Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Never Too Much Supernatural Romance: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

I have been a follower of Kaleb Nation's quirky blog TwilightGuy for about a year now. Today I popped in and found out that he's just launched ShiverGuy, a new blog which will give us a male perspective on reading Shiver. I'm looking forward to hearing his thoughts.

I can see why Shiver has been so frequently compared to Twilight. It's a romance between a quiet high school girl and a haunting, tormented werewolf. It touches all the same chords. And, as Kaleb pointed out, it's popularity is snowballing much like Twilight's did. However, to me it stands very much apart from all the Twilight wannabees in the teen book world right now. Shiver is truly a book that stands on its own merits and would have found a rapt audience even without Twilight paving the way.

I found Shiver to be a more introspective book than the adrenaline-charged Twilight. Stiefvater's writing style is quiet and poetic. The language is so beautiful I found myself re-reading certain passages just to linger over the sound and imagery. The care Stiefvater obviously takes with the craft of writing is mirrored by her character Sam, the werewolf love interest in Shiver, who introduces Grace to the poetry of Rilke and writes love songs for her.

Stiefvater's characterization is subtle and interesting. Sam and Grace tell their stories in alternating chapters, and their relationship feels intimate in a way that I don't often experience when reading teen fiction. Heroes and villains are equally humanized by the end of Shiver. Stiefvater's depiction of the wolf world is just as complex. In many ways Sam and his pack seem more attuned to the natural world than Meyer's werewolves, and it calls to them more inevitably. It is wrenching to watch Sam fight for his humanity, and fascinating to see how some of the other werewolves adapt to and even embrace their cycles of change.

There is one scene in Shiver that I found truly disturbing, involving Sam's parents and his memories of their violence towards him when, as a young child, he first became a wolf. This scene, which is recalled twice, makes me hesitant to recommend this book to the tween crowd who lapped up Twilight. I think Shiver is a more mature story, for a slightly older audience.

Here is a link to Stiefvater's beautifully created trailer video for Shiver. (She's an artist and musician, too--a ridiculous amount of talent for one person to have.) I think it captures the mood of the book. Enjoy.

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