Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater


When Grace was a little girl, she was bitten by wolves. They pulled her off the tire swing in her backyard and dragged her into the woods. Grace remembers only one of the wolves. The one with mesmerizing yellow eyes. The wolf who stopped the attack.

For six years after the attack Grace sees the yellow-eyed wolf in the woods behind her house. She watches him, he watches her, and they fall in love.

Grace's wolf is only a wolf in the cold of winter. Under the summer sun, he is Sam and he is very human.

Shiver (Scholastic Press, 2009) is a paranormal romance for young adult readers by Maggie Stiefvater. It is very romantic in the more traditional sense of the word: It focuses on and moves readers to focus on nature, the imagination, and emotions. This is wonderful. The woods and the weather have prominent roles in the story. (In fact, each chapter begins with the temperature for that day or time of day.) Stiefvater succeeds in building an atmosphere of mystery and suspense around Grace, Sam, other wolves, their friends, and their small town of Mercy Falls, Minnesota. Readers will keep turning the pages of Shiver because there are always intriguing questions raised about the characters. Many questions are answered by the end of the novel. A couple unanswered questions are moving me to read Linger, the sequel to Shiver.

But a couple other unanswered questions annoyed me.

"Of course," she said, and her voice was frustrated. "Magic would be intangible. Science has cures. Haven't you ever wondered how it all started?"

I didn't open my eyes. "One day a wolf bit a man and the man caught it. Magic or science, it's all the same. The only thing magical about it is that we can't explain it."


The passage above is from a conversation between Sam and Grace (pg. 244-245 in the hardcover edition of Shiver). As seen in the passage above, no back story is provided to explain the origin of the wolves or to explain their condition. Throughout the novel, Sam is dismissive of his wolfish background. This is consistent with his ambivalent feelings toward being a wolf. However, the absence of a back story made suspending my disbelief about the wolves a little difficult.

Perhaps these questions will be answered in Linger? Regardless, Shiver should be able to stand on its own.

Stiefvater also succeeds in expressing and evoking a swirl of emotions for readers: love, desire, obsession, confusion, sadness, and so much more. Sam's struggle with his identity - Is he man or is he wolf? How can he possibly be both? - is convincing and moving. (This is greatly helped by the novel alternating between Sam and Grace's points of view.) And Stiefvater brings readers to really feel and explore this question: How can a girl and a wolf boy truly be together? The yearning, oh the yearning, Sam and Grace feel for each other is palpable.

As a reader, I was less than satisfied with the paranormal aspect of this novel, but thoroughly satisfied with its love story. As impossible as this love story seems, it will speak to the emotions of teen readers and to the teen inside all of us.


[I bought my own copy of Shiver.]

12 comments:

Chachic said...

Oooh I'm glad you picked this up! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. Shiver is, at its core, a love story and such a sweet one at that. I kind of liked where it ended so I'm not in a hurry to read Linger but based on the reviews that I've read, it seems like Linger is pretty good too.

Tarie said...

Hi, Chachic! Thanks for commenting. :D I'm not in a hurry to read Linger either. But will definitely read it!

jama said...

Howlin' good review, Tarie! :)

Tarie said...

Thank you, Jama. That means a lot to me coming from you!

Niranjana said...

I'm with you on the less-than-satisfactory paranormal aspects--I just did not buy the reason why they couldn't shift to a warmer climate, or at least, a place with a shorter winter. And that girl who just *knows* how to draw blood? C'mon! Gotto say, I'm not bothering with the sequel.

Tarie said...

Hi, Niranjana!

Yeah, the lack of adequate and convincing world building in the novel was frustrating. =(

Robyn Bavati said...

Only just discovered this blog this morning. I love its title and the rationale behind it. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe was one of my favourite children's books - probably still is. Haven't read Shiver yet but your review of it sounds honest and you haven't fallen into the trap - recently blogged about quite widely - of thinking every word must be positive.

Tarie said...

Thank you so much for visiting and reading, Robyn. :o)

Your novel Dancing in the Dark sounds really entertaining!

sumthinblue said...

Hi Tarie! :) First time to comment on your blog (I've been lurking)

I'm not a big fan of the paranormal genre, so I was surprised I liked Shiver. For the most part, I enjoyed Stiefvater's prose. There's something musical about her writing

Tarie said...

Helloooooo. :o) At first I didn't like Stiefvater's descriptions of the setting. But after a couple chapters I started enjoying her prose too!

Ms. Yingling said...

There were some things that bothered me, too, but my students like it. Linger has such pretty green print, but that shouldn't matter, should it?

Tarie said...

Ms. Yingling, of course pretty print matters! :o)