The Plot: Shiver, the tale of human Grace and sometimes wolf Sam, ended on a happy note, with Sam permanently shedding his wolf and becoming a real boy, so that Sam and Grace could live happily ever after.
Except, things are never that simple, are they? Spring is here, the time of year when wolves change back into human form. Sam is adjusting to being human and not being a wolf, as well as being the caretaker for the human-wolves in the forest, especially the new ones.
Grace’s perfect life isn’t so perfect, because her distant and absent parents are acting quasi parent-like, at least when it comes to her love life and their suspicions of Sam. Now she has to balance their dislike of him with her own growing love for Sam. If only parental disapproval and caretaking of new wolves was their only problem.
The Good: Stiefvater continues to slowly reveal the world of human-wolves. What makes someone transition into a wolf? Why do some have years before their wolf-selves become permanent? Why would someone voluntarily give up their humanity to become one? Why do some people who get bit live, why do some become wolves, why do some die?
This remains Sam’s and Grace’s story. Sam is realizing for the first time he has a future. Or does he? What is his responsibility to the wolves, to his adoptive father Beck, to the new wolves, Cole and Victor, who were just turned the prior fall? While free from becoming a wolf, is he now trapped in Mercy Falls?
To make things worse, Thomas Culpeper, who lost his son Jack to the wolves in Shiver, continues to hunt the wolves. Culpeper sees them as animals who kill, who took his only son, and nothing will stop him from making sure there are no more wolves in Mercy Falls.
Grace has the love of her life, but something else is happening: “But now it is spring. With the heat, the remaining wolves will soon be falling out of their wolf pelts and back into their human bodies. Sam stays Sam, and Cole stays Cole, and it’s only me who’s not firmly in my own skin.” Her parents are suddenly suspicious, looking at Sam as just a high school fling who is a distraction to school work. Grace wonders, can she still go away to college? If Sam is linked forever to Mercy Falls and caring for the wolf pack, does she have to stay?
Sam and Grace, those two crazy kids. I like their relationship; they are so easy with each other and comfortable with each other. They love each other, and are in love with each other, and are friends. Take away the whole wolf aspect of the story, and you have a fairly healthy teenage relationship. I say “fairly,” because theirs is the type of relationship that is so complete there isn’t room for many other people.
Two new voices add to the story: Cole, the young man who chose to become a wolf, and Isabel Culpeper, who lost her brother Jack when she tried to stop him from becoming a wolf. Cole and Isabel’s flirtation and attraction is more brittle, more heated, less romantic than Sam and Grace. It provides a nice balance to the sometimes too perfect, too happy Sam and Grace.
Sam, bitten as a child, never chose to be a wolf. With Cole, Stiefvater explores why someone would want to lose themselves in wolfishness.
When I reviewed Shiver, I had questions. Some are answered, but just as many more are asked. Without giving too much away, both Sam and Grace were bitten as children; Grace was cured inadvertently as a child, while Sam’s cure was deliberate. The cure is dangerous; Isabel’s brother Jack died from it. It turns out the cure is more complex than anyone realized and that there are repercussions to deal with.
Linger‘s ending is perfect, and if the series ends with Shiver and Linger I will be content. But I really hope there is a third book!
For the record, while both Grace and Sam like Beck and the wolf family he created, I am suspicious of the man and just don’t trust him. Some reviewers of Shiver didn’t like the potrayal of Grace’s parents (too distant! too uninvolved!) but very few questioned Beck’s actions towards Sam (deliberately biting a child so that he would join the pack), which to me was almost a kidnapping. But then, I am a suspicious person because I also think Grace’s parents have a secret or two they are not sharing.