“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.”
It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.
Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.
His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.
But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.
For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.
The story begins in The Raven Boys with a prologue from Blue explaining that she is the only non-psychic from an entire family of psychics, and that every clairvoyant she has met has warned her that if she kisses her true love, they will die. On St Mark's Eve, she goes to the cemetery with her half-aunt, Neeve, to watch the spirits walk past. These spirits are people who are fated to die within the next twelve months. Because of Blue's lack of psychic abilities, she is usually unable to see the spirits, but she sees one of a teenage boy who tells her his name is Gansey. Neeve then tells her that the only reasons a non-seer would see a spirit is either if the person is their true love or because they'll kill them. 'Ley Lines' are also explained as invisible that allegedly connect places, and have mystic energy surrounding them.
Richard Gansey III, Ronan Lynch, and Adam Parrish - the eponymous Raven Boys - all attend Aglionby Academy in Henrietta, a prestigious boarding school for the wealthy and privileged. Richard Gansey, who goes by 'Gansey', is hunting for the sleeping Welsh king, Glendower, and has recruited Adam, Ronan, and their other friend Noah to help. Gansey has been searching for Glendower ever since he was killed by hornets (to which he has a fatal allergy to) seven years before - as he was dying, he heard a voice telling him that Glendower would allow him to live because someone else was dying when they shouldn't. Gansey, Ronan, and Noah live off-campus in an old warehouse called Monmouth Manufacturing, while Adam lives with his parents in a double-wide trailer home. It is also discovered that Adam, who is extremely poor and attends school on a scholarship, has an abusive father. It is also revealed that Ronan's father, Niall, was murdered sometime before the beginning of the book, and Ronan hasn't been the same ever since - it is heavily implied that he tried to kill himself only six months before.
Blue meets the Raven Boys at a restaurant where she works, and after a disastrous first meeting with Gansey - who's name she doesn't know at the time - finds his journal on Glendower. She initially wants nothing to do with the boys (aside from Adam, who asks her out after they leave), but realizes that the boy she met at the restaurant is the Gansey she's fated to kill. Curious about Gansey and his quest, she decides him and the boys in their search. As she does so, she develops feelings for Adam, even though her true love is potentially Gansey. They unofficially date, although Blue refuses to kiss him on the chance that he is in fact her true love. Ronan has a penchant for drinking, and one night, when Gansey realizes he's not at Monmouth and terrified that he might have tried to kill himself again, Gansey goes out looking for him and finds him in a church with a baby raven Ronan names Chainsaw.
They find a spiritual forest called Cabeswater, where time is manipulated and the trees speak Latin. They call Ronan, who is the only one who speaks competent Latin, the 'Greywaren'. They discover a strange tree that gives them visions of the future - Adam sees Gansey dying because of him, and Blue sees her and Gansey together and about to kiss. Later, when Blue and Gansey go back to the forest, they discover a skeleton beside an old car, and realize that the body is Noah's (whose discovered driver's license reveals his full name is Noah Czerny), and that he has been dead the entire time. When confronted, Noah disappears and begins haunting Monmouth Manufacturing. It is later revealed that the boys' Latin teacher, Barrington Whelk, has been searching for the ley lines and Glendower as well. He had killed Noah - his former best friend - seven years before as a sacrifice, believing that killing him would wake the ley lines, although this proves to be false.
One afternoon when Gansey is driving home, he is confronted by Whelk at gunpoint. Whelk takes his journal on Glendower and tries to shoot him, but is deterred by Gansey hitting the gun away, breaking his thumb in the process. He informs his friends of the incident, who are all shaken by Gansey's near-death and Whelk's involvement - they also discover that he was the one to kill Noah. Later, Ronan drives Adam home, where Adam is beaten by his father and hits his head on a railing that causes him to go deaf in one ear. Ronan, having witnessed the scene, assaults Adam's father and fights him until the police come to arrest Ronan. Adam, not wanting Ronan to go to jail because of him, tells the police that Ronan defended him and that he wants to press charges against his father. After a fight with Gansey over where he should live following this event, Adam steals his car and drives to Cabeswater, where he finds Whelk and Neeve. Neeve originally kidnapped Whelk, but he escaped and captured her to make as a sacrifice, so as to wake the ley lines. The others show up, and Adam sacrifices himself (specifically, his free will) to Cabeswater to wake the ley lines. His sacrifice brings a hoard of stampeding animals that trample Whelk to death. To protect themselves, Blue pulls Ronan and Gansey with her into the hollow vision tree, where she and Gansey both see visions of them together; Ronan doesn't disclose the contents of his vision.
Adam moves into an apartment above the St. Agnes Church, where Ronan had been found with Chainsaw earlier in the book, and they attend Noah's funeral. After, they steal his body and bury it near the church, which is on the ley line. Noah, who had disappeared after his body was first moved, reappears. Ronan then admits to the group that he took Chainsaw out of his dreams.