Monday, August 8, 2011

Shiver, Linger, Forever

I thought that I was tired of the whole paranormal young adult novel thing. I loved the Twilight series, but since then, it seems that everything is werewolves and vampires all the time. So when Sara loaned me this series against my will, I thought, I’ll just read 5 or 6 pages, tell her I tried it and that it wasn’t for me. Ahem, 900 pages later….

Sam is a boy who turns into a wolf every winter; the cold makes him shed his human body. Grace has always been fascinated by the wolves living in the woods beyond her backyard… one yellow-eyed wolf in particular. When a wounded boy shows up on her back deck, naked and bleeding, with the same yellow eyes as her beloved wolf, it doesn’t take long for Grace to realize the truth. And because these two have shared a connection for years, ever since Sam-as-wolf saved Grace from a wolf attack, they jump right into a heated romance.

I’ve gotten so sick of the whole supernatural element in literature lately, because things have gotten so over-the-top. I mean, the conclusion of the Twilight series was so weird: a vampire pregnancy, a mutant vampire child, gurgling geysers of blood... The mythology of werewolves and vampires span cultures and centuries and I like that writers can share their own creative take on the old legends. But Breaking Dawn, though I enjoyed it at the time, was too crazy for me.

Many people will disagree, but I didn’t like the idea of Bella giving up her mortal soul and her humanity to join Edward in a life of vampirism and immortality. Maybe it’s that I believe in the promise of Heaven, so the idea of an immortal life on earth doesn’t appeal to me. Or maybe it’s because I have such a connection with my biological family that to sever my ties with them in the way that Bella has to sever hers with her parents is too much of a sacrifice for me to even imagine. It’s romantic, yes, but it hurt me when Bella gave up her humanity for a guy (even THE Guy). So it was refreshing to me that the characters of the Wolves of Mercy Falls series yearn for their lost humanity. Some of them enjoy the escape that being a wolf brings, but the major theme is: how can I fight this/cure this/stay human to think/reason/love/live/make a difference? how can I overcome the wolf inside me? Sam wants, more than anything, to be bound to his human body, to live a mortal, normal life with Grace.

The second book, Linger, introduces the newly-made werewolf, Cole St. Clair, the handsome frontman from a popular band, who was looking for pleasure/pain/death when he was “recruited” willingly into being a werewolf. Becoming a wolf, to Cole, is the ultimate way to lose himself, when drugs, sex, drinking, and music haven’t worked. He’s basically a jerk, until he’s not. And then there is Isabel, a normal teenager who finds herself tied into the secrets of the werewolves, who is as damaged as Cole is. Their story continues, as does Sam and Grace’s, in the third and last book, Forever. Cole and Isabel are my favorite parts about these books. They are two deeply flawed individuals, with enough redemptive qualities that you root for them. I love the way they warily dance around each other, near, far; putting up walls, breaking boundaries. Two damaged people who want to be loved but can’t figure out how to let themselves be loved.

The leap from teenager to paranormal feels minimal when reading these books. The stories of Bella and Edward (Twilight), or Sam and Grace are of such intensity, such urgency. Adolescence is exactly like that--urgent and intense--even when your boyfriend isn't a century-old sparkly vampire or turns into a wolf at the first frost. You’re all hyped up on hormones and you're short-sighted enough to think that this time is all that matters... that this is all there is and ever will be. When you get out on the other side of age 17, you realize that there is more. But for Edward and Bella and Grace and Sam, there is a very real sense of urgency. They are faced with doom and separation, so they live fully and love hard while they can. Maybe that’s why paranormal YA books have such an audience and why the angst of the paranormal teenager appeals so well to the everyday American teenager... Because the leap is small, and even those of us who are a decade beyond 17 remember what it was like.

The writing in this series is beautiful. I'd vote for the author to write adult fiction next. And a beautiful quote:

There is no better taste than this: someone else's laughter in your mouth.

I'm going to switch to the Goodreads/ "out of 5 stars" method of grading for congruity.

Shiver: 3/5

Linger: 3.75/5

Forever: 4/5

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

here are the comments ;) I'm so glad I forced this upon you! something was telling me you'd like the writing. So good! Sometimes I got bored with the Sam/Grace relationship. Isabel and Cole were my fav. And I really did love the ending. She needs to do an adult immediatly...but I think that next up for her is the scorpio races...another YA