I just finished reading Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. It’s part of a trilogy (Linger and Forever). I found it in the For Sale shelf at the Himmel Park Library in Tucson, and when I opened the cover, the voice immediately hooked me. And so I bought it.
I’m still not sure how I feel about the book. The writing is lovely in places, and so is the idea of the wolves, those large and wild creatures roaming through the background of the story. It’s almost as if I could feel them waiting at the edge of the pages. Sometimes, I swear that I could smell them.
Yet, I found it difficult to suspend my disbelief. I swore I’d never read anything with werewolves or vampires. And yet I just read a book about a young woman who falls in love with a wolf who is really a werewolf and becomes human for a short time each year.
I realize, of course, that this is a young adult novel and that supernatural themes are big (huge!) in the YA arena. No doubt young hormone-infused teenage girls find the idea of a wolf-man-werewolf falling in love with a teenage girl thrilling and romantic (if I were 13 again, I’d be swooning).
I also realize that reading is a form of magic that transports us to another time and place where reality no longer matters and animals can speak and people who are dead can come back to life.
Yet, I still didn’t buy the whole werewolf concept. Maybe it’s a flaw in the book or maybe I’m too old or cynical or practical (me? practical?) to believe that somewhere, someplace, werewolves exist or could possibly exist or might someday exist.
Because, you see, I live in Alaska, where there are wolves. Real wolves. And I’ve seen them while running trails (oh, what a gift, to see a wolf in the wild!). A few winters ago, there were problems with wolves following hikers and runners and attacking dogs. And about five years ago, a woman out jogging in Chignik Lake was attacked and killed by wolves.
So yeah, wolves are beautiful and magnificent and mysterious, and it’s fun to think that there’s a human-animal connection and that a wolf could possibly fall in love with a person.
I get that. It’s not realistic but it’s understandable.
But werewolves? I try but I just can’t. This was a major problem in the book, at least for me. There is no background or explanation, at least not in the beginning. There are simply wolves that turn out to be werewolves, and a girl in love with one of them (because of his sexy yellow eyes, you see).
It felt too sudden. It was kind of like sex without foreplay, at least for a woman. There was something unsatisfying about readers being asked to simply believe in werewolves without the author doing the hard work of convincing us first.
And there were minor inconsistencies that drove me crazy (mild spoiler alert ahead). Sam, the werewolf and one of the two first-person narrators, stays in Grace’s (the other first-person narrator) house for weeks without her parents realizing that he’s there. And yes, the parents are distracted and uninterested in Grace’s life. But another body in the house and no one hears or sees anything?
But the biggest inconsistency? Seasonal cold temps supposedly kick in the change from human to werewolf. And so Sam, who is trying like hell to remain human, must avoid the cold at all costs (the temperature is noted at the beginning of each section, a nice touch).
There are times when Sam is in danger of turning back to a werewolf by passing an open door. Other times, he tracks another werewolf through the woods or lingers with Grace outdoors, even though temps are low, and he’s perfectly fine. This drove. me. crazy.
Yet, I kept on reading.
I’m not sure why. Perhaps I needed a little magic in my life or perhaps the book reminded of the vast imaginings of my childhood. Whatever the case, I read and enjoyed a book I didn’t quite believe in or trust.
It doesn’t make sense, but I suppose that’s why we read in the first place, to make sense of the senseless.
I give Shiver 4.5 stars for young adults and 3 stars for adults.
P.S. Talking about paranormal young adult books, former Alaskan Nikki Jefford’s Aurora Sky series is on sale for a limited time.