Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher, Year: Scholastic, 2009
Other Works: Lament
Flags: Teen angst, Tenuous references
Rating: B, or Decent
Premise: A teenage girl obsesses over a wolf in the woods. This isn't just any wolf--the animal saved her from a terrifying experience as a child. One day, she finds out that her wolf has a secret.
I went into this book with very little expectation. I had heard it was Twilight-esque in many ways, which is a fair categorization, I would say.
The story opens with a girl, Grace, remembering when she was brutally attacked by a pack of wolves. One wolf in particular, she remembers clearly—the wolf who has been watching her from the woods behind her house ever since. He stalks her and she stalks him right back. A local tragedy sets events into motion that will reveal a secret and change Grace’s life forever.
It’s not too difficult to figure out that Sam, the mysterious wolf, is actually a werewolf—part human, part animal. I thought the rules that Stiefvater invented for her wolf species were very interesting and unique, considering that the subject of werewolves is a variation upon a theme as so many fantasy books are. I enjoyed reading about Sam because he was so consistently conflicted. His wolf life, although not the nature to which he was born, has become so a part of his being, that although it is somewhat of a curse, it is slowly becoming a comfort. He has been so often a wolf, that that form is beginning to feel like home. His loyal family, his good memories, most of his joys as a being are tied up in running with his wolf pack. All except for one—Grace.
Grace as a heroine, however, I felt was lacking. As with Twilight, I felt like the lead female role was not a strong one. By the end of the book, I didn’t feel as though I knew her well, and what I got to know of her wasn’t very appealing to me. She was at times wishy-washy and getting mad over seemingly insignificant things. And although the book starts from the premise that Grace and Sam have been “dating” over six years by watching each other as woman and wolf, I didn’t find that premise very convincing. It seemed like the two were automatically “in love” without the falling part. I would have enjoyed a little more of the getting to know each other and a little less description of passionate kissing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for a love story. But, I would have liked to see them know each other and connect on an emotional level.
Stiefvater definitely had moments of brilliance in this novel. I could really feel the slow creeping of winter’s cold hand. I’m all too familiar with the dreading of snow, and I think she captured that beautifully. The violence that the cold triggered with the werewolves was really mesmerizing and was so tangible for me. Through her words, I felt the pain as the wolves experienced it. That is the beauty of the split narration of the novel, which I think fit just right.
I’m interested to see what the next books will bring, as there is a sort of momentum from this first novel. I definitely liked it enough to keep reading!