When Shiver came out last year, it was embraced by many readers as some sort of antidote to Twilight mania.
Unfortunately, that may have deterred Stephenie Meyer’s fans, which would’ve been a shame, given the rich and rewarding reading experience Shiver offers.
Maggie Stiefvater has created a beautiful, touching and haunting story about love, loyalty and freedom of choice.
As a child, Grace is rescued from a wolf attack by a pack member. She grows up watching him in the woods behind her house, sharing an unspoken bond with the wild animal.
That animal is Sam, and – just like the other wolves in his pack – he’s a werewolf. In winter he takes on his lupine form but in summer, returns to being a teenage boy.
The pair’s mutual obsession quickly grows to be something far more substantial. But their relationship is overshadowed by the fear Sam may not be able to hold his human form for long, and that he may have turned human for the last time. Sam must fight his nature – and the dropping temperature – to stop himself returning to the wild forever.
Stiefvater’s writing has a wonderful sense of poetry to it, like when Sam describes the intensity of his first kiss with Grace: “I was wild and tame and pulled into shreds and crushed into being all at once”.
It’s almost as if Stiefvater has gone out of her way to break the paranormal romance mould. Grace doesn’t fall for a hot guy who turns out to be more than he seems: she falls in love with the wolf first (not as weird as it sounds…).
In Shiver, humans are humans and wolves are wolves, even if they carry traces of their other selves when they transform. When Sam is a wolf, his behaviour, instincts and world view are all wolf. He’s not just a teenage boy with fur.
And Sam isn’t all broad shoulders and invincibility. He’s masculine and sexy in an understated way, but constantly vulnerable to the falling temperature.
I really loved this book. Stiefvater’s narration (alternating between Sam and Grace’s perspectives) is so beautiful I frequently had to force myself to slow down savour her words and the mood she so skillfully creates. It certainly transcends its YA tag.
And, of course, there’s the tactile experience of the book itself. It’s rare to find a hardcover on paranormal fantasy shelves, and this one invites the reader to endlessly run fingers over the beautifully designed and embossed cover. It marks this book as being something of substance, and – after devouring this story – I have to say the impression is not unfounded.
Shiver is the first in a trilogy (of course), with the next instalment, Linger, due out in July. I’ve got a long list of series books to look out for this year, but this one is now – without challenge – on the top of my list.
Check out Maggie’s excellent book trailer for Linger (her own work):
And for context, here’s the original trailer she made for Shiver: