Linger by Maggie Steifvater

People occasionally ask me what the difference is between YA and adult fiction and I bluster for a while and generally say that YA tends to have a teenage protagonist, less swearing, less sex (if any) and more action. It tends to get straight to the point. There is much less exposition, introspection, naval gazing, philosphising and general messing about. Teens, publishers feel, are not willing to wait around while you wax lyrical on the beauty of the summer’s night, they want to get straight to the werewolf attack.

And here’s my deep, dark confession – I love YA fiction, but one of the things I really do both love and hate about it is that in the pursuit of action and ‘getting to the point’, the simple beauty of writing can sometimes be lost. Some of the books can, dare I say it, feel a bit like eating junk food – delicious at the time, but a few days later they start to blend into one and I can’t even remember the storyline.

Now I know I said my next review would be Halahmy’s Hidden – and that review is coming – but I had to mention the book I’ve just finished first: Linger by Maggie Steifvater.  This book is beautiful.  I think it’s better than Shiver (the first in the trilogy) not because the story is any more exciting (it isn’t), but because it really is a lovely piece of writing.

It’s been a very long time since I’ve read a book (YA or adult) and had to stop and reread pages, not because I haven’t a clue what’s going on, but because the writing is so gorgeous I want to reread it.

I was beginning to think this wasn’t possible in YA literature (that the red pen of doom gets to all the lyrical passages before the reader does), but I’ve been proven wrong. Steifvater uses the conceit of Sam’s personality (he reads poetry and writes song lyrics) to insert actual poetry into her writing, but she doesn’t need to.  Although I chewed over Sam’s poems, the passages I really wanted to go back to were Steifvater’s own descriptions.  She has a delicate hand and a natural poetry flows throughout her prose; her words scan and create beautiful images and emotions that don’t overload you.

To be honest, in any other book I’d have been annoyed with Sam and Grace by now.  In one particular section Sam is caught in Grace’s bed by her parents and booted out.  And you’d think no-one in the world ever had it harder than this couple who are forced to spend a night apart.  Normally I’d have put the book down and gone, ‘for gods sake, it isn’t as if he’s bloody died’.  But the way Steifvater writes of their terrible loneliness (see, I’m even annoying myself – terrible loneliness indeed, it’s ONE night apart) I just couldn’t stop reading.  She had me hooked with the beauty of her description.

I’m really looking forward to the next installment of this trilogy and I thank Maggie Steifvater for proving to all the sceptics out that that YA paranormal romance can also be a memorable lesson in how to write beautiful prose.

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  1. I know exactly what you mean. I have stumbled across The Mermaid’s Mirror and feel the exact same thing. Some of the passages, although written sparingly, just arches with description and beautiful writing. I love it. It is one of the reasons I’ve recently started reading more adult literary fiction too – it doesn’t have to follow any rules of “action” and can instead just be achingly wonderful writing – case in point is The Guernsey Literary and Potatoe Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer. Deeply funny and written with elegance, the book has really stolen my heart. I uhm, will just go now. <- point into the distance.

    • I must order that book from the library along with Opposite of Amber by Gillian Phillip – another wonderful writer, her recent short stories in particular have showcased how brilliantly she uses language.

    • Not surprising then, that the author of the “The Mermaid’s Mirror” and Maggie Stiefvater are represented by one and the same agency!

      • How interesting … I didn’t know that, but it does make sense.

      • Yes, I love that agency’s “commercial but literary” stance… wishful thinking. 😉

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