Thursday, 26 April 2012

YA Book Review: 'Shiver' by Maggie Stiefvater

by Maggie Stiefvater

Published: August 1st, 2009

Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Romance
Format: Paperback
Series: Wolves of Mercy Falls (Book 1)
Pages: 434

Cover Art

I really like this cover. I think it represents the book really well; it evokes the dark and twisted woods where the wolves lurk and the little heart-shaped leaf is a hint at the romance. Also, cold weather is a huge problem in the novel so the title 'Shiver' is very fitting!

Plot Synopsis

Grace and Sam share a kinship so close they could be lovers or siblings. But they also share a problem. When the temperature slips towards freezing, Sam reverts to his wolf identity and must retreat into the woods to protect his pack. He worries that eventually his human side will fade away and he will be left howling alone at the lonely moon. A stirring supernatural teen romance.

My Rating:

First Line:
''I remember lying in the snow, a small red spot of warm going cold, surrounded by wolves."  
Pocket-Size Review 
Highs: The alternating narrative between Grace and Sam: both really likable characters. The love story made me cry...tres adorable.
Lows: A tad cheesy in parts and probably could've been 100 pages shorter.


This book was really adorable. I loved Grace and Sam and their story. It was like 'Beauty and the Beast'...but instead of a selfish brute in a lonely mansion, we got a lovely, bookshop-working, raven-haired, yellow-eyed piece of man candy. The narrative alternates between Sam and Grace's point of view, which is something I think really works in romantic stories as it lets you know how each person feels about the other, and doesn't make it seem as though one is just really obsessed with the other! It also accentuated the differences between the characters, which was an aspect I really loved. Sam is sensitive and really into poetry and song lyrics and wears his heart on his sleeve...whereas Grace is stoic and unemotional and finds it hard to express herself. I loved that yin/yang aspect of their relationship; it made it much more believable and I could really relate to it from my own experiences!

I also liked the whole host of secondary characters and their relationships with Grace and Sam. I especially liked the way neither Grace nor Sam had perfect relationships with their friends and family, as it became a strong bond that they shared. Grace's parents are pretty useless and pay little attention to their daughter. Although they live in the same house, they lead very separate lives, and her mum and dad seem to shut themselves up in their studio/office and barely say a word to her or seem at all concerned about her well-being. Sam's parents...well...the less said about them the better. Let's just say they took some pretty gruesome drastic measures when they found out their son was a werewolf. I think these relationships help to explain why Grace and Sam have always clung to the idea of each other; despite not knowing each other at all for years before they meet, they watch each other and feel protective of each other.  They wanted unconditional love and believed the other person was a way to get it; thankfully, they were right.

Grace's troubled relationship with her friend Olivia at the beginning of the book was another aspect I loved. The way Grace felt, as though her friend was slipping away as they got older, and that she was having to work harder and harder to remain close to her friend, was very realistic. I think we've all been in that position where we have been friends with someone for years and then one day realise that we're not sure why we're friends with them anymore. Friends drift apart, especially when you're Grace and you don't have much time for the trivial worries of your friends when all you can think about is staring at a wolf on your back porch (burrrn).

I really loved the setting of this book. I wasn't keen on the name 'Mercy Falls' because it seemed a bit...tacky and lame but I love the woods and how much the woods featured in the book. They were dark and twisted and mysterious and seemed to enfold the characters and houses within their musky, piney branches. I like how Grace's feelings towards Sam are projected onto the woods as well; she gazes at them longingly and dreams of living under the golden leaves just as she dreams of Sam himself. The woods are transformed because she always waited for the wolves and wanted to live amongst them, and I think it was what made Sam really familiar to her when she finally saw him in human form- he smelt like the woods and they were a part of both of them.

This brings me to something else I enjoyed about this book: the emphasis on smell. Grace has an element of wolf in her since she was bitten as a child so, with the prompting of Sam, she gives in to her wolf-heightened sense of smell- a scene in a sweetshop was one of my favourites in the whole book. A lot of the sensuality between Grace and Sam came from them inhaling each others scents, and finding safety and security in the familarity of each other's smell. I loved this as it was very primitive and animalistic as well as being rather sweet and unique.

However, I did dislike some aspects of the book. This isn't the most complex of novels, and there is a lot of repetition of similes and metaphors throughout. There are no radical ideas or anything particularly original: there are no huge problems when Grace, a girl who has dreamt about a particular wolf/boy since she was little, finally has her dreams made a reality; he is everything she wanted and dreamed of. I thought it would be more interesting if, initially, she found it hard to reconcile the two ideas she had had of this boy and had more of a hard time getting to know him. But I guess that wouldn't have been as romantic, which is one of the purposes of the book. 

Another little thing I had a bit of a problem with was something I know my best friend would've hated if she had been reading this book: the focus on eyes. In young adult fiction, there is a tendency to focus on looks and eyes because it is less erotic and sexual then focusing on bodies and body language. Instead, the characters 'read' each others eyes and expressions and observe other characters emotions through looks in their eyes. This gets a bit annoying as it is pretty often can you say you have read something just from someone's eyes!? It takes the whole face at least!

I also found Sam's song lyrics pretty cheesy. I know some people love all the deep and meaningful stuff but, for me, the song lyrics were a step too far. I could handle him reading her poetry. I could handle him calling her 'angel' (even though I did cringe). But beyond that I did find myself smirking at the cheese...especially because Grace isn't the kind of character who you would think would appreciate that sort of smushy-ness!

Despite the few down sides, I did really, really enjoy this book. It was cute and did choke me up a little in places! I really believed in the characters, as I felt they were multi-dimensional and more complex than average. I will definitely be reading the sequel!

Other Thoughts

This Book has Inspired me to Read: The rest of the 'Wolves of Mercy Falls' Series.
Three Words to Describe this Book: Cute, Lupine, Shivery

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  1. Great review and a rating. I loved the writing style in the Wolves of Mercy Falls series, but like you I found the lyrics and poems a little overdone, which pulled me a little out of the story. My favourite of the series is the second, Linger - in the end I found Isabel by far the most interesting and compelling character.

  2. What a lovely review, Anna! You made some great points and I hadn't thought about it but you're right about all the eye-conversations in YA!

  3. I LOL'd at this, "a lovely, bookshop-working, raven-haired, yellow-eyed piece of man candy" Hahaha. Good one. ;)
    I loved this book so much. One thing I loved was the temperature reading at the top of every chapter! Really racheted up the tension as the temps drop and the inevitable wolfing out draws nearer.

  4. Great review! I especially like your 'other thoughts' on the book and 3 words to describe it. :)

  5. I've been meaning to read this for ages! I saw some great reviews for it and finally got around to buying not just this book but all 3 (from The Works for a fiver!) a couple of months ago. I still haven't read it yet, but I'm more determined to now I've read your review.

  6. I read this book awhile ago, and I agree with you about the whole yin-yang aspect to Sam and Graces relationship! I really liked how you pointed out the whole eye thing, it's not something that I noticed before but now when I'm thinking back on it they did have a lot of eye conversations...
    Thanks for the great review!

  7. I feel like this cover is so much darker than the blue one, I like the eerie factor.

    I love this review, Anna, I agree with you on pretty much all of it (especially the cheese factor!). I LOVED your comparison to Beauty and the Beast, I had not even thought of that before, and it is so perfect! I also really agree that there could have been more of an internal struggle for Grace, but I did enjoy the story overall. Interested to hear what you think of the sequels, I still haven't read them. I started Linger, but wasn't getting into it, so set it aside for the time being.

  8. Great Review! I liked Shiver but I couldn't get into Linger and I ended up not picking it up again yet, I always debate whether or not I should but, I just couldn't connect.

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