Reading challenge book three: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Book three in my challenge to read one book (I haven’t read before) a fortnight in 2012 is Shiver  by Maggie Stiefvater.
This was actually meant to be book five, as I’m half way through what was meant to be book three and had book four lined up. But when this was sent to me I could only resist for a few days before cracking it open, and once I’d started it was difficult to stop.

Comparisons to Twilight are inevitable, although this has werewolves and there are no vampires in sight. It is, however, a love story, where the female protagonist, whose parents aren’t the most observant of people, falls for the otherworldly male protagonist. And of course, Stiefvater is tapping in to the insatiable need pop culture has for other beings, be they vampires, werewolves or something else. But that’s where the similarities with Twilight end.

Even though Shiver‘s target audience is probably teenagers, this is altogether a much more adult book than any in the Twilight series, and I felt comfortable reading it. Characters are well-rounded, the development of the main relationship in the book feels like development, and the emotions are all too human.

The protagonist, Grace, was bitten by wolves as a child. She recovered from her injuries with no side effects (she thinks), but is now fascinated by the wolf pack behind her home. In particular, she is drawn to a wolf with intriguing yellow eyes.

When a boy at her school is “killed” by the wolves some of the townsfolk head into the woods to shoot the wolves. Which is when Grace, running home, finds a boy with hauntingly familiar yellow eyes in her garden.

Taking him in, Grace learns more about the boy, Sam, and his life as a werewolf. Their relationship is, for them and for readers, a slow burn – both go into it knowing pain, physical and emotional, lies ahead. But because both are aware of each other’s shortcomings, it’s a decidedly adult relationship, something missing from Twilight with the weak Bella constantly pining after Edward.

The mythology here is well crafted, using simple tools. Stiefvater chooses the weather to act as the catalyst for why the werewolves change (guess that’s sort of a similarity with Twilight, where the weather also has an influence on some things). Cold makes the humans turn into werewolves, and they stay that way until the weather is warm enough. Grace has spent her summers up until meeting Sam missing the werewolves, without knowing why. 

To add a twist, eventually all the werewolves remain werewolves, no matter what the weather. It’s a concept which adds a sense of doom to the whole proceedings, and the tension builds throughout the book.

Stiefvater’s secondary characters are well developed. Grace’s friends Olivia and Rachel are mysterious and fun respectively, and Olivia especially plays a crucial role in some of the proceedings, although Stiefvater chooses to keep this behind the scenes until near the end. Other characters, such as Sam’s mentor/father figure Beck and Grace’s frenemy Isabel, are likeable despite their very, very huge faults, but that’s because Stiefvater isn’t afraid to show the negative parts of their personality.

Shiver is a well-crafted teen novel, which actually deserves some of the attention the poorly written Twilight received. Lucky for me, there are sequels, and I can’t wait to read them.

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