I read these three books in quick succession (March/April 2012), and greatly enjoyed the Wolves of Mercy Falls series by Maggie Stiefvater. The writing is simple, straightforward, yet poetry, and the characters are well-rounded. The plot is a little predictable, but it’s nice when book one doesn’t end with a ‘happily ever after’ scenario that book two has to ruin just to capitalize on a YA series.
For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf — her wolf — is a haunting presence she can’t seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human…until the cold makes him shift back again. Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It’s her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears and the temperature drops, Sam must fight to stay human — or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.
In Linger, now Sam and Grace must fight to be together. For Grace, this means defying her parents and keeping a very dangerous secret about her own well-being. For Sam, this means grappling with his werewolf past…and figuring out a way to survive in the future. Add into the mix a new wolf named Cole, whose own past has the potential to destroy the whole pack. And Isabelle, who already lost her brother to the wolves…and is nonetheless drawn to Cole.
In Forever, the stakes are even higher than before. Wolves are being hunted. Lives are being threatened. And love is harder and harder to hold on to as death comes closing in.
The series is, in large part, a love story, but it’s also about the strength of character, personal conviction, and trust. Parental involvement is low in the books, but I liked the differing narrators. Each chapter, or snippet, is titled by the character’s name. Sometimes you can read through a scene which flips from Sam, to Grace, to Sam again, all in a few pages. It’s a unique set up and easier to handle in the first book where it was longer sections with each character. It’s a bit disorienting in books two and three where sometimes Isabelle or Cole have just a few sentences before the POV shifts.
I really appreciated the honest way that Stiefvater deals with sexual intercourse and love in the books. The sexual scenes are implied, not explicit. She doesn’t need to get all Fifty Shades of Grey graphic on us, and she doesn’t need to shock us ala Twilight. But the admirable part is that they talk about it beforehand, get consent, they use protection (mentioned later), and they talk about it afterward. Very mature characters and a great role model to present to youth. Maybe it helps that Maggie Stiefvater was born in 1981 and has a more modern view on sex education.
I could go on about my thoughts regarding Grace’s absentee parents, Sam’s parents’ attempt to kill him, or Cole’s and Isabelle’s self-destructive behaviour. However, I will say that the subject matter is probably better for ages 12 and up, but I appreciate seeing a variety of issues that don’t fit into the cookie cutter molds set out by previous YA books.
I also think that Stiefvater has done a good job of showing the different sides of the coin without hitting the reader over the head with “right” and “wrong” or good vs. evil. Even Isabelle’s dad who wants to kill all the Mercy Falls wolves, only does it because he thinks he’s protecting other children from his son’s fate.
Some bloggers and readers are upset there won’t be a fourth book, but I love that the series ended where it did. Too often YA novels end with a finite conclusion, answering all the questions and dictating all future events (see: “19 years later” from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows). I think there is something to be said for leaving a series open-ended, with the characters in a stable place, even if it isn’t perfect.
P.S. I’m amused by the author’s website: “I am Maggie Stiefvater. I write books. Some are about homicidal faeries. Some are about werewolf nookie. Some are about neither.”
P.P.S. The text of the books being the same colour as the design of the book (steel blue, pale green, and maroon) was difficult to read. While it was an interesting design feature, it was annoying from a logistics standpoint. Meant for young eyes and good lighting.