Background: I've been trying to hold off a bit on reviews, and release them closer to publication. However, Shiver (due out August 1st) has already been extensively reviewed around the blogosphere. And the author just released a book trailer and announced a contest to win copies of the book. So ... waiting didn't seem necessary. But I will post again on publication, to let you know that the book is available.
Review: Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver is, on the surface, a young adult fantasy novel about werewolves. But really, Shiver is a love story about two individuals longing for one another across a nearly impossible chasm. Grace is the only child of self-absorbed parents. As an 11-year-old, she is dragged out of her wooded backyard by wolves, miraculously saved in a manner that she doesn't later recall. After that she is fascinated by the wolves, especially one particular yellow-eyed wolf, with whom she has a special connection. She delights in the winter months, when "her wolf" is visible on the edges of the forest, and misses him when he vanishes during the summers. Six years later, in October, a boy named Sam turns up on Grace's doorstep. A boy with those same yellow eyes, and that same instinctual connection. A boy who is on the verge of turning back into a wolf.
Shiver is written in the alternating, first-person viewpoints of Grace and Sam. The readers is thus able to see their love evolve from both sides. Grace and Sam's time together is threatened various individuals, each with his or her own agenda. But the real suspense is driven by Sam's fight to hold on to his humanity, and hold on to Grace, for as long as possible.
Shiver is gorgeously written. Stiefvater's prose is filled with colors and scents and poetry. She makes the cold winter woods starkly beautiful, and makes Grace and Sam painfully vulnerable. Their love is a living, breathing thing. Grace is wryly humorous and introverted, a hyper-perfect child striving to please her absent parents. Someone who would choose watching a wolf out of the kitchen window over spending time with people. Sam has the soul of a poet and a desperate need NOT to be an animal, despite being literally and figuratively scarred by his life. They fit together like tree branches intertwined, impossible to separate.
I flagged passage after passage. Here are Sam and Grace:
"Behind the counter, I slouched on my stool in the sun and sucked in the summer as if I could hold every drop of it inside of me. As the hours crept by, the afternoon sunlight bleached all of the books on the shelves to pale, gilded versions of themselves and warmed the paper and ink inside the covers so that the smell of unread words hung in the air." (Chapter Four - Sam)
"I smiled at the stacks, inhaling again. Hundreds of thousands of pages that had never been turned, waiting for me. The shelves were a warm, blond wood, piled with spines of every color. Staff picks were arranged on tables, glossy covers reflecting the light back at me. Behind the little cubby where the cashier sat, ignoring us, stairs covered with rich burgundy carpet let up to worlds unknown. "I could just live here," I said. (Chapter Thirty-Two - Grace)
"It sounds stupid, but one of the things that I loved about Grace was how she didn't have to talk. Sometimes, I just wanted my silences to stay silent, full of thoughts, empty of words." (Chapter Forty-Four - Sam)
I also liked the character of Isabel, a spoiled rich girl who plays an increasingly important role in Sam and Grace's story throughout the book. Here's Isabel:
"Isabel's face was still wearing a pretty pout, but I saw storms destroying small villages in her eyes." (Chapter Twenty-Eight - Grace)
"Isabel made a noise that, if converted into a missile, had enough vitriol to obliterate a small country." (Chapter Forty-Two - Sam)
I must admit that I occasionally had trouble with the shifting viewpoints. This didn't happen often, but it sometimes took me out of the story, having to figure out if Sam or Grace was narrating. Still, I think that the enhanced understanding that I gained from the two perspectives far outweighed this as a negative. I do think that Shiver would make an excellent, two-narrator audiobook, though.
Despite being a "werewolf story", Shiver is much more a novel of atmosphere, characterization, and romance than of action. Like Stiefvater's first YA novel, Lament, Shiver captures love and longing perfectly. [Sarah Mulhern put this better than I did, saying: "Maggie Stiefvater may be one of the best writers I have ever read when it comes to creating chemistry between two characters. The love between Grace and Sam is palpable between the pages of the book." This is why I usually try not to read other people's reviews before publishing my own, because I can't top Sarah's assessment].
Fans of Twilight are sure to like Shiver - it has that same quality of romance against seemingly insurmountable odds, but with more nuanced characters. But really, anyone looking for a blend of romantic longing and supernatural chills will want to give Shiver a look. A sequel, Linger, is scheduled for fall of 2010. And that's a good thing, because Shiver (while resolved enough to stand alone) will leave readers wanting to read more about Grace and Sam. Highly recommended, and a must-purchase title for young adult library collections.
Publication Date: August 1, 2009
Source of Book: Advanced review copy from the publisher. Quotes are from the ARC, and should be checked against the printed book.
Other Blog Reviews: The Book Vault, Book Reviews by Jess, Angieville, The Reading Zone (Sarah calls it "a romance for the ages"), The Well-Read Child, Karin's Book Nook, etc.
Author Interviews: Wondrous Reads
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.