I had the task of deciding between two very different challengers, Gene Luen Yang’s Boxers & Saints and Maggie Stiefvater’s The Dream Thieves. It was hard to compare one to another since Boxers & Saints are historical fiction graphic novels with a touch of fantasy and The Dream Thieves is a blend of realistic fiction and paranormal fantasy. (Actually now that I’m reading through this again they’re kind of similar with how pieces of fantasy are intertwined in the story, but I feel it has a much bigger role in The Dream Thieves’ story building)
Boxer & Saints were well-crafted graphic novels, detailing the events of the Boxer Rebellion in China from two different perspectives. The choice in topic really made the books stand out because I can’t think of one fictional YA book that focuses on the Boxer Rebellion (not saying that another doesn’t exist). Plus the graphic novel format makes the topic much more approachable and engaging for some teens. Along with detailing the two sides of the rebellions, I really liked the personal development of both of the main characters. Both characters had flaws and difficult decisions to make throughout their journeys and the right answer wasn’t always clear. Added bits of humor throughout the story help lighten some of tougher issues addressed in the book. I enjoyed how Gene Luen Yang connected the two stories together by having characters from each book show up in the other story and sometimes even taking a critical role. Overall, I appreciated the unique views that the two books provided on the Boxer Rebellion and how it deeply divided the Chinese people. While the experiences of the main characters were fantastical at times, both characters had relatable experiences, whether they were the complications of falling in love, family issues or where one’s loyalties lie.
The Dream Thieves is the second installment of a planned four book series by Maggie Stiefvater. If you had a chance to read the first book in the series The Raven Boys, you may have wondered how its storyline would spread out over four books especially since the ending (or what seems like the ending) is revealed at the beginning of the first book. The Dream Thieves makes it clear how this complex and interesting story can develop into a series. Maggie Stiefvater impressed me by focusing much of this book on the dark and moody Ronan, which was a shift from the character focus in The Raven Boys. In The Dream Thieves, Ronan learns more about his ability to pull actually things from his dreams and he also starts to piece together secrets from his past. At the same time Adam is still trying to figure out his place in the world. Blue is struggling with her relationship with Adam and her visions of Gansey, and Gansey is still in search of a dead king, Glendower. The story is told through alternating viewpoints, each is well developed. The characters are very deep, and more layers are revealed as you progress through the book, even with secondary characters. Written beautifully with enchanting descriptions of dream worlds and reality The Dream Thieves keeps you transfixed and leaves you gleefully awaiting the next book in the series.
After much internal debate, I decided the The Dream Thieves is the winner. The excellent writing and spellbinding story kept me turning the pages to the end. It was one of those books that you’re sad to finish because you know you’ll have to go back to reading just- okay books for a while.
Winner: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater