Two weeks ago, I picked up Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater where I had left off nearly two years earlier, and was I ever glad I did. I decided to devote this weekend to finding out how Sam and Grace and the rest of the wolves of Mercy Falls fared after Shiver.
Linger starts off pretty much where the previous book ended, as Sam struggles to accept the fact of his new, human body and the potential for a future with Grace. As with Shiver, Stiefvater’s writing is flawless; the prose flows beautifully from passage to passage, never
Linger by Maggie Stiefvater
seeming forced as it propels the story along. That being said, I spent the majority of my time reading Linger trying to talk myself out of throwing it against a wall. After having adored the first book, this came as quite a disappointment, and I can pinpoint exactly what elicited this reaction.
Unlike many reviewers, I actually enjoyed the addition of Isabel’s and Cole’s points of view. While the trilogy is and will remain a story about Sam and Grace, I appreciated the juxtaposition of Isabel and Cole as the symbol of a different kind of love, jagged and stark in contrast to Sam and Grace’s lovely, loving interactions. My issues with the book centered entirely on plot, as Stiefvater gives Linger an adrenaline push of angst that was frustrating and frankly unneeded. Perhaps it is because I am past my teen years, and thus Grace’s parental issues concerning her relationship with Sam seemed less romantic and more like a reminder of that awful not-quite-adult phase that no sane person would want to return to, vicariously or otherwise. Whatever the reason, I was disappointed with Stiefvater’s decision to undermine the inroads that Grace and Sam had made with her family in the first novel in order to artificially insert tension in their otherwise perfect relationship.
In fact, I was prepared to give this installment a rather poor rating until the last fifty pages, when Stiefvater finally acknowledges the entirely unsubtle health problems that have been afflicting Grace throughout the novel. Despite having known what was happening to Grace for the majority of the book, I liked the way Stiefvater explained Grace’s condition, though I thought that her science was once again lacking. Moreover, I really enjoyed the vehicle by which Stiefvater relates these revelations, as it gave dimension to a character for whom, up until this point, I had been on the fence. Still, while the very end did elevate the book somewhat, I was left disappointed after having anticipated so much.
Yet, out of darkness inevitably comes light, for I think it was that disappointment over Linger that led me to enjoy Forever as much as I did. Upon Linger‘s completion, Sam and Grace’s relationship is left in a truly tenuous position by forces beyond their control. In fact, their lives seem to be unraveling around them as both must deal with the ramifications of Grace’s seeming disappearance and the wrath of a community that wishes to see the wolves gone from Mercy Falls.
Many reviewers have expressed their dissatisfaction with Stiefvater’s resolution to the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy; I didn’t expect too much going into this final book, and so I was pleasantly surprised to find myself truly enjoying it, not as much as I had Shiver, but enough to envision myself reading it again. Many feel that Sam and Grace are out of character in this book, that their relationship is too strained and their interactions not passionate enough. Again, having emerged from the tumult of the teenage years, I am able to see the beauty in
Forever by Maggie Stiefvater
how Stiefvater aged her characters just enough to reflect the weight that comes with maturity. While neither has fully shed their youthful propensities to overdramatize, both Sam and Grace have necessarily grown up since the last book, and their relationship shows that toll. While many readers interpret this as a failing on Stiefvater’s part, I found it to be beautiful, an acknowledgement that with love and maturity comes comfort and a measure of complacence. They both have many difficult decisions to make in this book, and the stresses of life can put a damper on many things, including carefree passion, but I took this change in their relationship to be a sign of their love’s endurance, not its extinguishment.
Similarly, I had no problem with how Stiefvater chose to end the novel. Just as Sam and Grace are forced to revel in the beauty of love amidst the difficulties of life, they do not know what the future will bring. As a reader, if given the choice between an open ending and one that would clearly upset a majority of readers, I would choose the ability to create the ending that I envision for the characters. Likewise, I felt that Isabel and Cole’s relationship ended not without resolution, or even with a question mark, but rather as the beginning of a road that is up to them to navigate.
Overall, I loved Stiefvater’s conclusion to the trilogy and am so glad to have gotten the chance to read the series, which I count as among the best of its kind.