Words on Maggie: Not Your Grandmother’s Werewolves.
And now we get to the real reason Saya was determined to get me to read Maggie…that is, her Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy. Maggie’s second book and the first of the trilogy, Shiver (Scholastic Press) was published on August 1, 2009, and the second book of the trilogy, Linger, is slated for release by Scholastic Press on July 20, 2010. The Rock Pool was lucky enough to receive an advance copy from Scholastic, so Saya and I shall be reviewing Linger!
But first, let’s talk Shiver. From Maggie’s website:
For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf—her wolf—is a chilling 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, Sam must fight to stay human—or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.
Shiver is…pure amazing, really. Forget everything you thought you knew about werewolves, and especially forget Twilight, please (for all our sakes, sorry, Saya). Maggie’s werewolves are certainly not your grandmother’s werewolves. It’s not the full moon but the cold that seems to affect how and when they change – and over time, it takes less and less cold to cause the change until eventually, they never change back to human at all.
This is the race against time in which we find Grace and Sam – Grace is human and Sam is a werewolf whose days as a human are numbered. They have a bond since childhood, when Sam saved Grace’s life, and a love that is growing stronger each day – but will it be enough? How far are they willing to go to be together?
As usual, Maggie’s writing is really superb – the secondary characters come alive from the pages as well. Grace’s friends and Sam’s fellow wolves are drawn into the conflict when a boy is supposedly killed by the wolves and some of the humans of Mercy Falls vow to drive the wolves out of the woods forever. But things are not as simple as they seem.
This is the story of a boy who used to be a wolf and a girl who was becoming one.
Just a few months ago, it was Sam who was the mythical creature. His was the disease we couldn’t cure. His was the good-bye that meant the most. He had the body that was a mystery, too strange and wonderful and terrifying to comprehend.
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.
Maggie says, “It’s about after. What happens after you discover there are werewolves in the wood, after you’ve fallen in love for the first time, after you’ve lost what you think you can’t live without, after you’ve become someone you can’t live with.”
In Linger, we meet Cole, and he and Isabel (one of the secondary characters of Shiver) become main characters in the story. Cole is the quintessential anti-hero – or, at least, he’d like to be. He and Sam butt heads over Sam’s inability to understand Cole’s need to be a werewolf – because Sam has spent much of his life wishing he was human. Meanwhile, Sam and Grace must cope with Grace’s changing relationship with her parents and her own sense of impending doom. Like Ballad, Linger builds on Shiver in such a way that the sequel is almost better than the original – the characters are brighter, the relationships deeper and more intense, the emotions and actions more terrifying and breathtaking. Shiver fans will not be disappointed, I promise you.
The Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy falls into none of the traps that many YA books nowadays do. The relationships are true to life, and Maggie writes them tastefully. Sam and Grace are at once teenagers in their first love and at the same time in a very intense, deep commitment – but the physicality never goes overboard. Everything is perfectly balanced. Cole and Isabel are cynical, but at the same time humorous and down-to-earth. Isabel’s one of those characters you are a bit wary of at first, but she really comes into her own at the end of Shiver and particularly in Linger, and it’s hard not to love her. All of the characters’ voices are incredibly authentic.
The themes are understated but at the same time incredibly important. Maggie doesn’t have an axe to grind (or at least, it’s not apparent in her books that she does), and one doesn’t feel, as a reader, like you’re being preached to at all. But at the same time, the series asks – in a very quiet, unobtrusive way – the hard questions. What are you willing to sacrifice? What do you do when you are pushed to the limit and forced to make the toughest decisions you’ve ever made? It brings up issues of family and loyalty, of what it means to be human – the relative humanity of the werewolves contrasted, of course, with the inhumanity of many of the citizens of Mercy Falls. It asks what it means to be human and what it means when the lines between human and werewolf are so heavily blurred. Maggie’s werewolf lore is both original and complex, and this particularly comes through in Linger.
And the story – well, the story is beautiful. And heartbreaking. When Maggie did her signing here in Charlottesville, she mentioned that part of her ambition as a writer is to make readers cry – and with the story of Sam and Grace, she’s accomplished that in spades. But you won’t just cry – you’ll laugh, too, and you’ll see yourself in the characters, and you’ll share their sorrows and joys. And when you’re done, you’ll be waiting on the edge of your seat for the final volume of the trilogy, Forever, slated for release in July 2011.
If you’re not out the door on the way to your nearest bookstore to read Shiver or pre-order Linger yet, check out Maggie’s amazing stop-motion trailer to Shiver, “Still Wolf Watching,” on YouTube here.