Summary: Grace and Sam return for a second installment of The Wolves of Mercy Falls. While Sam's cure in Shiver seems to have made all their dreams possible, the happy couple encounter opposition in the form of Grace's parents, who disapprove of Sam so much that they try to reassert their influence in Grace's life. To complicate matters, Grace is struggling with a dangerous illness that may be related to the wolves. Meanwhile, Grace's friend Isabel grapples with her guilt over her brother's death even as she struggles with her attraction to new werewolf Cole, a former rock star/drug addict who is as damaging as he is damaged.
Plot: This book is no Shiver. Rather than a race against time and temperature, this book begins to set up relationship difficulties among the major players. Sam and Grace's love story is less integral to the plot this time. They're happy and don't realize roadblocks are on the way, so any time they're together, nothing important happens. The interference of her parents, while in character for uninvolved parents ("Grace is fine, so we'll ignore her for years...Oh wait, we don't approve, we should step in even though we've been letting her raise herself for ages, because we're the ADULTS!"), seems completely beside the point. Grace and Sam are 17 and will both be able to go away to college in a year. Sneaking around for a few months doesn't seem outside their capabilities. Grace's illness is the larger impediment, but the lovebirds remain in denial about it until it's too late.
The new couple, Isabel and Cole, fizzle more than sizzle, and while it's believable, it's not very exciting to watch. I'm glad Isabel played such a large part, but Cole's struggles were just annoying. "Oh, I was a famous rock star, but I was just so suicidal and such a jerk, so feel pity for me." While he eventually provides a key piece of the shape-shifting puzzle, all of the character development and backstory for Cole just draws more attention to the fact that nothing really happens for most of the book.
Characters: Grace spends most of the book in conflict because of her parents' sudden resistance to her relationship or about to pass out due to the resurgence of the shifting disease. Sam begins to grow up as he realizes the werewolves and everyone connected with them now depend on him, and that if he wants to keep Grace, he's going to have to become an adult right now. Isabel is brought to the foreground and given her own narrative voice. Her anger and sarcasm provide a nice counterpoint to Grace and Sam's sweetness. New werewolf Cole also brings bitterness and cynicism to the table, but his bad-boy routine feels tired and cliched, and his sudden change of heart and purpose in the end of the novel seemed forced and out-of-place. Grace's best friend Rachel is relegated to cameo appearances, while her absentee parents suddenly become less absent and somehow more infuriating. In fact, I predict the reader will want to slap all of the adult characters in the book. However, I think that captures a truth of being a teenager: adults don't understand that you aren't a five-year-old anymore, and it's difficult to find a grownup who is completely on your side.
Writing: Without Stiefvater's beautiful, readable prose, this book would be a very dull read, but the writing saves the day. Some authors do pacing well, some rely on strange plots or graphic passages. Maggie Stiefvater, on the other hand, can write like nobody's business.
Pacing: While I enjoyed the writing and spending more time with these characters, the plot snoozes until the very end of the book.
Ending: The cliffhanger ending finally brought the tension and excitement of Shiver, but only in the last 4-5 pages.
Cosmetic: The cover is beautiful and reflects the plot, as Grace goes farther into the werewolves' world and Sam is left on the outside, looking in. However, the fact that the entire book is printed in green ink made for a much more difficult experience than the blue ink of Shiver. In Shiver, the blue ink helped to emphasize the deadline of the temperature drop. In Linger, the green ink is just vaguely strange. The cover of Forever is red; I very much hope the book will not be printed in red ink! Ouch!
What more did I want?: A plot! I know middle books often fail to captivate the way debuts and finales do, but to have an entire third of a trilogy purely devoted to setup is a waste.
Moral of the story: Don't do meth and then become a werewolf.