Book Review: Shiver
Publication Date: August 1, 2009
· Maggie Stiefvater
by R.J. Carter
Published: August 21, 2009
If you fall on the Jacob side of the Twilight triangle, then Maggie Stiefvater's romantic story of Grace and Sam is where you want to be. Using an alternating point of view narrative and employing a new twist on the legends of lycanthropy, Stiefvater sculpts a delicate story of a relationship most fragile.
For years, seventeen-year-old Grace has been fascinated with the wolves that live in the border woods behind her northern Minnesota home, despite having survived an attack by these same wolves when she was a little girl. Her perpetually absent parents have forced her to take on a level of responsibility most kids won't have for years, and her bookish introversion has also increased with all the time on her hands.
One wolf in particular, with piercing yellow eyes, has always fascinated Grace, and she has even managed to coax it out of the woods to come to her. But when the son of a powerful citizen is found mauled to death by wolves, the town mounts a hunting expedition to drive the wolves out of the woods. Grace races into the woods after the hunters to save both her friend Olivia, who is in the woods photographing the wolves, as well as the wolves themselves. But when her favorite wolf gets shot, something remarkable and unexpected happens, and Grace finds herself rushing an injured young man to the local hospital:
A second after Sunny was gone, Sam's eyes flicked open, and I jumped out of my skin, heart pounding in my ears. It took a long moment of staring at him for my pulse to return to normal. Logic told me to read his eyes as hazel, but really, they were still yellow, and they were definitely fixed on me.
My voice came out a lot quieter than I meant it to. "You're supposed to be asleep."
"Who are you?" His voice had the same complicated, mournful tone I remembered from his howl. He narrowed his eyes. "Your voice seems so familiar."
Pain flickered through me. It hadn't occurred to me that he might not remember his time as a wolf. I didn't know what the rules were for this. Sam reached his hand toward mine, and I automatically put my fingers in his. With a guilty little smile, he pulled my hand toward his nose and took a sniff, and then another one. His smile widened, though it was still shy. It was absolutely adorable, and my breath got caught somewhere in my throat. "I know that smell. I didn't recognize you; you look different. I'm sorry. I feel stupid for not remembering. It takes a couple hours for me -- for my brain -- to come back."
He didn't release my fingers, and I didn't take them away, even though it was hard to concentrate with his skin against mine. "Come back from what?"
"Come back from when," he corrected. "Come back from when I was..."
"When you were a wolf," I whispered. "Why are you here?"
"Because I was shot," he said pleasantly.
"I meant like this." I guestured toward his body, so clearly human underneath the silly hospital gown.
He blinked. "Oh. Because it's spring. Because it's warm. Warm makes me me. Makes me Sam."
I finally pulled my hand away and closed my eyes, trying to gather what was left of my sanity for a moment. When I opened my eyes and spoke, I said the most mundane thing possible. "It's not spring. It's September."
I'm not the best at reading people, but I thought I saw a glimmer of anxiety behind his eyes before they cleared. "That's not good," he remarked.
As love blooms like January Jasmine against the encroaching winter, the reader is introduced to a variety of characters from both worlds -- Grace's shy friend, Olivia, forever looking at the world through the viewfinder of her camera; Jack Culpepper, angry young man of privilege, and his snotty sister, Isabel; Beck, Sam's mentor and caretaker of the werewolves when in human form; and Shelby, emotionally damaged girl who prefers being a wolf and is very territorial of Sam. The tragedy of the affair is not that winter is coming, the unavoidable cold of which will force Sam to revert to a wolf, but that werewolves have a limited amount of time they can spend as a human, growing shorter and shorter with each passing year until they remain wolves perpetually. This is Sam's last year to be human.
Shiver is a tale of love and hope that will take the reader into areas of devotion that transcend despair, as Grace and Sam make the most of every moment they share before the inevitable must happen. In the interim, however, they must search for the newly-transformed Jack and lead him to the pack before his public appearances shed an unwanted light on the existence of werewolves, braving the increasing cold that threatens to tear them apart.