I have never read a purely werewolf book before. Werewolves as part of other stories, sure. But never a book that was only about werewolves. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about it, but I’ve heard good things about Shiver and I knew I liked Maggie Stiefvater’s writing style from reading The Raven Boys. And then Scholastic was awesome enough to send me the entire trilogy to review, so while I was on vacation last week, I plunged into the first book.
The Plot (from Goodreads)
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.
My impression on this first book was kind of a mixed bag. On the positive side, I still really like Maggie Stiefvater’s writing. She has a great way of pulling a reader into the story and describing things in ways that are almost tangible. Of course, a huge part of Shiver revolves around the highly unpleasant sensation of being cold, which I hate, so sometimes I kind of wish her writing had been a little less visceral…but that’s what I get for reading a book called Shiver. That’s really much more my problem than the book’s.
I liked Grace and Sam (Sam probably a bit more than Grace), and while the book alternated their first-person points-of-view, I never found their rotating voices confusing. Each had their own distinctive ways of thinking and reacting (Do emo rockers really make up spontaneous song lyrics all the time? Is that a thing?) and I actually found it a bit refreshing to not stay with the same character the whole way through the story. I think either of them on their own for the entire book would have been a bit much, as both of them are preeeetty intense and kind of obsessive. So switching was good.
I also liked the way the werewolf mythology was handled. It was an interesting take on the archetype, presented very straightforwardly without a lot of bells and whistles. The characters even say on several occasions that the transformation from human to wolf is scientific, not magical (although it never really does explore this supposed “science,” which kind of takes away from that argument). But I like that the origin story of the wolves was not the focus. They simply were werewolves, which they dealt with, then moved on.
Now the parts I wasn’t so sold on. First, Grace’s obsession with the wolves is creeeeepy. Seriously, the girl really should have been in therapy for most of her life. She had a crush on a wolf. A wolf she had no idea was human for several months out of the year. So basically, she has a romantic attraction to an animal and this is somehow okay because we know he’s a wolf. But she doesn’t.
Sam does the same thing. At one point, another character asks them how long they’ve been going out, and he answers “six years.” Grace muses, “Of course he would count the time that we’d been two entirely different species.” (p.282)
WHY ‘OF COURSE’? WHY WOULD YOU COUNT THE TIME WHEN YOU WERE DIFFERENT SPECIES AS ‘GOING OUT’? WHY IS THIS NOT EXTREMELY CREEPY?
And this leads to my other issue with the book, which is because they both are apparently under the impression that they were carrying on some sort of romantic relationship while Sam was a wolf — and Grace had no idea he could turn into a human — they plunge right into a super-serious relationship the second he turns human. Even though their entire scope of interaction until that point has been staring at each other across her backyard. WHILE HE WAS A WOLF. This is now something on which to base a deep, borderline-obsessive relationship, apparently. It seemed very instalovey to me, and I know it’s not supposed to because of the aforementioned wolfy staring, but I just can’t count that as the basis for any sort of healthy human relationship.
So. Obviously that bothered me. And their obsession with each other really was a significant portion of the book, which means a significant portion of the book bothered me.
However. I will read the rest of the series, and not just out of obligation. See, I’m pretty sure that I’ll only ever have to experience Grace and Sam “falling in love” (while he is a four-legged furry animal) in this first book. Hopefully subsequent books focus on other parts of the story, like the interesting secondary characters, and the aftermath of the end of this book (which is a pretty solid ending), and the other werewolves. And those are all things I’m interested in reading about.
Content guide: Contains violence and teen sexual activity