Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Linger: By Maggie Stiefvater

       Linger is the second book in Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver series. The books are set in the small town of Mercy Falls where werewolves secretly dominate the woods. Sticking close to semi-traditional werewolf lore-werewolves are created by getting bitten by an existing one. Though in this series they aren’t half-man half-wolf creatures that stock humans, they are simply beautiful wolves that live in the woods. They loose their human selves for a season-the shift from human to werewolf being triggered by the cold. After winter ceases and summer takes over they return to their human lives. A time-stamp is placed on them though, for how many times they can shift, and no one can outrun becoming wolf permanently for long. 
That is anyone but Sam. 
Sam was introduced in the first novel as a main character. A teenager with a tragic past and a shaky future. A werewolf who looks forward to summer’s in Mercy Falls, where he works in a bookstore and secretly admires the girl of his dreams-Grace.
Grace was also introduced in the first novel as a main character. She was bitten by a werewolf when she was a little girl-but never shifted into one herself. The first novel uncovers the reasoning behind that-a forgetful father who left her locked in a hot car all day. This caused her temperature to sky rocket and an unknowingly prevented her from shifting into a werewolf. Years later she is still mesmerized by a particular wolf in her woods. She soon discovers it is Sam and they embark on a passion filled journey that leads them to a “cure” for Sam’s werewolf bite. 
They apply to temperature theory to Sam-willingly giving him Meningitis to induce a fever. Even though Sam knows his life is at risk he will do anything to stop the change and live forever with Grace as a human. The first novel ends after the fever successfully prevents Sam from returning to his werewolf form. 
Linger opens up where Shiver left off-with both Grace and Sam as human and enjoying each minute they get to spend together. Of course not everything is hugs and puppies-Sam grapples with the uncertainty of his new always-human life and Grace is struggling with mysterious illnesses that she suspects has to do with being bitten all those years ago. Mix in new werewolves shifting back to human and absentee parents trying to become present and you’ve got one big tension riddled story.
Stiefvater tells the story in a multi-narrative 1st person point of view. This gives the reader a first person perspective from several different characters-each chapter is titled by the name of the person who is speaking. She pulls this off magnificently! There is major risk when choosing this method of storytelling-the voices could sound too much alike, the reader could easily get confused about whose head they’re in, and story-lines could get jumbled. Stiefvater avoids all these potential car wrecks by keeping her character’s voices distinct, separate, and unique. I believe that even if the chapters titles weren’t tagged with the character’s names I’d still be able to figure it out within a few sentences-that is how unique each character is.
Speaking of characters-another strong point in what makes these novels great-is the relationships. Grace and Sam’s of course is the main focus. They’re in love and it is the kind of love that transcends high school crushes. It is passionate, endearing, and completely right and the chemistry between them is made effortless by the great writing shaping it. There are also several side relationships that contribute to the tension and pace of the novel. The relationship between Grace and her parents offer a wonderful demonstration of how much an impact absentee parents can have on their children. It is a strained relationship-especially when they try to make a strict appearance in the final act-and I feel many young readers can relate to the obstacles Grace has to overcome when dealing with them. Her parents lack of interest in her also creates a wonderful sympathy and helps readers become attached to her character. There are also several different friendship relationships that either loosen or strengthen during the story as well. 
Stiefvater’s use of imagery in the novels is what keeps me turning the pages. She has this way with constructing language into nature. I don’t know how else to put it. It’s as if she is building an abundant forrest-from the smallest twig to the largest tree-with words. Readers are completely submerged in this nature rich world and it is so on point you can almost smell the trees and the wolves that run through them. 
Linger is a wonderful follow up to Shiver. It’s packed with anxious tension, romance, and a twist that will leave readers howling for the third installment. 

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