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The Mo(u)rning Letters, by Jenny McWhaSee more The Mo(u)rning Letters »
Meet GCDA's Book Review Writer, Jenny McWha
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
BOOK REVIEW, August 2010, by Jenny McWha
by Maggie Stiefvater
As you GCDA readers can see from my recent reviews, supernatural fantasy is really hot when it comes to young adult literature right now. I’ve brought you vampires, I’ve brought you fairies, and now, with Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver, I bring you werewolves. Don’t be fooled by the premise though... when I picked up this book I was a little hesitant to be reading about yet another mythical creature, but the book is really different, in a good way, from other supernatural romances for teens.
Shiver tells the story of Grace, a girl whom wolves attacked as a child while playing in her wintry Minnesota backyard. Somehow she survived, and in the years since she feels a special connection with those very wolves, especially a yellow-eyed one who watches her from the trees year-round. It also tells the story of Sam, a typical eighteen-year-old who, after a wolf-bite when he was a child, happens to turn into a wolf when the temperature drops to a certain level. He’s been watching Grace ever since he saved her from the wolves years ago. They meet after a bullet rockets Sam back into his human form. And once they see each other - well, sparks fly. Now they have to work together to keep Sam warm enough to stay in his human form while attempting to find Jack Culpeper, a local teenager who has been presumed dead but has really become a werewolf himself.
THE GOOD: I really liked how the supernatural element was handled in this book. There weren’t tons of explanations, mainly because no one, not even the wolves, had explanations. It’s a mix of science and magic, both left to the reader to untangle and think about on their own time. There isn’t a large community of wolves... Sam is part of a kind of pack but they rarely see or speak to a larger group of wolves. Reading it, I could actually imagine something like this happening. I also liked the twist that temperature, instead of the classical full moons, brings on the change from human to wolf. Also, once you’re changed, you’re a wolf and pretty much every aspect of humanity leaves you, allowing animal instincts to take over. However, most of the novel takes place with Sam as a human and I would have really liked to have seen more wolf narrations. Stiefvater’s writing is nice, has a quick pace, and isn’t challenging at all so it’s great for people who aren’t big readers but want an engaging and interesting book. The characters are also fun, but sometimes I liked the leads and sometimes found them not very 'teenagery' at all.
DOWNSIDE: I sometimes found the writing a little flowery, maybe even a little cliché. This is especially true with the song lyrics that are included in the story, more top twenty than I really like. But, they were fun and added to the story, and the writing in no way took away from my enjoyment of the book. Maybe I’m just too cynical and you can tell me your opinions in the comments, but I found the romance a little boring and repetitive. However, I must remember that I probably would have loved it as a young teenager! At least the romance isn’t dragged on in a “will they, won’t they” plot. It starts off pretty early and there’s lots of fluffy romantic scenes to satisfy anyone. I previously said I liked the leads but found some of the supporting characters a little two-dimensional (except for Isabel Culpeper, who proved that annoying popular girls can still want to help others while continuing to be annoying).
I also have a couple of non-story gripes. I believe the font was printed in a dark blue instead of black font, which was really weird at first. Also, there are nice convenient temperatures at the beginning of every chapter, which probably make no sense to us Canadian girls because they are in Fahrenheit. I just had to gage the temperature from the story itself.
AGES: 13-14 and up since there are a couple of intimate scenes. Not too graphic, but there are descriptions.
OTHER BOOKS: One reason this was really interesting was the fact that it was a “winter fantasy,” one of these books where the winter, the cold, and the snow are a very important setting, almost hedging on becoming a character. I haven’t read many books that fall into this category but if you’re interested, Juliet Marillier’s 'Wildwood Dancing' is excellent. It is set in Romania and uses a lot of their mythology and mythological creatures (including vampires!). It very much has a fairytale feel, with all the delicious darkness included. If you want more werewolves, I highly recommend Annette Curtis Klause’s 'Blood and Chocolate'. It is another werewolf book that refuses to follow the traditional path of teen supernatural romances (and in case you’ve seen the movie, the book is so much better). And of course, the sequel to Shiver, 'Linger', which takes place in the spring after this book ends, is out now!
RATING: Two thumbs up!
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August 2010 Blogs
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