Review: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater


title:  Shiver

author:  Maggie Stiefvater

pages: 390

format: Kindle

isbn/asin: 978-0545123266

buy it: Amazon  Goodreads  B&N

rating: 2.7/5 [in the genre] or 4/10 [all books I’ve ever read].

recommended for:  Fans of Twilight by Stefanie Meyer, Firelight by Sophie Jordan, or Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper. 

will i read this author again?:  Yes 
will i continue the series?:  I'm not sure yet.  Probably in the summer, when I have more time.  

My Ratings Explained

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.

the basics
I wanted to love this book and I just didn't.  Despite my immense admiration of Maggie Stiefvater, Shiver didn't give me the anticipated chills.  I had expected a werewolf Twilight with tighter plotting and better writing.  Although Shiver delivered on the writing, it mimicked Twilight in the one respect I disliked most--the romance.  As separate people, Grace and Sam are endearing and intriguing.  As a couple, they're saccharine, but it would have been tolerable, adorable even, if I'd believed in their romance.  That romance, unfortunately, occupies most of the plot.  Where Shiver truly enchanted me was its fanciful conception of werewolves, wholly original, if not scientifically brow-raising.  These cold-born creatures, more cursed than blessed, deserved a stronger scaffolding than a romantic romp.  Had there been more Isabelle, more violence, more mystery, more near-misses, I might have forgiven the insta-love.  Instead, I found myself turning to the last page feeling frustratingly dissatisfied and wondering what I missed.  Stiefvater's lyrical writing has convinced me to try others of her work, but I'm hesitant to return to Mercy Falls.  

plot . 2/5
The pacing in Shiver jerks around haphazardly, from the beginning time jumps spanning years to the protracted pages of endless sweet nothings.  It begins with a captivating scene: a young girl, attacked by wolves.  Then, we are flung into the future, where the girl is older and eerily obsessed with her attackers.  Too little was provided to span the gap and reveal the development of Grace's obsession, her love for her savior wolf.  I didn't even detect her feelings as love until Stiefvater told me they were a few chapters later.  And being told is not the same.  See below for further examination of this subject.  Suffice to say, the romantic bits were lost on me--though I do enthusiastically endorse the couple's consensual and reasoned approach to sex.  Sifting out the romance leaves little else, but that little was quite intriguing.  There's the strange murder of Jack Culpepper with a disappearing body; a jealous white wolf stalking Grace with a vengeance; an enterprising photographer caught in a trap; a vengeful Isabelle Culpepper driven to reclaim her brother at any cost.  Underlying all this is the harrowing onset of winter--and its inevitable tragedy.  Had Shiver focused more on these aspects, I'd have rated it much higher.  

concept . 5/5
Stiefvater's imagination shows through most clearly in her treatment of werewolves.  Her conception of the creatures is unlike anything I've read before, which made for a very refreshing interlude in a rather samey paranormal market.  Simply put, her wolves are turned by a bite, nothing new, but their changes are regulated by the cold.  Frigid temperatures incite a permanent wolfly state until the climes heat up.  It's extremely cool (ha ha), even though the skeptical segment of my brain wanted to know how that possibly made sense, scientifically.  There was also the bit about a "cure" that I found preposterous.  That said, I loved the winter wolf idea.  It colored Stiefvater's lupine characters with a shade of tragedy.  Unlike the powerful wolves in other lores, wolves who change at will or by moon and gain immense supernatural powers, these wolves are merely wolves.  Their changes are uncertain, and their powers are no greater than those of their wolfy body.  What's more, their changes are limited.  The older they grow, the less cold it takes, until finally they become wolves forever.  The cruel tragedy of this transformed Stiefvater's wolves from supernatural re-treads to deeply sympathetic oddities.  That tragedy added a much-needed tension to the flagging plot.  

characters . 4/5
Grace is unusual among paranormal heroines.  She doesn't read--not fiction, anyway.  She's blunt, socially uninterested, and unfailingly pragmatic.  I really enjoyed the change in a market awash with right-brained swooning beauties.  However, I couldn't help but dislike her for her cold treatment of her friends.  On the other hand, I found little fault with Sam.  It galls me to read all the reviews claiming he's a "wuss," "whipped", "not a man."  God forbid, literature contain any portrayal of the male gender not utterly riddled with masculine stereotypes!  I absolutely loved Sam for being sensitive, quiet, and thoughtful, for being shy to advance the relationship sexually, for writing stupid emo song lyrics that he'll probably cringe at in his 20s.  Good for Stiefvater for straying from the possessive bad boy mold.  

On the other hand, I wished for more of her side characters.  Isabelle was my favorite, more than Grace.  Her tenacity and snark were such a lovely break from the romantic murmurings.  I also found Grace's parents quite exaggerated.  I'll buy the absentminded parent thing, but no father who leaves his child in a hot car--to the point of near death!--is walking away without a CPS case.  Finally, Grace's friends and Sam's wolfmates got short shrift.  There just wasn't room for them.  

style . 5/5
The main reason I'll read more of Stiefvater, despite my disappointment with this book, is her writing.  Ignoring all the difficulties with pacing and plotting, I can only look longingly on her lyrical turns of phrase and wonder what magic created them.  So many of her descriptions are downright beautiful and deliciously clever.  I always admire an author who can say something old in a way that I'd never dreamt, in a way that makes it not only new but revelatory.  Her prose lent the book such a lovely, dreamy atmosphere.  And, besides a few hitches (alright, I think I've hit on my hatred for sap enough), her dialogue was sharp and plausible.  It pains me to see such a talent squandered on dime store romantic tropes.  

mechanics . 2/5
Not only is there insta-love, but there's insta-interspecies-love.  I'm perplexed.  What I saw was a girl suddenly deeply in love with the bleeding wolf-boy on her doorstep--heart-wrenchingly, achingly in love.  Of course, Sam reciprocates.  And every bit of it yanked me out of the story.  It's inconceivable to me that Grace could have been in love with a wolf, and then easily transferred this affection to the human within.  I could buy attraction, but the easy familiarity shared between Sam and Grace suggested a couple after a year, not a day.  Put off by the romance and its tenuous foundations, I found myself wading disinterestedly through much of the book's middle.  And it does seem to drag.   

take home message
Despite an unbelievable romance and slow pacing, Shiver stays afloat with its musical writing and imaginative treatment of werewolves.  It's a book that will appeal to the love-at-first sight crowd, but its focus on the romance frustrates the potential of its broader plot.  

Note: I purchased this copy.  The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.  

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