TEEN LIBRARIAN'S REVIEW:
I scored a copy of Maggie Stiefvater's "Linger" from the Scholastic folks at NCTE back in late November. As some readers of this blog may know, I have since suffered an injury and will shortly have surgery. Before I dive into my review, let me say I've had a difficult time concentrating of late, making reading much more challenging than it has ever been in the past. So when I say that "Linger" held my attention, that deserves to be underlined, starred, and otherwise highlighted!
As YA lit lovers already know, "Linger" is the sequel to Maggie's first werewolf romance, "Shiver." I won't reveal key plot points of the new book, which won't hit bookstores until July, but I've got to reference some "Shiver" moments. So be forewarned, dear readers, and run screaming from this blog right now if that's going to create an issue for you. Still here? Rad.
Ok, so at the end of "Shiver," rich, bratty Isabel Culpepper and tougher-than-she-appears Grace Brisbane infect two werewolves, Isabel's brother Jack and Grace's beloved Sam Roth, with meningitis. The illness causes an incredibly high fever, which, in Sam's case, forever banishes his wolfy self. (Alas, poor Jack simply dies a second ignoble death.) Fast forward to "Linger," and Grace and Sam are the same moony lovers, trading poetry, songs, heartfelt gazes, and long nights in her bedroom. I'm sorry, I still find Sam a bit too earnest for my taste, but I fully buy his relationship with Grace. Eh, maybe I'm inconsistent. I've been called worse! Meanwhile, Isabel is storming about as an angry, bitter shell, hating herself for "killing" her own brother and reaching out, in her own jagged way, to Grace and Sam, the only two people who know what truly happened.
We quickly meet one of three new wolves Beck brought back from Canada. (Beck himself, due to his advanced age, is now forever a wolf.) One of these newbies is Cole, the former bad boy lead singer of a teenage band. Cole's choice to become a werewolf is a pseudo-glamorous, wholly pathetic version of suicide: he no longer wants to feel or remember a life where he used up girls, drugs, family, friends, and fame like they meant nothing at all. Hence, wolf. Cole is an incredibly layered character. His obnoxious antics are slowly — and I do mean slowly! — peeled away to reveal his broken humanity. Every piece of the real Cole, every insight into who he was and what he could someday become, is fought like a battle and earned with no less hardship. You will not soon forget his mixture of chaos, pain, and guilt. Brava, Maggie Stiefvater! You've created one heck of a character here.
Likewise, our formerly snobby Isabel evolves in "Linger." The once superficial rich girl recognizes she's broken but is so grandly, utterly po'd by the torment that she turns to manic action instead of apathy. I'm not sure how else to describe a girl who frantically pores over decades old medical tomes on meningitis. I loved how Isabel becomes fiercely protective of her small group of bruised and battered souls. I also loved the dangerous attraction she shares with Cole, which I hope we'll see more of in the third novel. FOR WHICH I WILL HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL 2011!! Heh … sorry, that's my own issue. Advanced copies can be a mixed blessing. :p
I can't leave this review without describing how Grace becomes … well … "ballsy" is the word that comes to mind. In calling out her folks for their superficial parenting or in staunchly defending her love for Sam (Grace's longed for red coffee pot is a great symbol), Grace never comes across as a whiny, lovestruck teenager. She fights like an adult — at times, like a wounded mother bear — to save the relationship that matters most to her. I suspect many teens who read "Linger" will absolutely embrace her message.
Overall, "Linger" is more complex and, for me, more haunting and devastating than the first novel. I mentioned the new dimensions to the characters, which gave the story more impact. Using four narrators (Grace, Sam, Cole, and Isabel) and having the point of view shift in the same scene or conversation is another wonderful device; it allows us the immediacy of seeing how each character thinks in the moment itself. Brilliant. The themes themselves also had more depth, as the consequences of betrayal, sacrifice, guilt, loneliness, responsibility, heartbreak, and, of course, love were brought fully to life by the characters' actions and, occasionally, their inactions. Add the chaos and urgency of the final, shocking scene — the frenzied need to act RIGHT NOW — which absolutely floored me, and you can see why I'm such a fan.
Read it for the graceful writing, the layered characters, the haunting love story, the exploration of heartbreaking issues … whatever your motivation, I assure you, "Linger" is a total winner. I'd say the audience for this one can go as low as middle schoolers (there are no overt sex scenes and just some real minor language) and may include boys as well as girls (after all, there are two major male characters taking turns narrating the story). "Linger" comes out in July. Look for it then. I'm sure you'll love it!
PS – Kudos on the divine cover art!
FROM A KINNELON LIBRARY TEEN REVIEWER:
"Linger" was "in-between" for me. If you read the first book, "Shiver," and loved it, then you will enjoy this one as well. If you didn't, I'd suggest you not even open this book. There is not much of a plot and the climax doesn't occur until the last few chapters. At least it leads into the third book. For me, the good ending was worth the boring beginning, but other people might not feel the same way.