Despite the fresh premise and writing style, Forever suffers from the same ailment that afflicts many trilogies - it is the last of the series, and therefore, the characters and plot remain where the author has left them. There is no hope for change or reconciliation because this is the end. I have read several conflicted reviews of Forever since its release, and unfortunately, my review will join those ranks. It pains me to say that because I do love the series and the characters, but in my eyes, the quality of the plot has greatly diminished from the first novel, Shiver, to the final, Forever. In fact, I will go so far as to agree with several other reviewers who professed Shiver may have been better as a stand-alone novel. *Note: There are potential spoilers in this review.
- Each novel is narrated from multiple point-of-views. Shiver alternates between Grace and Sam and highlights the change in temperature with the change in chapter and perspective. This technique is effective because it emphasizes the intimacy of their relationship as well as its biggest threat. Linger adds two new narrators, Cole and Isabel. The addition of Cole and Isabel as narrators demonstrates the widening of the world of the werewolves and the world of Grace and Sam. They must begin to consider how their lifestyle is affecting those around them. These four narrators remain in Forever with the exception of a brief prologue narrated by Shelby, another werewolf. Shelby's prologue offers sinister foreshadowing and narrates a pivotal event of Forever that puts all of the werewolves in danger. At a recent singing at Quail Ridge Books, Stiefvater was asked why she chose to narrate the series from multiple points-of-view, and she replied that she felt that certain characters needed to narrate certain scenes - ones where they changed or had a revelation - and that sometimes characters lie, and it served the reader well to pull out of one character's perspective and gain a fuller understanding of a situation. I agree. Switching between narrators allowed me to shake off Sam's emo funk and Isabel's bitchiness for a few minutes and get a different perspective on the situation.
- Grace and Sam's relationship may seem overly earnest to some, and I admit, when I first read Shiver, I thought these kids are way too serious, but then I was reminded of my own relationship the summer I turned seventeen to the man I am now married to, and I remember that it is perfectly likely that you will find your soulmate at that age.
- To me, one of the most poignant scenes of Forever occurs towards the end of the novel when Grace and Sam are both wolves together for the first time. The joy they experience when sharing their wolf skins and the natural way they communicate and enhance the pack's dynamics is so effervescent I was moved to tears.
- Another scene from the novel that I loved is the scene where Cole drives the black, Mustang die-cast car Isabel gave him up her arm. I tend to picture Cole as older than he really is because of his "been there, done that" personality, but this sweet moment reminded me vividly that he is only eighteen or nineteen and that his lifestyle choices have caused him to grow up too fast. It was nice to see him regain some of his childhood.
- I know you are thinking, didn't this plot point just appear in the "pro" list, and it did, but I also have some problems with Grace and Sam's relationship as it is portrayed in Forever. In between the end of Linger and the beginning of Forever, Grace and Sam are separated for several months because she is a wolf and he is not. As the weather begins to warm up, there are some near misses where Grace becomes human for a few minutes or a few hours and calls Sam, but she returns to her wolf body before he arrives to see her. When the two are finally reunited, their meeting is anti-climatic. It seems unrealistic to me that two lovers who have been separated with very limited communication for such a long period of time would merely hug and have a mundane conversation upon their first meeting. This lack of physical intimacy continues throughout the course of the novel with the notable exceptions of the white dress scene and the scene where they are wolves, which I described in my "pro" column above.
- As I have already indicated, Forever is slow going. The reader is stuck in the characters' heads suffering through their internal conflicts for so long that he/she finally wants to side with Isabel and shout, "Why the hell aren't you doing anything?!?" The action picks up in the last fifty pages or so, but decisions should have been made and decisive action taken long before that.
- Finally, Forever leaves me with some unanswered questions that will remain unanswered because Stiefvater has vowed that this is the last book in the series. I am not a reader that needs to have everything spelled out for her, and I can even enjoy an open conclusion if the author has given me all of the pieces along the way to fit the puzzle together for myself. However, Stiefvater drops hints about several key aspects of the plot throughout Forever but fails to provide the reader with the thread needed to connect the dots. Thus, here are the notable plot sinkholes:
- Beck's history remains a mystery even after Cole turns him back into a human to set the record straight.
- The use of a meningitis "vaccine" is considered a cure in Linger, then a masking of the symptoms in Forever, before being offered as a cure again. Is it a cure or not? The answer to this question is very important to understanding the novel's conclusion.
- What does it mean for the werewolves that the wolf toxin acts like malaria?
- Is Sam fully cured, or will he suffer from the same disease as Grace in Linger and be forced to shift again? If he shifts will he be able to shift back?
- Who were the other wolves that died?
Best matched with an appreciation of poetry and aesthetics, a cursory interest in science, the paranormal, and animals, and an investment in the series.