By Maggie Stiefvater
Four Things I Liked About Forever:
1. Lyrical language
2. Red font
I’m not nor ever have been much of one for supernatural fiction, other than a brief Twilight obsession three or four years ago (and what few among us girls of a certain age actually escaped that collective craze?) that pretty much peaked and died with the release of Breaking Dawn. I say this so you know that when I recommend Forever and the entire Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy – about a pack of werewolves living in a forest in Minnesota – you’ll know that it’s actually a deserved recommendation and not the meaningless hype of a girl who spends too much time reading books with moons, fangs, and dark lipstick on the covers.
Forever is the conclusion of a trilogy that began a couple years ago with Shiver, in which Grace, who survived an attack by the local (were)wolf pack in the wooded backyard of her Minnesota home when she was 11 (remember that, it comes back to bite her – heh, heh – in Linger, the second book), had always felt a connection to the wolves in Mercy Falls. But when she meets a boy named Sam with the same ethereal yellow eyes as her favorite wolf, that connection becomes more tangible than she ever expected. Told from the alternating perspectives of Sam and Grace, their romance – with all its implausible canine challenges – is sweet and stirring and poetic, as cozy as a thick sweater on a bitterly cold Minnesotan night. Fast-forward through Sam curing his lycanthropy, Grace succumbing to decade old werewolf venom that was only dormant, never purged, and the addition of several new pack members and narrators in Linger, and you’re pretty much caught up to Forever, minus a couple details here and there.
Forever is not a book you’re going to read if you haven’t read the rest of the trilogy, so I don’t want to go into too much detail. My main purpose in writing this entry is to promote the series as a whole, not one particular book. Forever does what any good trilogy finale should do: it wraps things up, but without doing too neat a job and while still managing to introduce new plot twists, character developments, and conflicts. And it succeeds.
The things I loved about Shiver held true throughout the trilogy, and remain the things I loved about Forever: the lyrical language of Stiefvater’s descriptions, the cozy and heartfelt romance of Sam and Grace, the rich and seamless harmony of setting and story (I loved reading about Minnesota, now being a resident there 9 months a year), the candid – not canned – and characterization, and the anchoring of a decidedly unrealistic story in the unexceptional mundanity of reality. Instead of retreating into some kind of paranormal bubble within reality translucent enough to occasionally glimpse normal life carrying on outside but otherwise mostly impermeable, the characters continue to deal with real-life conflicts even as they’re caught up in their paranormal predicaments. Nor do these books succumb to Disappearing Parent Syndrome, all too common in young adult literature. Stiefvater’s werewolf lore is compellingly realistic, too. Lycanthropy in Stiefvater’s world is a disease – communicable, chronic, and ultimately fatal, but curable, too (by science, not potion-making). And the shifts are triggered by changes in temperature, not the cycle of the moon.
Basically, if you’re a fan of complex characters and realistic conflicts and are turned off by angst and the destructive, all-consuming, inescapable fated love of so many supernatural young adult stories clogging the shelves right now, but value good writing and the occasional creative take on paranormal fantasy, give the Wolves of Mercy Falls a try. If there’s no way you could ever swallow a story about werewolves and humans mingling, steer clear.
Where do you stand on the whole paranormal teen fiction craze? Do you steer clear of it all together, or do you give some of it a chance?
p.s. If you like what you just read, subscribe via email in the bar to the left!
Books Read This Year: 59
Top 100 Progress: 46/100