Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Review: Shiver (Wolves of Mercy Falls #1) by Maggie Stiefvater
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
While this book is a great improvement over many YA romance tales, I was overall unimpressed with this love story between a girl and a werewolf. There was potential for an interesting story, but, instead, we're treated to pages and pages and pages of longing sighs and people wanting to do things to each other.
Shiver is about Grace Brisbane and Sam Roth, the aforementioned girl and her wolf. She's attacked by wolves when she's 11, and Sam saves her. Six years later, wolves attack and kill a boy in her school, and she runs out to stop the town's menfolk from shooting "her" wolf. But the gunshot makes him switch back to a human, for some reason, and she takes him home to keep him warm, because the cold is what makes him turn into a wolf.
The vast majority of the book is these two playing house. They sleep in the same bed, with nothing more scandalous than kisses exchanged. She makes him dinner. He eventually meets her absent parents. They talk about how much it'll suck when he turns back into a wolf. (And I was never sure how they knew he'd never be human again.) Grace goes to classes, sometimes, and occasionally the real world intrudes on their cuddling, but mostly, it's a book about teenagers in love.
Considering how aware they both are of how short Sam's time is, they certainly take their time with the relationship. Every time they pulled away from one another, I wondered why. They both consider the 6 years of mooning after one another (before she even knew he was human) to count, as far as how long they've loved each other. So why do they sit back and wait? Very odd.
It doesn't help their case at all that the threats to their relationship are abstract. There's no countdown, nothing they can fight against. The major conflicts (hunters in the woods, Shelby) just fizzle out. Without anything for them to do about the inevitability of winter, I had a hard time rooting for them. It feels like they spend most of the book puttering, wasting time until the conclusion.
It also felt like there was a lot of telling. The phrase "as if" seemed to stand for, "I don't want to describe what this looks like, so this is what they're doing." There were a few times when it was used correctly, but, for the most part, it stood in for describing character motivation. Also, we're told Grace is insensible to others' inner workings, but I never saw that reflected in her choices or judgments. She trusts Sam right off the bat, after all, and she isn't wrong.
There were aspects of the book I liked. Grace's parents were self-involved and neglectful, but they weren't bad people, just bad parents. Grace is an overachiever, because she's taken care of herself for a long time, to which I can relate.
I also liked Grace's friends. Rachel fades into the background a bit, but Olivia's role was fairly integral to the plot. I liked that Grace's friends didn't vanish once she "met" Sam. Other characters also matter, and they clearly have their own worlds and motivations.
I listened to this on audio, narrated by Jenna Lamia reading the Grace perspectives, and David Ledoux reading the Sam perspectives. Unfortunately, even with different readers, it became clear to me that both voices sounded the same. Sam was meant to be poetic, always writing song lyrics in his head, but I never felt anything lyrical in his word choice. Grace's practicality didn't show in her sections, either. Ms. Lamia's reading had a wistful note that added humanity to Grace's character, but Mr. Ledoux's often sounded whiny, or younger than the 18 years he's supposed to be depicting. Weirdest of all were the parts where they're reading dialogue for the other character. They could've at least tried to imitate one another's cadence.
Overall, this book is better than a lot of YA romance, but that doesn't mean I'd recommend it. If you're fourteen and falling in love for the first time, it's probably great. But I never felt like the conclusion was anything but inevitable, or that anything they did would change it. Nihilism is fine for a life philosophy, but it's no way to write a book.
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