Friday, 15 October 2010

Linger, Maggie Stiefvater

Linger is part two of a trilogy about werewolves living in Minnesota. In book one, Shiver, Grace is an ordinary high school girl with a less ordinary obsession: the wolves who live in the woods around her town. As a child, she was attacked by a pack of wolves, but one saved her, a distinctive-looking wolf with golden eyes. At seventeen she met Sam, a boy working in a bookshop whose unusual eyes looked awfully familiar. It turned out that he was a werewolf: human in the summer and wolf in winter. Only, with each passing year, his time as a wolf grew longer and when winter approached he feared that this time he would stay a wolf forever. Shiver ended when, after a risky experiment, Grace and a classmate manage to find what seems to be a cure...

While Shiver was alternately narrated by Grace and Sam, Linger introduces two new voices. One is Isabel, Grace's classmate, whose brother went missing after being attacked by wolves. Through most of Shiver, Isabel and Grace do not get on, but by Linger, they have become friends, brought together by their shared knowledge of the existence of werewolves. Isabel is a spiky, irritable character, but being portrayed in the first person, a gentler side to her character is shown. All the same, I felt that her narration, at least in the beginning, was a little shaky, her voice not quite as authentic as the other three.

Also introduced is a new character, Cole, a former rock star and drug addict, and a new werewolf. Bitter, full of hatred for both himself and the world, I was surprised to find myself liking him. Cole is a well-realised character with the most distinctive voice of the four narrators, but I was surprised to discover that he is only about nineteen. He is full of the world-weariness of a much older character and until it was revealed that he was little older than Sam, I had pictured him in his late twenties or earlier thirties. With Cole, Stiefvater explores a different theme to those usually found in werewolf stories: the question of why someone would choose to become a werewolf. Instead of longing to hold onto his human self, Cole is frustrated that it is difficult to keep in his wolf form - harder for him than for those who would rather be human.
Sam is now 100% human, but still he feels that affinity with the wolves. He has been left in charge of the pack, and both he who used to be a werewolf, and Grace who was bitten but never changed, find themselves wondering where they belong. Both are, physically, human all the time, but feel as though they should be werewolves, and now, ten years after her attack, Grace is getting ill.

I didn't need to reread Shiver to be drawn back into the world of Grace and Sam. Although the characters are the same age as the protagonists of Twilight, I found myself more inclined to take their side than dismiss them as immature, and I felt Grace's anger and frustration at her parents. After leaving her from her early teens to bring herself up, when they find out how serious her relationship with Sam is, they ground her, forbid her from seeing him and tell her she's only a kid and it won't last, and when she turns eighteen she can do what she likes. I found this attitude somewhat baffling. (Do parents really ground their seventeen-year-olds? My parents never used this punishment but it seems ridiculous for someone who's nearly an adult.) Yet at the same time, it felt entirely realistic: After years of ignoring her, Mom and Dad suddenly find out that Grace isn't a little girl any more and try too late to make her what they want her to be by threats and force. I found myself getting angry at them and rather irritated that they blow ordinary teenage behaviour out of proportion while being completely oblivious to the more sinister forces at work under their very noses.

Linger certainly matches Shiver for quality, and I await part three with impatience.

1 comment:

  1. NIce review, i totally agree with you about Grace's parents. Where were they when she needed them, and what makes them think they can suddenly take over. I got really cross with them, especially as Grace is such a sensible girl and well behaved considering how much she was ignored by them.
    I can't wait for book 3, it's going to be good :D

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