“Shiver” by Maggie Stiefvater

29 Oct


In the simplest terms, Maggie Stiefvater's latest novel, "Shiver," is a werewolf / human teen love story set in chilly Minnesota. Although it's been steadily compared to Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" (as an example, check out this link), other than the starcrossed lovers angle — which, hello, dates back to at least Romeo & Juliet! — I don't see "Shiver" as a Twilight clone. "Shiver" stands on its own as a memorable novel with great atmosphere, well-drawn main characters, and a pulsating sense of romance.

High school senior Grace, one of those smart, independent girls who are staples of teen fiction, spends much of each winter gazing out her back door toward Boundary Woods, where a wolf pack roams. One wolf in particular, with piercing yellow eyes, has always captivated Grace, especially after she was attacked by the wolves six years earlier. During an illegal wolf hunt, Grace's wolf is shot, causing him to revert to his human form. I'd say it was love at first sight when Grace looks upon the kind, intelligent Sam, but, in all honesty, she loved him as a wolf, too.

There's an interesting hook in this book, which is that temperature dictates the werewolves' form; in warm summer months, they are human, and as the weather turns colder, they revert to animal form. As such, the biting Minnesota chill is a palpable enemy, seeking to encroach upon Sam and Grace's happiness and steal his humanity. We can feel the threat inherent in a blast of icy air or a dark, frigid night. There's also the looming danger of permanent loss. We learn that all the wolves — including Sam — will reach a point where they cannot transform back into their human bodies. Much to Grace's dismay, during one of these long, cold midwestern winters, Sam will become a wolf forever.

In the meantime, Grace basically brings Sam home to live with her family. She keeps him warm, he reads her poetry, and they spend just about every moment together. Of course, Grace's parents fail to notice that a teen boy is sleeping in their daughter's room and cooking breakfast with her each morning. Hrm. Okay. I am mildly annoyed at the invisible / preoccupied parents plot device in teen novels as a whole (I'll admit, this is the one aspect of "Shiver" that reminded me of "Twilight"!), and this book was no exception. Grace can be independent and mature and have parents who are engaged in her life.

With that one bit of minor criticism aside, I can absolutely recommend "Shiver" to older middle and high school students. There is a very discreet love scene, but nothing graphic or trashy. My strong suspicion is that this very romantic and earnest — but not sappy — novel will be more appreciated by girls, but who knows. Sam narrates alternating chapters, so there is a strong male voice throughout. I think "Shiver" is a great novel for fans of the paranormal, romance lovers, and even readers just looking for something unusual yet still meaningful. "Shiver" is the first in a series, so if you like it, keep an eye out for "Linger" in August 2010. Happy reading!

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Posted by on October 29, 2009 in Uncategorized


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