'Forever': So Hard To Say Goodbye To The Wolves Of 'Shiver'

Whether by coincidence, divine plan or marketing genius, this July is looking like Werewolf Month. Not only do we have those droolworthy lycanthopes over on "Teen Wolf" and "True Blood," but there are also three big howl-inducing books coming out this month: "The Last Werewolf," by Glen Duncan (out today); "Wolfsbane," the second book in Andrea Cremer's "Nightshade" series (on sale July 26); and, of course, "Forever" the conclusion to Maggie Stiefvater's "Shiver" trilogy (also out today). Then again I'm loath to lump "Shiver" in with the others because it's really the werewolf story for people who don't think they like werewolf stories.

Ever since I first encountered Maggie's wolves of Mercy Falls, Minnesota, I've been thrusting it into the hands of friends. The story of Grace—a straightforward, practical girl "raised" by parents so flighty, she was once hospitalized after they forgot her in a locked car— and Sam—the poetic, book-loving, songwriting boy raised by the werewolves who took him away from his abusive parents—got under my skin in a way that few books do. But to be honest, some of the people who tried to take my advice didn't make it through. They just didn't take to the book's early pace, choppy chapters that flip back and forth between Grace's and Sam's perspectives, or the premise of a girl who, after being attacked by wolves, feels drawn to one particular wolf with yellow eyes, who watches her from the woods bordering her backyard.

To each her own, I guess. Still, after reading "Forever," I'm going to try those doubters again, because this is the kind of satisfying series conclusion that's worth the heartbreak that comes before it. SPOILER ALERT for anyone who hasn't read "Shiver" and "Linger."

After racing against time to keep Sam from becoming a wolf forever in "Shiver," and then racing against time to save Grace from being killed by not turning into a wolf in "Linger," this time Grace, Sam, tortured-rocker-turned-wolf Cole and tortured-ice-queen-turned-Grace-BFF Isabel face an even bigger threat. Blaming her brother Jack's death on the wolves, Isabel's father is using his considerable influence to go all Sarah Palin on the Mercy Falls pack, organizing an authorized helicopter hunt. And when they aren't working out a way to save the wolves, the four unlikely friends have plenty of their own angsty issues to work through. Sam is under constant suspicion of having murdered Grace since her disappearance from the hospital. And though she's wildly happy to be reunited with Sam, Grace has to come to terms with the life she left behind after spending the winter in full wolf mode. Isabel is giving Cole the cold shoulder to protect herself. And Cole is recklessly using himself as a guinea pig to test out potions to control the wolf virus.

Out of all three books, "Forever" has figured out the best balance between action and the mix of moody, touching and lighthearted scenes that make Sam, Grace, Cole and Isabel feel like real teenagers. Maggie has said that her goal with "Shiver" was to "ruin a reader's day" with emotional torment. This one takes a few days, and a few packs of tissues, to recover from—especially when you remember that this is the last you'll see of these wolves (until the movie, that is). So, yeah, maybe we shouldn't call this a Summer Beach Read pick. Let's say it's a Summer Blast the Air-Conditioning and Stay in Bed Read. Also a very necessary category during those heat waves, right?

Have you picked up a copy of "Forever" yet? Are you sad to see the series end? Tell us in the comments and on Twitter!