In Linger, Maggie Stiefvater weaves another heartfelt tale of passion and desperation. Her lyrical prose and stark imagery create a magical reading experience where emotions run high and nerves are tightly wound. A constant sense of dread hangs over the novel, keeping readers in suspense from page one as they wait for the other shoe to drop on the star-crossed lovers. Stiefvater is a master at tugging on readers' heartstrings, making their hearts ache and stomachs drop as the angst and impossibility become increasingly intense. Thankfully, moments of humor provide much-needed breaks from the emotional turmoil Stiefvater so powerfully evokes.
Sam and Grace's relationship feels strained in this installment compared to their perfect fit in Shiver, as they're both in denial about the cruel twists of fate that still threaten their tenuous security. The narrative drive is less clear and the central conflict almost falls away into the background, so studiously do Grace and Sam ignore it. However, seeing them from an outsider's point-of-view brings their profound connection back into focus and assures readers that the two teens are truly meant-to-be. Though Sam and Grace are young and haven't known each other that long, Stiefvater somehow makes readers believe in their love. After everything they've been through, and the old souls that lurk inside their young bodies, it's like they've known each other a lifetime. They are complimentary opposites, bringing out the best in one another. I love the perfect balance of their dynamic -- they need each other equally, a rare and wonderful thing in modern YA relationships.
Isabel and Cole really steal the show, though. Their deeply damaged souls, hidden behind sarcastic masks, evoke sympathy in readers even as it pushes them away. They are characters of contradiction, and a perfect foil for the profound understanding between Sam and Grace. Their banter is sharp and snappy, and their rough edges feel real to anyone whose life isn't picture perfect. Stiefvater's characters are nothing if not complex, and the humanity she brings to Cole's sardonic shell is endearing, making him a fascinating character in a complicated life. Isabel also has a refreshing way of cutting right to the truth of things -- something all of the characters desperately need to hear. Despite her cold protective exterior, she is surprisingly insightful and self-aware.
One minor character demands a special mention -- Rachel. I would read an entire book about Rachel. She provided much of the comic release in this novel, and was a fabulous best girl friend for Grace. She has so much to offer, and it would really round out Grace's character to spend more time with someone not wrapped up in the pack madness.
In Mercy Falls, love is a struggle. It can never be easy for these ill-fated lovers, but somehow that makes their devotion all the more sublime.
tomorrow Tuesday for my review and signed ARC giveaway of the third and final book in the Mercy Falls trilogy, Forever!