Words on Maggie: Linger, Fangirling & Giveaways
This is the story of a boy who used to be a wolf and a girl who was becoming one.
Maggie Stiefvater‘s third book, Shiver, debuted at a stunning #9 on the NYT Bestsellers’ List last year, and remained on it for more than 25 weeks. Its sequel, Linger (Scholastic Press, 2010), comes out this Summer on the 20th July, 2010.
Once Grace and Sam have found each other, they know they must fight to stay together. For Sam, this means reckoning with his werewolf past. For Grace, it means facing a future that is less and less certain.
Into their world comes a new wolf named Cole, whose past is full of hurt and danger. He is wrestling with his own demons, embracing the life of a wolf while denying the ties of being human.
For Grace, Sam, and Cole, life is a constant struggle between two forces – wolf and human…as their world falls apart, love is what lingers. But will it be enough?
What can I say? I have waited for this book for SO LONG (the worst part of the fangirl job-description), and it made its way across the Atlantic for me, and I’ve read it and I love it and I have no idea how to a) start this review, or b) write it without spoiling it for everybody. For everyone who is waiting for this book, and everyone who loved Shiver, and everyone who loves Sam and Grace, and everyone who was so ready to cry their eyes out at the end of the previous book – you won’t be disappointed. You really really won’t.
I’m struggling to talk about it without giving anything away, and it goes against my genetic hard-wiring to tell people what happened in books they haven’t read. So for a proper grown-up review, go read Noor’s. I’m just going to fangirl, okay?
After Shiver, I admit I was a little bit doubtful about where else this story would or could go, how it wouldn’t be repeat of it but in reverse – I had faith in Maggie (even though I thought Lament was a little shaky*), but judging from Shiver, I couldn’t see where this was set up to go. In fact, it was a while before Maggie revealed it HAD a sequel (and the SEQUEL had a sequel**).
Linger takes a step up from Shiver and really works its momentum, introducing two new first-person narrative voices in addition to Grace and Sam. We’ve already met prickly and spunky Isabel, and now we meet Cole, a new wolf – and a complicated jerk – creating an ambitious four-way narrative.
Can I take a moment to do some Isabel-fangirling? How awesome is she? The girl’s a…not a nice person, but totally honest with it…and actually, it turns out she’s not such a…not-nice person after all, but she would rather have you think that she is. Grace’s history gives her character depth and complexity, but with Isabel, it’s her personality. It was skilful contrast at its best, and the reason why you could laugh your way through so much of it.
Grace: What are you feeding them?
This. This is why I really like Isabel. I like tough girls in fiction: the ones that give no quarter but secretly have hearts in places where they hope nobody will ever discover them. I noticed several times how the description of her expressions were telling you…she looked ‘inadvertently cruel’, she had a smile that ‘always looked like a smirk’, her ‘sheer insensitivity’. In some ways you feel like she has all the appearance of a, er, not-nice person without any real evidence that she actually is one.
You know what? I want to be FRIENDS with Isabel, the girl makes me laugh like a chimney-sweep on drugs. BE MY FRIEND, ISABEL.
You know what else? Even though it was all of the things Shiver was – lyrical and quiet and a necklace of moments – it was also really funny. I laughed to myself a LOT (on the bus, as usual), even at the most serious parts – Isabel’s a magic ingredient.**** And this is another thing that was just great about Linger. A writer with less intuition would hamstring themselves by taking it all too seriously – boys who turn into wolves, wolves who turn into boys, girls who love them…it can all get very angsty very quickly – or it can go Twilight – but it doesn’t.
It’s not that it’s ‘real’ or realistic – I mean, hello, it’s about werewolves, and werewolves somewhat lack ecological validity – but what is at the core of it is its honesty. The characters are far from perfect – they might be self-involved jerks, but they are unflinchingly honest with it. This is why you can love them – they never pretend to be anything else, not in their own heads. And that’s true for every one of the main characters – their narratives burn with it. You can love them because you can be them.
In other books, first-person narratives often suffer a loss of quality because…I think the best way I can describe it is to go a little academic and talk about something called ‘social desirability distortion’, which is jargonese for when people make themselves appear how they think they ought to be, rather than how they truly are. Writers are serial perpetrators where this is concerned; with or without realising it, characters are idealised and ‘tidied up’ – even their flaws and inconsistencies.
Live a little or live a lot, you know the things you do, say or think aren’t always consonant with each other: consistency is a goal and a work in progress, it rarely truly exists in a person as completely as a lot of books would have you believe. So much depends not only on the person you are, but on the situation, the different internal pressures that might make you react in different ways to the same situation – there are so many variables, so many things, that even your inconsistencies must lack consistency, and ‘the person you are’ is as much a sum of your contradictions as anything else.
These four – Sam, Grace, Isabel and Cole – they are so different, and yet in all their differences, they remain steadfastly honest characters, and so earnestly human. And at its heart, I feel like this is what this whole story comes down to: not just staying human, but being human, even when you don’t want to be, even if it kills you.
The following is an excerpt of one of my favourite (non-spoiling) moments from Linger:
Stepping out into the middle of the sidewalk, I watched tiny flakes float down onto the abandoned street. As far as I could see, there were banks of old snow pressed into stained sculptures. Icicles made jagged smiles on the storefronts.
My eyes smarted with the cold. I held my free hand out, palm up, and watched as snow dissolved on my skin.
This was not real life. This was life as watched through a window. Life watched on television. I couldn’t remember when I hadn’t hidden from this.
I was cold, I had a handful of snow, and I was human.
The future stretched before me, infinite and growing and mine, in a way that nothing had ever been before.
On finishing this book…I feel very tired and very sad, and about a hundred years old. I wonder if anyone will be able to read this without it sharpening any pain or grief or loss they might have felt in their own lives. Linger is like a song, aching and wistful and beautiful. It happened that I was finishing the book off to the soundtrack of one of my students playing ‘Memory‘ from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Cats’ on their piano, and it’s become woven into my memory of it, its theme.
And you know what? It’s perfect.
What? I haven’t told you about the giveaway yet?! I confess I forgot. A long post becomes longer – the story of my life 😄
Because a) we are awesome, and b) Maggie is awesome, we are giving away, like, stuff. Specifically, SIGNED COPIES of LAMENT and BALLAD, as well as a handful of signed cover-plates for runners-up. (Sorry, I love my ARC too much to part with it.)
To enter, just answer this question in the comments (and remember to enter your email address on the form):
In Shiver and Linger, Sam reveals a love for German poetry, especially that of Rilke and Roethke.Who is your favourite poet – or what is your favourite poem – and why?
To gain EXTRA ENTRIES:
+1 (each) if you post this link on Facebook or Twitter (post the links in your comment)
+2 if you post it on your blog (also post the link in your comment)
+3 if you subscribe to this blog by email! (box is in the bottom right-hand corner of this page)
This contest is open INTERNATIONALLY. Closing date: 15th June 2010.
Be sure to also enter our JESSICA DAY GEORGE ARC GIVEAWAY, which closes REALLY SOON, like, MAY 19th.
For Linger-miscellany and footnotes:
Two Random Things I Learnt from Linger
- Americans don’t know how to pronounce ‘foyer’. I have no idea how they THINK you should pronounce it, but they laugh at us saying ‘foi-yay’. We laugh at you, Americans, we laugh at you.
- A loon is not, as I have been brought up to believe, a crazy person. A loon is an animal. A bird-duck-like thing, to be precise. So when you’re laughing ‘like a loon on loon tablets’…it doesn’t mean what I think? This, ladles and jellyspoons, is what comes of an urban upbringing.
In my merciless Maggie-fangirling (when she came to London last October), I was telling her how much I loved the Grace-making-quiche scene in Shiver (and petitioned for a Maggie-cookbook – ‘Maybe’, she said). Grace cooks! She makes quiche! She has ten thousand kinds of cheese in her fridge! This girl is my FRIEND.
And AND! Sam helps her cook – and he knows cheese. You guys! if you read Slice of Lemon (READ IT, IT’S AWESOME), you can laugh with me here about Sabrina’s cheese fixation, and understand that cheese enthusiasts are rare.
So anyway, what I meant to say is that Grace and Sam in the kitchen making food is a winning recipe (do you see what I did there?). And in Linger, Grace cooks MORE.
* I did say this to Maggie’s VERY FACE, and she didn’t eat me, or cry, so I guess it’s okay to say it on the internet.
** If you rearrange the letters*** of ‘sequel’ you get ‘squeel’ which is really almost as good as ‘squeal’.
*** I’ve been reading John Green.
**** Or perhaps Maggie is the magic ingredient? Duh.
All quotes are taken from the uncorrected proof supplied to The Rock Pool for review by Scholastic Press, US.