Angela's Reviews > Shiver

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
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Nov 13, 2009

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bookshelves: young-adult, weres-and-shifters, 3-5-stars, impressive-writing, pn-romance, good-ones, read-in-2009, swoon-inducing, paranormal
Read in September, 2009

Interesting twist on werewolf love w/room for improvement, 3.5 stars

After reading Maggie Stiefvater's debut novel, Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception, I couldn't wait to get my hands on Shiver. Sadly, it didn't grab me in the same way.

Shiver tells the story of Grace, a high-achieving but quiet high school junior, who is engrossed by the pack of wolves that roams outside her Minnesota home each winter. She has a special connection with the wolf with yellow eyes, as this wolf saved her from the pack's attack when she was eleven. We quickly learn that the wolves are actually shape-shifting humans that turn into wolves each fall and winter and then become humans again in the warmer months; as time passes and the cycle repeats, each person gets less and less time as a human until he/she ceases to change back anymore. The yellow-eyed wolf is Sam, an eighteen year old boy who has cared for Grace since he saved her six years prior. Due to some unfortunate events, Sam changes back into a human during cold weather, but he is finally able to meet and be with Grace in his human form. Sam and Grace must fight against the increasingly cold weather and other forces to keep him human and prevent what may be his last change into a permanent wolf.

I liked the author's variation on the werewolf fable, even though there were a few times that the temperature/season argument didn't work. The romance between Sam and Grace is believable in its human form, albeit sometimes boring, as they do regular things that grow a relationship, like watch TV together, go to the book shop and candy store, steal kisses, etc. Their love was sweet and sometimes sexy, with all the trappings of a first real relationship. However, the relationship seemed inauthentic in how easily they got along, with little conflict other than trying to keep Sam warm so he didn't morph back into a wolf. Even though they claimed to have been in love for the six years since the wolf version of Sam saved Grace, it was questionable and a little bit creepy to have that love translated automatically and without hesitation into a human form.

This book is told from both protagonists' POV, as indicated by a name at the top of each chapter. However, the two voices of the characters weren't distinct enough, and I found myself sometimes checking the top of the page to see who was speaking. Sam's voice was also a bit too overdeveloped and wordy to be believable for a boy of eighteen who's spent much of his life as a wolf. Each chapter also shows the current temperature. Other reviewers didn't like the temp being shown, but I thought it provided a heightened sense of urgency regarding the risk to Sam and his impending change that the book would have lacked otherwise. Compared to other YA authors, Stiefvater has a wonderfully lyrical and well-written style of prose, full of description and imagery. However, it went overboard at times as each description was flowery and dramatic. There were also some gaping plot holes in that Grace has completely absent parents, who never noticed that a boy was sleeping in their daughter's room for weeks; the whole "cure" was implausible in how the characters came about obtaining it; and the maturity, sensitivity, and emotional development of Sam seemed unlikely given his past.

Despite these qualms, it was a nice, enjoyable read overall, even if it didn't impress me like Lament did. I look forward to more from Stiefvater in the future, though, and I hope that some of the weaknesses in this book will be resolved in the next two in the trilogy, Linger and Forever.
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message 1: by Jules (last edited Jun 28, 2010 02:41AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jules I'm only about halfway through the novel, but to all you say I can only add WORD. You point out exactly the issues I have with this book - and the things I like about it. The fact that intimacy comes so easily to them - with Grace not having had a boyfriend before - distracts and disturbs me a bit; there could have been done more about it. When it finally did come (as in the bookstore), it seemed like too little, too late.

That the parents don't notice there's someone else in the house seems completely unrealistic, I totally agree. I mean, absent parents is one of the tropes of YA, but COME ON.

Then again, Stiefvater's take on werewolves is totally engrossing, and there are very beautiful passages... I just wish there'd been a better editor to point out the sometimes very disjointed narrative and thus help bring the plot together. There's real potential here, but as it stands I won't be able to give it more than 3(.5) stars, which I wish I could. :/

Angela No one has ever said WORD in response to any of my reviews before, either here or on Amazon. I think that may be the most fabulous compliment I've received, and I really mean that! Thanks. :)

But yes, it seems that we have some, if not most, of the same complaints. What was most disappointing for me is that I truly adore Maggie Stiefvater's writing usually, including both of her faerie books, Lament and Ballad, and the short story work she does on a blog (Merry Sisters of Fate). When Shiver failed to give me the same experience, it made me very sad. Despite this, I still plan to pick up the sequel, Linger, on its release date and see how it's better/worse/different. I'm really hoping for better, because I know the author has it in her.

Any further thoughts upon finishing the book, if you have yet?

message 3: by Jules (last edited Jul 08, 2010 04:13PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jules I finished it a week or so ago; I've been so busy preparing stuff for university that I tore through the last half without making notes :( Our (!) complaints still stand for me. I actually did like the cure though - but the ending was too fast! It felt anti-climactic compared to all the drawn-out descriptions before.

I still have a major problem with how intimacy is presented in this book. They've never touched each other with more than lips and then they land in bed together? I mean, seriously, WTH. (Sorry.) That's not what taking responsibility for your own body looks like for me - you gotta know what you're about before you do it. Also, why exactly is Grace always waiting for Sam to make the first step? Stiefvater took pains to make her mature and self-reliable what with the absenteeism of her parents, so that feels a) inconsistent with the prior characterisation and b) wrong - traditionally assigned role system, thank you very much.

I wish Sam had been a bit more wolfish, if you will. He really did seem way too normal, didn't he?

(Oha, I do remember a few things after all. Who would have thought? I'm sorry if this seems all very passionate, but the representation of intimacy is something I feel strongly about, especially in YA lit.)

message 4: by Angela (last edited Jul 09, 2010 08:23AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Angela First off, never apologize for being passionate about something! As for the intimacy/sex issue, I totally agree about how it should be considered more in lit, specifically YA, but its portrayal in this book didn't bother me.

Even if the progression seemed quick, which it was, I appreciated that it was presented as playful, consensual, and wanted equally from both partners. Very rarely do books show that. I was even more delighted to find on Stiefvater's website that consent was an issue she included intentionally in her book ( Admittedly, they didn't seem to have any real physical intimacy before the bedroom encounter, but I assumed at least something of a sexual progression because they slept together in bed each night, pressed against each other. Also, even though Grace was a very independent character that doesn't mean she would be that way when it came to sex. People can be quite paradoxical about this - being strong and forthright in their daily affairs but timid and cautious when it comes to relationships and/or sex. However, as you noted, some may read this as being an affirmation of gender stereotypes, but I didn't read it that way (and I usually would). And yes, I think about these things way too much, but that's because I used to be a sexual health educator, so I like discussing these topics and how people (like you!) view them.

As for the ending and the cure, that's interesting about your reactions because I had the exact opposite response! :) For me, the cure and its obtainment were ridiculous, but I liked the ending because it was decisive and provided closure without having to work through all of the small details. I'm going to read the next book, LINGER, when it comes out in a few weeks, but I would have been just as happy with the story ending with the first book.

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