Sam and Grace thought they'd found peace at last -- but their moment was fleeting. In a cruel twist of fate, wolf has become boy and girl has become wolf, leaving them in the same impossible situation. But this time, one thing is devastatingly different: girls are turning up missing or dead, and the human citizens of Mercy Falls see only one solution to the mounting threat. The wolves must die.
Maggie Stiefvater brings the forlorn powerlessness of the werewolf disease front and center in this final installment. They are unnatural creatures living in an unbelieving world, where they will get no sympathy for a situation that is far beyond their control. This feeling of helplessness pervades the novel, breaking hearts and devastating lives at every turn.
It is fascinating to see the supernatural through Grace's highly rational eyes, a parallel perspective that brings a tragic symmetry to the series. It is somehow sadder, when Grace clearly has something to lose -- life and love and a bright future, unlike Sam who had nothing and no one before the pack. Grace's smarts mean nothing in the woods, highlighting the wrongness of all that lost potential. Forever forces readers to face these harsh realities, and gives them an hypnotic look into a foreign world. Grace's new life as a wolf seems so surreal and distant, time slipping by meaninglessly, like sand through an hourglass, building an almost unbearable sense of desolation and urgency. Their new commonality, the reversal of roles, forges an unparalleled understanding between Sam and Grace. What was hard for Grace in Shiver is now devastating for Sam. The longing and emptiness never seem to fully go away, and it's heartening to see a YA couple fighting to stay together, rather than willing themselves to part.
The small, simple touches convey the most meaning in this relationship -- Stiefvater is a master of subtlety, weaving the crystallized details of those secret gestures into her powerful, stark prose. It is the simple moments, when they're just being themselves, together, that make it all seem real and powerful and right. The delayed gratification makes it all the more satisfying and sweet. They're so comfortable, like they've been together a lifetime, yet they still experience the thrill of first love and never take each other for granted. They have something deep and abiding, something that makes it easy to believe in forever.
Compared to the intensity of Sam and Grace's tragedy in motion, Cole's utter lack of inhibition is refreshing and somewhat awe-inspiring, even if he has a tendency toward self-destruction. Stiefvater seems to be universally insightful, getting at something inside us all that we can't even fully name, a glimpse of the shadowed corners of our humanity. Cole lives large and free, more unrestrained as human than as a wolf. He's like a naughty child that a parent just can't bring themselves to punish because he's so flamboyantly unrepentant. He is a perfect foil for Sam, whose bewilderment at this foreign species of chaos provides some levity in the almost unbearably intense finale.
Stiefvater makes the sheer impossibility of the whole melancholy situation immediate and wrenching, building a twisted universe where the whims of fate play cruel tricks on those most deserving of happiness. The horrible irony and injustice of it all defies description. Just when it seems like the situation can't get any more dire, it does. It can always, always be worse -- but even in the darkness, there is the barest shimmer of hope that pulls readers forward. The drama begins on page one and careens wildly out of control, never pausing for breath. The twists and turns are truly unpredictable, and it's impossible to tell whether this story will end in tragedy or triumph until the final page. Stiefvater brings her world alive with love and death, hope and despair, and readers will be sorry to leave behind the beautiful, vibrant characters who have come to life before their very eyes.
Disclosure: I received an ARC of this novel at BEA. This did not affect my review in any way.
This novel hits shelves today! Click here to purchase Forever by Maggie Stiefvater.
There was a Forever ARC in my This is Teen goody bag, and since I had already snagged one at BEA that means I have an extra. So, one lucky reader will received a SIGNED ARC of Forever by Maggie Stiefvater!
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