It’s heatwave time in Toronto (finally). I’m wishing I felt a little shivery right now. Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver is the perfect book to give you goosebumps when nothing else will do it. Great heatwave reading. There’s serious romance, ill-fated love, and a whole lot of atmosphere in this much-hyped novel. I must admit that when I heard the book pretty much launched only to land straight on the NYT Bestseller list, it almost made me not want to read it. NYT Bestseller does not automatically equal good. It often equals easy and unoriginal and sometimes even yawn-worthy. I will now say that Shiver is not that type of NYT Bestseller. Rather it is a NYT Bestseller that deserves it’s spot in the spotlight. Of course, Maggie’s adorable reaction makes you want to root for her success big time. (Cuter still is her reaction to moving up the list).
It’s hard not to feel your inner literary green-eyed monster rearing its ugly head when you realize that Maggie is not only a NYT Bestselling author, but she’s also lots of other artsy things too; an artist, a musician/composer and the author of the much-praised YA fairy title, Lament, and its soon-to-be released sequel, Ballad. But then you read her blog and she seems just lovely and instantly you are on the Maggie team, cheering louder than everyone else. Go harpists everywhere! Maggie is also very good at making little videos / book-trailers about her work. Her trailer for Shiver has to be one of the loveliest I’ve seen:
Isn’t that perfection? Well the book measures up in every way, right down to the moody silvery-blue colour of the print. Love that detail. (Well done Scholastic!) Time for a little plot: Grace has spent a lot of years watching the woods in her backyard. She watches for the wolves who winter there. She has always been fascinated by them, particularly the one with the yellow eyes, who stares back at her in a way that feels familiar. No one understands her obsession, especially after a wolf attack occurs in town, and so she keeps it mostly to herself. This isn’t hard until she meets Sam. Sam is a wolf – Grace’s wolf. He becomes human in the summer months and returns to the woods as a wolf in the wintertime. Their love is impossible and dangerous and can’t possibly have a future. Now go get the book and find out what happens!
Maggie’s writing will impress you. I thought the setting came through in wonderful detail, with so much focus on capturing the changing seasons in the woods. You can feel winter coming as you read, and that creates this sense of futility and urgency for the characters, drawing you in all the more. Some of the scenes stand out as particularly vivid: when Sam takes Grace to the candy store, when they go to the woods together, and the final scene. Here’s just one of many passages I bookmarked:
Some days seem to fit together like a stained glass window. A hundred little pieces of different color and mood that, when combined, create a complete picture. The last twenty-four hours had been like that. The night at the hospital was one pane, sickly green and flickering. The dark hours of the early morning in Grace’s bed were another, cloudy and purple. Then the cold blue reminder of my other life this morning, and finally the brilliant, clear pane that was our kiss.
Maggie is excellent with delicate imagery that stays with you, and yes, Sam is entirely crush-worthy. There is suspense here, but the real force of the story is the love between the main characters. For a great part of the novel, it’s just the two of them, holed up together trying to make their time last as winter comes. If Sam and Grace weren’t so interesting, and their connection wasn’t believable, this book would fall flat. Instead you will be wrapped up in their story, completely absorbed by their relationship until the last page.
Please nobody say this is a book for Twilight fans. Please don’t. I’m beyond tired of that. Let’s just admire this book for itself, without comparing it to other bestsellers. Shiver is a book for anyone who enjoys poetic writing, who wants romance that is believable and timeless, and who can appreciate its beautifully melancholy mood. Oh, and in case you still sort of feel jealous of Maggie, this Shiver play-doh tribute will force you to like her. An author who can poke a little fun at her own book is my kind of author:
Finally, you should read this excellent interview with Maggie by R.L. Lafevers. I read it and I was surprised when Maggie mentioned she dreamed of writing a YA book as memorable and affecting as The Time Traveler’s Wife. I couldn’t believe it because I read Shiver at the same time as I was finishing The Time Traveler’s Wife and I thought that those two books made the perfect YA/Adult pairing ever. Go figure. Guess Maggie succeeded!
Shiver is published by Scholastic and it is out there now, climbing the charts. Linger, the sequel, will follow in Fall 2010.