Posted by: Natalie | June 9, 2010

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Back in March I read a post by Becky Levine about this teen fiction book. Before I go on, should you wish to read a post about Shiver that does not leak plot spoilers, then please click above to read Becky’s review. Mine may inadvertently do so.

The aim for my own work is that cusp of 9-12 fiction into teen fiction. I am aiming for the more able among the junior readers without broaching subjects that are still too mature for them. So, I like to do a little research, I like to have a little dip every now and again into both these age ranges, just to see where my book sits. Shiver is a good book, but even for the teen genre I think it is a little risqué – maybe I’m just a prude?! I don’t know. I would even say this borders on adult fiction. But even though it is so far from my target audience, I did enjoy reading it – it might also have something to do with the fact that it was read under the bright sun on the coats of the Lleyn Peninsular.

I have not yet read any of the Twilight series that has vampires and werewolves as its main subjects, so I have little to compare it to. In fact, I don’t think I have ever read anything about werewolves before, save references to Professor Lupin in Harry Potter. I wasn’t entirely sure how I would take to it, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Maggie Stiefvater has a wonderful writing style – gritty yet sensitive and thoughtful. The story is told from the first person point of view of the two lead characters, Grace and Sam. These two embark on a terrifyingly intense love story and you would not be human if at the very least a lump did not form in your throat for the closing chapters. And despite one of the pair being a werewolf, they tread a very believable and very touching path that includes the obviously awkward teenage thoughts and moments that make us all cringe! It is a very real love affair that quite rightly could be put alongside other great love stories.

What makes it so touching is the underlying fear of Sam’s demise. The lifetime of a werewolf, according to Stiefvater, is a complex one – but ultimately limited. With each onset of winter the human form is lost until warmer weather enables them to turn back. However, this changing from one to another cannot last forever, and eventually the last summer will arrive. Then the werewolf shall live as wolf until their death, possibly within 15 years. This is Sam’s last summer and finally he has had the opportunity to really love the girl he saved six years before. Grace and Sam have watched each other over this time, obsessed and fixated and when the two finally are given their time together, there is a desperate struggle to understand that soon they will loose one another forever.

The side plots that twine in and out of this main thread are just as important and make a rich, detailed narrative. The elements of each character’s past are subtlety written to give a clear understanding of just why the lead emotions are so strong, without making it ridiculous. You truly believe that this story could be occurring right now in our world. It is beautiful.

However, despite all this, I did rush through the final pages. I got a little bit bored. There is so much intensity that I was fed up with it by the end. I felt a little battered with it and with twenty pages to go I felt like screaming, “I get the point! They love each other! OK?!” I like tragic love stories that don’t have, or don’t seem to be able to end happily (the sadist in me!) and this hits all the right buttons, but I finally understood what others sometimes see. Caroline, for example, is irritated by Cathy and Heathcliffe’s love affair (I heartily disagree but each to their own) and just sees their intensity as ridiculous. As much as I understand the reasons for Sam and Grace’s equally strong bond, I did get irritated by them and found myself wanting to shout at them.

But there is absolutely no doubt, teenage girls will love this book and devour it in one. They will find it on that edge of dangerous reading that they think maybe they shouldn’t have in their hands just yet. And you know what? That’s a brilliant place to be, because even though it does tackles the issue (however lightly) of teenage sex, it will make teens want to read! And a book that inspires people, however old, to read more and be excited by books, to me is a work of genius.

Do not be put off with my teenage tantrum, I did have a sob held back for the vast part of the climax, so it clearly works. You should at least give it a go. And if you like, I believe their is another instalment due this year titled, Linger. I’m not sure I am a complete werewolf fan yet, but I will probably be running my fingers down the spine of Stiefvater’s next work as soon as it hits the shelves!

This week I am mostly reading Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire. Can I also say a big TA to Helen for adding The Water Horse by Julia Gregson to my pile!

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