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I was cold, I had a handful of snow, and I was human.
on 21 July 2010
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.
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.
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 someone 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.
This review was originally written for therockpool (dot) wordpress (dot) com. If you liked it, head over and enjoy it with all its links and footnotes. Because footnotes are awesome.