Reading challenge book 11: Forever by Maggie Stiefvater

Book 11 in my challenge to read one book (I haven’t read before) a fortnight in 2012 is Forever by Maggie Stiefvater, the third book in a trilogy.

I’m a fast reader, but it took me ages to get through Forever. I started it months ago, read a large chunk and then put it down for a while as I got distracted by other things. Once I came back to it, I was reading just a few chapters at a time and then coming back to it a few days later.

Ordinarily, the only reason it would take me so long to read a book was if I didn’t like it. That’s not the case with Forever. It’s just the kind of book you can take your time with, and there’s so much going on that you need that time to absorb all the feelings conjured up by the characters.

The two previous books in the trilogy, Shiver and Linger, introduced us to Sam, a boy who turned into a wolf during winter months, and Grace, the girl who loved him. During the course of the first two books, Sam was cured, but Grace, bitten as a child, finally succumbed to the wolf venom stuff inside her, and at the end of the second book became a wolf for winter.

In Forever the pair are left wondering if they can ever be together as humans. Their struggle though, is against the backdrop of a larger problem – there is a campaign to kill all the wolves in Mercy Falls after one wolf bit and killed Jack Culpepper way back in book one.

It’s that storyline that adds an edge of danger to the book, and that makes all the relationships in Forever that much more serious and filled with emotion. And lifts it above something like Twilight, where danger is in the background but never really materialises.

Sam and Grace are compelling as always. Even though they’re so young, Stiefvater gives them both a maturity that makes their love for each other completely believable.

But without strong supporting characters, Forever, and the other books in the trilogy, would be much less fascinating. For me, Isabel Culpepper (Jack’s sister) and Cole St Clair (a former rock star who chose becoming a wolf over killing himself) are the second heart of the book after Sam and Grace.

Isabel and Cole’s relationship is complicated, and the pair don’t easily fall together, which makes them absolutely compelling to read about. They are flawed, selfish human beings, but that’s what makes them so realistic. I only wish Stiefvater had paid more attention to them in the book, although being able to fill in the gaps for myself is partially what made them such great characters for me.

Forever isn’t a happy book. It’s sad and angry and devoid of hope by turns, and it’s a read that clearly makes you feel the emotions of its characters.

Even though there’s no doubt as to what happens in terms of the hunting of the wolves, there are a couple of very important things left unresolved. This is no bad thing – Stiefvater signposts the direction things may go in, but ultimately leaves it up to the reader to decide exactly what comes next. Stiefvater treats her readers with respect, understanding that we are clever enough to come to our own conclusions, and that’s what I loved so much about this trilogy.

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