OK I'll take the bait -- how fucked up is Kavinsky REALLY? I'm expecting at least an 5 on the Richter scale of heartbreak.
Okay, I’ll take the bait back, because I’m young and crotchety.
Note, spoilers for Dream Thieves will abound.
Readers can interpret the events of the book in all sorts of ways, obviously, but here are things that happen canonically in The Dream Thieves:
Kavinsky drugs his mother without her knowledge
Kavinsky pursues Ronan with multiple text messages and gifts that indicate he has observed Ronan closely — i.e., copies of bracelets Ronan always wears and Ronan’s driver’s license
Kavinsky generally calls Ronan either gay or a girl
Kavinsky is seen once with a girl, who he calls “bitch”
Kavinsky has at least one dead companion who he dreamed a perfectly obedient replacement for — it is heavily implied that Kavinsky was somehow responsible for the guy’s death.
Kavinsky claims to have killed his own father (but this is debatable, as Kavinsky clearly is a liar)
Kavinsky tries to get Ronan to give up his friends
Kavinsky touches Ronan’s head, taps Ronan’s teeth with a pen, leaves stuff at Ronan’s home when he knows he won’t be there
Kavinsky gives Ronan a drug that renders Ronan immobile and barely conscious and then, while Ronan is helpless — and only then — sensually touches Ronan’s body (Ronan tells himself this might be a dream)
Ronan tells Kavinsky that they will never be an item, but Kavinsky keeps texting him
Kavinsky tells Ronan that consent is overrated (which echoes him continuously stepping into Ronan’s space without permission)
Kavinsky ultimately grows frustrated that Ronan will not give in, kidnaps Ronan’s brother, drugs him, and stuffs him in the trunk of a car to provoke a reaction from Ronan.
Here are other things that are canonical:
Kavinsky is a scary, terrible predator
Kavinsky has a very logical backstory that leads him to this place
Kavinsky chooses to be led to this place
Here are other, other things, also canonical:
Kavinsky can pull things from his dreams, has an absent (possibly dead) father, and an absent (largely useless) mother
Ronan can pull things from his dreams, has an absent (definitely dead) father, and an absent (largely useless) mother
I very much enjoyed writing Kavinsky — as a character, he challenged and delighted me. And I really wanted him to challenge and delight readers. One of the main ideas I’m exploring as I write the Raven Cycle is the question: how much are you a product of your upbringing? And can you overcome the terrible parts of it to become something better? All of the characters engage with these questions, which I find fiendishly interesting in real life. Kavinsky and Ronan both get the same set of circumstances and handle them in very different ways. It’s a choice.
So do I like Kavinsky? Out of all the characters I have ever written, he is one of my favorites.* Top four, probably. Or five, since four is an ugly number. But he’s a terrible person, more terrible because he chose it every. step. of. the. way. A logical backstory is not justification for trampling over consent, for kidnapping, for harassment.
Otherwise Adam would be justified in hitting Blue when he was angry, because he was hit by his father.
Kavinsky’s scale on the Richter scale of heartbreak? I’ll give him a solid 9, where 10 = absolutely zero evidence of desire to change.
These are all of my thoughts on Kavinsky. Your mileage may vary.