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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

'Shiver' by Maggie STIEFVATER

From the BLURB:

For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf--her wolf--is a chilling presence she can't seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human . . . until the cold makes him shift back again.

Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It's her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human--or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.

‘Shiver’ is the first book in a romance trilogy called ‘Wolves of Mercy Falls’. This book is breathtaking. I absolutely adored it - so much in fact that it has become one of my all-time favourite YA books.

Stiefvater has twisted the werewolf myth in a most intriguing way. In her world lycanthropes do not come and go with the moon – rather they remain wolves through winter, and become human during summer. But as they grow older and remain wolves for longer, eventually the change stops and they remain wolf. This slight twist in the myth creates a real dilemma, and for Stiefvater’s characters lycanthropy is a true curse. It is a real hardship especially for our protagonists, Sam and Grace.

Sam met Grace when they were eleven and she was being attacked by his pack. Sam saved her, and for six years he has been forced to watch Grace from afar. Grace has always thought of Sam as her wolf – he watches her from the woods that border her house, his yellow eyes always in the distance.
In ‘Shiver’ Grace and Sam are finally able to meet when Sam gains two-legs. But they are still divided by the curse because Sam is sure this will be his ‘last time’ turning human. Grace and Sam try to fend-off the cold, postpone winter and prolong their romance.

“You’re beautiful and sad,” I said finally, not looking at him when I did. “Just like your eyes. You’re like a song that I heard when I was a little kid but forgot I knew until I heard it again.”
For a long moment there was only the whirring sound of the tires on the road, and then Sam said softly, “Thank you.”

Sam and Grace are wonderful leading characters. Grace is witty, independent and pragmatic; a protagonist that the YA audiences can admire and emulate.
Where many YA books lack authenticity for the simple fact that protagonist’s parents are non-existent, Steifvater turns absentee parents into a side storyline. Grace’s mother is a flighty artist, her father a self-important real estate agent. Grace is an afterthought to them, and her family unit is a contrast to Sam’s pack. Through flashbacks and Sam’s own storytelling, Stiefvater reveals the wolves to be loyal kin.

Sam is likewise a fascinating character. He observes that his most violent memories come from when he was human. It creates an interesting predicament – Sam misses himself when he turns wolf, but he is scared of himself when he’s human. Stiefvater has brilliantly created a war within Sam, and it is enthralling to read.

Sam and Grace are a very romantic couple. Most of their romance stems from the fact that their ‘fairytale’ is ultimately, tragic. Because Stiefvater has masterfully crafted ‘Shiver’ to read like a fairytale – complete with beauty, beast and a curse. Stiefvater imbues the entire book with a sense of doom and foreboding – leaving readers with the sense that an anvil is being held above their heads. Sam and Grace are incredibly sweet and there is plenty of sexual tension – but they love on borrowed time, and readers know it. It makes for a more intense relationship, a sharpened romance.

Stiefvater has sold the movie rights to ‘Shiver’ and it is heading for a 2011 release. It’s quite unfortunate that everyone keeps comparing ‘Shiver’ to the ‘Twilight’ franchise; it will always come down to “if you liked Twilight…” Which is a real shame, because ‘Shiver’ could stand on its own two feet as a beautiful and unique young adult fantasy.
Unfortunately there’s little doubt that ‘Shiver’ (like so many recent YA books) would never have been as popular, wouldn’t be turned into a movie and possibly would not even have been published had it not been for the ‘Twilight’ craze. What is truly ironic though, is that ‘Shiver’ is better than ‘Twilight’. Stiefvater is a far superior writer to Stephenie Meyer – her characters are vivid and charismatic, the plot is intricate and fulfilling and her writing is lyrical and spellbinding.
But, alas, ‘Twilight’ came first and dominated, and no matter how much you try to explain to its loyal tween audience that Ms. Meyer isn’t actually that talented a writer - they will not budge.

Slightly older audiences who are aware of the nuances in the ‘Urban Fantasy’ genre will recognize and appreciate ‘Shiver’ as the superior YA novel. And if ‘Shiver’ draws any comparison, it should be to the 1997 Annette Curtis-Klause novel ‘Blood and Chocolate’. Both are novels about teenage werewolves and their human lovers, both novels have a heated sexual relationship between their protagonists and both Klause and Stiefvater permeate their novels with a sense of doom.

I absolutely loved ‘Shiver’, and after reading it I went straight to ‘Amazon’ and pre-ordered the second novel in the series. ‘Linger’ is coming out July 20th this year, and ‘Forever’ July 2011.

5/5

5 comments:

  1. Ooh..a friend sent me this one and I have yet to read it. Will definitely start it soon. I have heard the best things about it.

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  2. I did not realize until recently that this was a werewolf story. I read another review and decided I had to read this one. Your review has cemented that decision.

    Although, I don't get the sexual relationship aspect if it's a YA...

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  3. i soooo want to read this book! it sounds amazing!! loved your review! im going to buy it now lol =))))

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  4. It took me a while to realize that I loved this book, but I did. It was one of those quiet, beautiful stories that, for me at least, took some time to process. I happen to have an ARC of LINGER and I'm hoping to get to it soon to see what Grace and Sam are up to.

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  5. Patti - there are no explicit sex scenes, but it's discussed a bit and there is an undercurrent of lust between Sam and Grace. Compared to 'Twilight', 'Shiver' deals a lot more with the topic of sex, and speaks about it directly.

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