

Maggie Stiefvater is a young-adult author with a passionate fan base — she describes her subject matter as everything from "homicidal faeries" to "werewolf nookie."

She wrote the best-selling Shiver trilogy and the novel The Scorpio Races. Her most-recent book, The Raven Boys, is the first in a series of four that will follow Blue Sargent, daughter of the Henrietta, Va., town psychic, as she becomes involved with the lives of four students at the local private school who call themselves the Raven Boys.

Though Blue comes from a family of clairvoyants, she herself has no particular powers.

"She's completely ordinary — except she amplifies other people's psychic abilities," Stiefvater tells NPR's Linda Wertheimer. But that doesn't mean Blue's life is boring: She's destined to fall in love with one of the Raven Boys — and be the cause of his death.

Writing the stories of the four Raven Boys was the fun part, Stiefvater says.

"I love writing characters, and this was like a French braid, a knot of characterization to deal with. All of these boys are defined by each other, and they're very much defined by money or not having it" at their affluent private school, she says. "It was interesting as an author to try and play them off each other."

Blue — like many of the townies in Henrietta — wants nothing to do with the Raven Boys and their private school cohort. But once a year, Blue and her mother watch the spirits of the dead appear on a ley line, a line of magical energy running through the town. When one of the Raven Boys appears on the ley line even though he's still alive, Blue knows he's doomed.

Stiefvater based her story on magic and Welsh mythology about sleeping kings who will return to save a troubled land. But at its heart, The Raven Boys is a simple human story of a star-crossed love between a poor girl and a rich boy.

"As teenagers, we all see ourselves as outsiders ... and it's very easy to look at other people who are more popular, who have more pocket money, and it makes you feel even more like an outsider, and it does shape who you become as a person," she says.

A sprinkling of the supernatural makes that story universal, Stiefvater adds.

"Doesn't matter what culture you come from, as soon as you put it into that world of myth, it becomes something that you can understand from all different places," she says.

Magic can also reverse real-world power dynamics — the Raven Boys, for all their material advantages, are powerless in the spirit world, whereas Blue's family has great ability there.

"The psychic abilities do balance it out," Stiefvater says. "The women are all extremely powerful in this because they have a sort of mystical knowledge the boys can't have."

Stiefvater is a musician and animator who not only composes a piece of music for each of her books, but also makes a short animated book trailer that she posts online.

"It's been a fascinating thing as an author to watch how the Internet has shaped how we deal with our readers," she says.

But she does not subscribe to the common fear that the Internet will be the death of printed books.

"This object that we hold in our hands, a book ... that tactile pleasure, it's just not going to go away," she says.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Handmade Signs From Homeless People Lead To Art, Understanding

Artist Willie Baronet is on a 24-city, 31-day trek across the country this month, buying handmade signs from homeless people. He says the project has changed the way he views homelessness.
NPR

Rust Devastates Guatemala's Prime Coffee Crop And Its Farmers

Central American coffee farmers are facing off against a deadly fungus that has wiped out thousands of acres of crops. Coffee companies like Starbucks are pooling money to support them in the fight.
NPR

When Did Companies Become People? Excavating The Legal Evolution

The Supreme Court has been granting more rights to corporations, including some regarded as those solely for individuals. But Nina Totenberg finds the company-to-person shift has a long history.
NPR

What It's Like To Own Your Very Own Harrier Jump Jet

The Harrier Jump Jet is known for vertical take-offs and landings. It also has an accident-prone track record, but that didn't dissuade one pilot from buying his dream plane.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.