Stiefvater, Maggie. Shiver (2009). 390 Pages. Scholastic. $9.99
Despite reading about this book in many blogs, and having several friends recommend it, I didn’t pick this book up for a long time. In fact, it took until I was standing in Borders, staring at it (and Linger) on the shelf before me for me to pick it up. When I flipped through a few pages, and noticed that the text was blue, and the paper a true white, I was sold.
I find unusual bindings, or printings, to be completely fascinating. I love when authors and publishers work outside of the box a little bit, and play with a well-established medium. (Within reason– it still has to be readable.) That is part of why I love Alice in Wonderland— things like the Mouse’s Tail, and other such playful printing.
I was hopeful, especially since I had just read Maggie Stiefvater’s “The Hounds of Ulster” in Kiss Me Deadly and had enjoyed it. She manages to use pretty language without going over the top, and it feels like she does get teenage emotions.
Anyway, Shiver is about Grace and Sam, and what happens when they are finally together. Grace has been obsessed with wolf!Sam since he saved her from a wolf attack. Sam has been obsessed with Grace since the same day. But they could not be together– he was a wolf, and she was a human. When he was human (in the summer) he could not find her because he did not know who she was, and because he could not reveal that he was her wolf. So Grace and Sam love each other from afar.
The story is set in motion by a wolf attack; a local high schooler is killed, and his father has enough money to get the town motivated to exterminate the menace. Grace is distraught, and rushes out to the woods to try to save the wolves she has grown to love. Except that she does not really succeed in doing anything. She is escorted home, which is where she finds Sam, naked, and wounded, curled up on her back porch.
It does not take very long for Grace to figure out that this is her wolf– Sam. His grasp on his humanity is tenuous at best, because the wolf-change is caused by cold, and it is wintertime in Minnesota. Grace and Sam cling to each other, desperate to spend every moment together until he loses his ability to stay human. Sam knows that this is his last winter, that when spring comes, he will not be human again, and he wants to spend as much time as he can with Grace.
Things cannot be that simple though, and there is a lot more going on. Grace’s parents are self-absorbed and negligent. Grace’s friends and classmates are difficult. And there are two very, very dangerous wolves in the woods. Sam has to deal with feelings of ineffectiveness, because when human, he lacks many of his wolf strengths, and Grace finishes growing up, and even calls her mother on her neglect at one point.
I had some reservations– boy and girl are in love but cannot be together. Boy and Girl are different, girl is human, boy is werewolf. Boy and Girl sleep in the same bed, but do not give in to hormones and have sex… for a while*. Boy and Girl are a little obsessed with each other. I mean, a lot of this sounds like Twilight, and in a weird way, it is similar. The overall obsessive tone was a lot less disturbing here, in part because there was a sort of explanation– he’d saved her life.
The writing grabbed me; it was fluid, lovely, poignant. Their love was the center of everything, and it was interesting seeing it grow from a distant love to a real, I’ll do anything for you sort of love. I feel like the emotions in the book could have been too advanced for high schoolers, except that neither of them were truly their age. Grace and Sam had both had to grow up far too fast, and had a lot more maturity than other kids their age, and that worked. It could have been obsessive, and a bit creepy– there was a fine line, and I feel like it managed to stay on the good side. This book scores a 5/5, because it manages to be all about Sam and Grace, without being just Sam and Grace.
* They give in on P. 294, but it’s one of those quiet “we got naked and then… CUT” sorts of scenes that seems to flourish in Y.A. fiction. I think if I suddenly had a gorgeous guy that I had loved for six years in my bed, we would not wait weeks. But that’s just me.