I avoided this series for a long time simply because of the term "werewolf." I finally picked it up at the advice of a good friend, and I'm glad I did. This book series isn't about werewolves as much as just plain wolves. And it's not even so much about the wolves as it is about kids finding their identity and looking beneath the surface of what is obvious.
I have to say, I was also surprised that this book wasn't a typical "middle-of-the-series-fail." Not at all - I think I may like it just as much as I liked [b:Shiver|6068551|Shiver (The Wolves of Mercy Falls, #1)|Maggie Stiefvater|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1328839272s/6068551.jpg|6244926]. There are several reasons for that, the least of which is the absence of a love triangle. I am not one of the love triangle haters, but I have to say it's nice to leave the romance alone and just concentrate on other problems. I thoroughly enjoyed the direction this story went, and it actually surprised me abut 2/3 of the way through to find that Grace's condition wasn't what I initially thought.
Speaking of Grace, (picture Scotty from the most recent Star Trek movie here:) I like this girl! She isn't a whiner, she's not trivial, she's not clingy. She is decided and goal-oriented, but not cold. She is strong but not to the point where (as my daughter often quips) "she don't need no man." She is unsure without falling apart. She is realistic without being too realistic. She is balanced. I think I may want to be her when I grow up.
And Sam, well, Sam is still lovable, if more angst-ridden. I don't think he really gets quite to the point of whiny, but he is clearly not ready for all the responsibility he's been given. Turning him into a poet softened him a bit too much for my taste. And all those song lyrics - in the audio version of the book, they are sung, and that's not the same as being read. They ended up being sappy instead of sweet.
Having said that, Sam behaves just like an artistic teenager would, so there you go. Who among us girls doesn't sigh at a poet?
Introducing us to Cole and Isabella was a great idea. They are completely different than Sam and Grace, and also different enough from each other to really be appealing. They made me laugh more often than not.
I did have some minor criticisms. The situation with Grace's illness is really drawn out. I did find myself tiring of that a bit, rather than being drawn along with the suspense. It saddened me that Grace's parents were turned into such bad guys, and that Isabella's parents are jerks. I get that many teenagers feel that parents are the bad guys, but it would be nice to soften the disdain a bit by giving just an allusion to the reasons why they behave they way they do. At least let them be bad guys with good reasons.
I really liked the ending. It's the perfect setup for the final book, and not just because of Grace and Sam. Maggie Stiefvater sets up all the characters, not just the main ones, for changes in the continuation. I want to see where she takes Isabella and Cole, especially damaged, angry Cole, in the next installment.
This book doesn't take you on an emotional roller coaster, throwing up from ceiling to floor and back again, so if you want that I'd refer you to [b:Divergent|13335037|Divergent (Divergent, #1)|Veronica Roth|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1328559506s/13335037.jpg|13155899] or maybe [b:Delirium|11614718|Delirium (Delirium, #1)|Lauren Oliver|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327890411s/11614718.jpg|10342808]. But if you're looking for an interesting setting with richly drawn characters, you'll like this series.