Okay, guys, we have to talk about this ending. There are the wackadoodle events leading up to the ending, and then there's that last page that all but double-dog dares you not to cry.
Werewolves with Meningitis
Throughout the book, we get clues as to what might cure the werewolves. Eventually the characters realize that, no surprise, it has to do with temperature. But they can't just curl up next to a campfire with some s'mores. Nope, these puppies need to increase their internal temperature. Grace fantasizes about “a cure for Sam – liquid summer injected right into his veins” (38.24). Isabel's idea: meningitis.
Let this sink in for a bit: meningitis. Are your fingers falling off? Is your brain inflamed? Has your skull inflated with fluids? We hope not. But Jack Culpeper experiences these symptoms and dies. Dies! Sounds terrible, huh? Maybe meningitis just has an image problem. It should be renamed, like Patagonian Toothfish being renamed Chilean Sea Bass. With the right marketing, we can call meningitis “liquid summer,” and then hydro-encephalitic heads will be chic fashion statements.
Somehow Sam survives the infection, and actually does get cured of lycanthropy, but we don't really get to see or hear what he went through as he battled this disease. One thing we worry about though is the source of this meningitis. Isabel drew the blood from some random dude at a clinic. And injected it into the wolves. Um, no. Just no. We worry about this scene happening in Linger, the sequel: “Sam, congratulations, you're no longer a werewolf. But you have HIV. And Hep-C. Sorry. You'll be on insane medication cocktails and dialysis until you die, but at least you're human!”
This crazy cure shows us the extreme lengths people go to in order to cure themselves of a disease that they see as worse than death. Sometimes it works, and sometimes they get to see, first-hand, whether or not death is better.
A Sam By Any Other Name
Alright, we've learned that injecting yourself with some sick dude's blood (or any person's blood) is a Very Bad Idea. Once we get past that, though, it's time for the emotional gut-punch of an ending. Got your tissues ready? And a good excuse? “I got something in my eye” just won't cut it after these waterworks.
Sam transitions back to a wolf and runs away after Grace injects him with meningitis. (Just to be clear, we probably would too.) After Jack dies, Grace is pretty sure he's dead. Cue sniffles. But she copes!
Then Christmas time comes, and when her wolf doesn't show up, the lonely feelings return. However, we see from Sam's P.O.V. that he's watching her from the woods. Like he did when he was a wolf.
Stiefvater strings us along for a bit, before Sam finally reveals himself to Grace. Then, in the second-to-last paragraph, we see that the cure worked. He's human. The first thing he says to Grace: her name.
Names are a big deal in the Shiver world. They're a wolf's link to the human world. Names are a very human thing. When Grace only knows Sam as a wolf, she doesn't name him. She just calls him “my wolf.” However, as a human, he's Sam. And Grace's name is like a beacon to Sam. He says about her name, “Grace. I held on to that one name. If I kept that in my head, I would be okay” (37.27).
The only thing Grace says to Sam, before the curtain falls, is his name. Sam had remarked earlier that, “When she said my name, waiting for me to follow, I would do anything to stay with her” (21.56). His name is a reminder that he's human, and that he can now stay with her forever. Or at least until the sequel.