Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. 5095 lines. Kindle. 2009.

Wolves, winter, and Minnesota. Three of my favorite things. And it sounded so promising:

Grace, 17, loves the peace and tranquility of the woods behind her home. It is here during the cold winter months that she gets to see her wolf—the one with the yellow eyes. Grace is sure that he saved her from an attack by other wolves when she was nine. Over the ensuing years he has returned each season, watching her with those haunting eyes as if longing for something to happen. When a teen is killed by wolves, a hunting party decides to retaliate. Grace races through the woods and discovers a wounded boy shivering on her back porch. One look at his yellow eyes and she knows that this is her wolf in human form. Fate has finally brought Sam and Grace together, and as their love grows and intensifies, so does the reality of what awaits them. It is only a matter of time before the winter cold changes him back into a wolf, and this time he might stay that way forever.

But alas…

First of all, the story would have been so much more compelling had the wolf, Sam, actually been a wolf. If only his love for Grace and his need for her companionship, coupled with a life-threatening bullet wound, mystically transformed him into a human..if only he had willed himself into a new being for love, a reverse Beauty and the Beast of sorts. That’s very much how the summary read, but how deceiving! Instead, the author chose to go the much-travelled route of all recent teen love dramas, and wrote Sam as a werewolf.

I may have been able to overlook this over-used and horrible plot inadequacy had other aspects of the novel won me over. However, not only was the writing insipidly dull but there were limited descriptions of both location and characters. For example, I was surprised to find out that Sam had black, wavy hair. Why? Because there was no mention of his hair color until almost the very end of the novel. My mind had already filled in the blanks and created a different appearance for Sam. And it’s not as though I need blanket descriptions of every character in every book I read, but if you are going to assign features to a character, you should do it before the denouement.

The lack of description also lead to an unfortunate under-development of the love between Sam and Grace. For a love story to have an unconvincing first kiss is just devestating. And then not only is the reader subject to their confusing first kiss, but later the characters have sex in yet another scene that made my question the sincerity of writing. Their love was hardly developed, yet I could tell this scene, along with Sam and Grace’s argument the next day, was supposed to tug at some emotional heart string…but nothing…I felt nothing. As the reader this scene was neither touching nor romantic, nor was their argument heart wrenching. Their relationship felt shallow through no fault of their own. I felt the lack of characterization reflects poorly on the author’s writing abilities.

Finally, there were many aspects of this novel that made me think ‘Anti-Twilight‘. As in, the author wrote this book to be everything she felt Twilight wasn’t. Even down to the most minor of details: Bella is clumsy and Grace is not, and Bella is lit-oriented and Grace excels at math. Unfortunately for Stiefvater, although Twilight was rather elementary, it did manage to convince me of the relationship between Bella and Edward (and Jacob), and it managed to create plausible characters with a realistic plot that stemmed from these characters’ natural actions. Shiver felt rather forced. Twilight also managed to appeal to the 13 year old in me (in fact, many of my old diary entries sound pathetically like Bella). Shiver, however, accomplished neither feat and fell, predictably, flat. The novel read as one extended cliche after another.

I am uninterested in pursuing these characters’ lives in Linger.


2 responses to “Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

  1. I’ve been mildly interested in Shiver for a while and appreciate your honest review! I absolutely hate when I’ve formulated an idea about a character’s appearance only for an author to completely disrupt that later on. I agree; send out those tidbits early. Makes me crazy!

    Yours isn’t the only negative review I’ve seen, and the more I think about it… probably going to pass. Thanks!

    • Yea, I was disappointed. I had really liked the idea behind the book…and then she took the easy way out. I’m glad my review could help a little.

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