Book Review: Shiver

I've been banging about for a while, very much wanting to find a book to get lost in. The kind of book that sweeps you up, brings you on an adventure and leaves you satisfied, yet kind of sad that it's over. I've tried a bunch and they haven't been bad, some have even been very good, but there has been no real sweeping off my feet. Until last week, when I was poking through the latest releases on Audible and found a little YA book named Shiver. Looked interesting, so I got it and started reading. And was swept off my feet.

Written by
Maggie Stiefvater, Shiver is the story of Grace and Sam. Grace lives in Minnesota with her parents and it's the kind of fall that promises an early and cold winter. Her backyard comes up against the woods and in those woods, there are wolves. Grace has a thing about the wolves, an inexplicable connection and longing and a strange relationship with a wolf with yellow eyes who often watches her from the edge of the woods. One day, she meets Sam, who also has yellow eyes and they fall in love. Sam is a werewolf - her wolf from the woods - and in this universe, the change to wolf happens when it gets cold and over the years, the wolves get less and less summer, eventually staying wolf. This was Sam's last year as human and after he and Grace meet, he spends several weeks of a very cold autumn fighting hard not to change. But Shiver is not just a love story, it is also a story of friendship - Grace has several friends, relationships that are sketched with a sure hand - belonging, growing up, finding out who you are. staying true to that and about what you're willing to risk not just for love, but to remain you.
Within a very short time of starting the book, I called up a friend and told them that Shiver was what the the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer hoped to be (and you know how I feel about that drivel). The outline of the story is similar - Grace has rather flighty parents who wander off doing their own thing, leaving her to be the responsible one and creating enough room that you can fit in a supernatural boyfriend without them noticing. There's the supernatural boyfriend who can turn into a potentially dangerous animal, the girl's longing to be like him so they can be together, the struggle against other similar creatures less civilized and controlled. And so on. But Shiver is also very different from Twilight.
In this book, we are told that although there is a beast in the boy, the right boy will control the beast. Furthermore that it is not the girl’s role to not be tempting - act responsibly, yes, but a boy who truly loves you will treat you with respect and consideration. In this book, we're told that True Love is about mutuality, partnership and equality, not about the boy controlling the girl. Eventually, Shiver is somewhat less chaste than Twilight, but in an entirely lovely, natural, respectful and non-explicit way.
Unlike the damp and oppressive melancholy of Twilight, Shiver has more than one emotion. It takes us through the exquisite sweetness of first love, the intense joy, the awkward, passionate dance of finding out who you are together and the bittersweet tenderness between two people who are made for each other, but know that their time together is limited. There is melancholy, but it is a sadness that feels real, not unrelenting and rather contrived.
And then there's the writing. Which is beautiful. In many places, it approaches a prose poem, capturing your heart, connecting you to what is happening, both the joy and sadness. There were times when I was completely caught up in the intensity of the moment, biting my nails in the hope that things would turn out right, there were times when it brought me to tears because of the sweetness and beauty of the feelings between Grace and Sam and there were times when it made me cry for other, much sadder reasons. Stiefvater is a phenomenal writer, effortlessly drawing a scene in your mind's eyes so clearly that you're there, right there in the woods with the wolves, leaves dancing in the wind, the cold nipping at your fingertips and the smell of wolf, of pine and of the coming winter in your nose, even though you are sitting in your living room in the middle of summer. I'll have to read this book again so I can pay more attention to the writing and the craft of it and although I've just finished it, I don't think is going to be too long before I read it again. For the writing, but also for the story. Alas, Audible only offers Shiver but I hope eventually to read more of Stiefvater's work.The story is told in alternating voices, between Sam and Grace and is narrated by David LeDoux and Jenna Lamia, both of whom do a wonderful job performing the characters, rather than reading them. However, Lamia wins by a bit more than a nose, embodying Grace with her delivery of lines, modulation of voice, conveying emotion in such a way that it flies straight into your heart. This audio book is that rare thing: the perfect combination of writer and narrator.
Needless to say, I highly recommend that you go get this book. It appears not to be out in regular book form until this weekend, but when it does, go get it. And if you feel inclined at all, get the audio book version - you won't regret it. As for me, I have a vague plan to stock up on copies and hand them out to every person - especially teenage people - who thinks the Twilight series is the height of romance. Just to deprogram them, to show them a story of what love should really be like.


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