review: Linger, by Maggie Stiefvater

I first read Shiver back in June, I think, a month or so before its sequel was due to be released, and I absolutely loved that book. It had such a unique take on werewolves, and I was very impressed with both the maturity of the character voices and the deft handling of the romance central to the novel. I think it’s very easy to get teen voices wrong, so wrong, but Stiefvater got them completely right: she’s not writing down to her audience at all. And to be honest, the romance was a breath of fresh air after the trainwreck YA romances I’ve seen.

I don’t know why it took me so long to read the sequel, Linger. Okay, it might have been because the book was impossible to find at any of my local libraries. I finally found it checked in a few days ago, and I read it in about two days after I brought it home.

The surefire second-in-a-trilogy-formula that really gets me going is the one used in Empire Strikes Back–develop your characters, up the stakes, and then kick them all in the balls in the end. Without giving away too many spoilers, because the book still is sort of a new release, Stiefvater accomplished that in spades. It should have been difficult for her to keep up the tension and conflict of the first novel, given the revelatory events in that book’s ending, but man, have the stakes gotten higher. Sam and Grace are still my favorite characters, but I really enjoyed how much Isabel came into her own in this book, and the new guy, Cole, was another case study in complicated.

But maybe my favorite thing about this series so far is how Steifvater doesn’t shy away from showing terrible parents, especially Grace’s and Isabel’s, who should win awards for their absolute lack of parenting skills. Because they’re not even trying. Parents are, to me, interesting in middle grade and YA fiction; nobody really wants to read about them, so oftentimes they’re written out. How many of our favorite characters are orphans? Grace and Isabel aren’t orphans, not technically, but they might as well be. It’s not a pretty depiction of parents, but it’s an honest one. I think it’s pretty amazing that Steifvater’s world feels so real, despite the decidedly paranormal bent of the book. And the best part is that she makes it look easy–the complicated characters, the wonderful lyricism. And that’s so, so hard to do.

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