Sunday, August 14, 2011

Forever, by Maggie Stiefvater (A book review)

Forever is the third and final installment of The Wolves of Mercy Falls.  This is where I normally do a brief synopsis of the book but I can’t effectively do that without giving away the ending of the second book, Linger.  And since I want people to read this series spoiler free, let me just sum up:  These books are about people who change into wolves  and then back again, all outside of the individual’s will, which lead to some interesting and heart breaking scenes.  In Ms. Stiefvater’s mythos, lycanthropy is a disease that can be transmitted via bites, but one that just might have a cure.  This book is told through alternating POV’s of Sam, Grace, Cole and Isabel. Okay, so glad to get that out of the way….
Now, I’m about to do something I’ve yet to do so far in my reviews:  GUSH.  I.  Loved. This.  Book.  This series contains the hands-down swooniest, sigh-worthy couple in YA paranormal: Sam and Grace.  Sam—A guy who sings, plays guitar, writes his own music AND works in a book store…be still my beating heart.  And I’m known to be harsh on my female protagonists, but I am quite fond of Grace, with her ‘what you see is what you get’ sensibility. Plus, she loves coffee.  A girl after my own heart.  And Cole? Former front man of a world famous band, one who is quite accustomed to abusing his body, running down demons from his past and needing to prove himself.  Ah, my other weakness—a redemption story.  Lastly, ice princess Isabel with the chip on her shoulder larger than the National Debt.  I confess, I didn’t care for her much in Shiver and Linger, but she finally grew on me in this book.  Hats off to Ms. Stiefvater for effective character development. 
But what do I love the most? Maggie’s writing.  One of my top two favorite YA authors (Cassandra Clare is the other, in case you were curious), Maggie writes effortless, flawless lyrical prose like few I’ve read. Most people who attempt lyrical only achieve one thing:  trite, over-worked,  hyperbolic drivel plagued by a surplus of metaphors and similes.  Contrastingly, Maggie’s writing is well-balanced, thoughtful, beautiful and so swooooooony.  I can’t even begin to tell you how many sighs I uttered over the two days it took me to polish off this novel.  And, deep dark confession—I cried my eyes out.  Some who know me might ask: ‘what else is new?’  Okay, yeah, I’ve been known to cry over as little as a Pampers commercial, but I’m quite jaded when it comes to books.  It takes much to draw literary-induced tears from me.  But I had the whole delightful rabbit hole experience with this book.  One where I tagged off parental responsibility to my hubby, grabbed a box of tissues, dashed into my bedroom before my kids could see my girlie tears, and locked myself in until the very end. 
Here’s where I normally offer one piece of criticism.  I’d like to call this section “discussion” instead.  I glanced at a few of the Amazon reviews and was flabbergasted that anyone could possibly give this book three stars.  I understand what the critiquers were saying.  I’m also pretty sure these people have not read much of Ms. Stievfater. Whether her earlier works with fairies or her short stories, this author does not sit you down with a bib, cut up your food, feed you by hand, and then wipe your slobbery mouth for you.  She likes to leave a bit open, trusting her reader’s imagination to fill in the gaps.  I respect her for this. That being said…I admit, I would have liked my steak cut up a bit more for me concerning the relationship between Cole and Isabel.  After two books of deliciously written tension involving the two, I was still left a tad bit hungry in the end.  Note to Maggie:  I’m still longing for the red coffee pot.  You did such a great job of putting that symbol in all three books, I very much would have liked to have seen its inclusion in the ending. 
Of all of the YA books stretched to more than a mere trilogy, (ones with not nearly enough plot to support the act), this is the first series I would have liked to have seen just one more book.  Alas, the good ones seem to go too soon.  Sam and Grace, I shall sincerely miss you (and Grace, in my happily ever after imagination, I shall buy you your shiny new red coffee pot as a wedding present, for many happy years of caffeinated bliss).  J
Parental concerns and spoilers:  There is mild foul language.  This is one of those series where the characters are engaging in sexual activity.  I personally did not find it gratuitous, fitting well inside the YA norm of giving the reader just enough to make sure you know where it’s going and then letting the camera fade to black.  If at all concerned, I advise you to read first.   
Favorite Forever quotes:
“I didn’t want to talk.  I wanted to curl up against him and fall asleep.  More than anything, I wanted to be able to see him again, to see in his eyes that what we had had been real and that he wasn’t a stranger.  I didn’t want a big gesture, an elaborate conversation—I just wanted to know that something was still the same when everything else had changed.”
“There is no better taste than this: someone else’s laughter in your mouth.”  (I can NOT even begin to tell you how much I love this line).
“Then I began to play.  Variations on a G major chord, the most wonderful chord known to mankind, infinitely happy.  I could live inside a G major chord, with Grace, if she was willing.  Everything uncomplicated and good about me could be summed up in that chord.”
“The thing I was beginning to figure out about Sam and Grace, the thing about Sam not being able to function without her, was that that sort of love only worked when you were sure both people would always be around for each other.  If one half  of the equation left, or died, or was slightly less perfect in their love, it became the most tragic, pathetic story invented, laughable in its absurdity. Without Grace, Sam was a joke without a punch line.”
          --Reviewed by Suzi Ryan

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