Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Coming of Age and Becoming a Wolf?--A look at Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver

In fairness, the high school years are hard enough on most of us, but if you were a wolf half a year, it would probably be a lot worse! If you were in love with a boy who was a wolf for part of the year, you might think that was worse too. I saw Shiver (an appropriate title, it gave me trembles) as a beautiful and terribly romantic coming of age story.
In Mercy Falls, Minnesota, Grace was attacked by a pack of wolves at the age of 11. They were going to devour her, when one wolf with yellow eyes prevented it--saved her. Since then she has had a fascination with that wolf. Over the years she watches her wolf. He watches her, from a distance. But the wolves are always mysteriously absent during the warmer months.

Very early into the book, another high school student is attacked and killed by the wolves, but there is no body. This sends the town into a frenzy and a hunting party into the woods. A mishap introduces Sam, Grace's wolf, to Grace and us in his boy form. And so the werewolf is out of the bag! I loved the fast pace. It kept me interested and turning the page.

The romance between Sam and Grace is a "love at first sight" kind of thing. Being a hopeless romantic and a firm believer in the possibilities of the impossible, this did not bother me, but I could see how a cynic would be. The love between Sam and Grace is genuine and authentic. Their primary struggle is keeping Sam warm so that he doesn't become a wolf. (Wolf to boy transitions are numbered, and this is Sam's last year to become a boy--so once he takes the form of the wolf again, it's over).

The other werewolves accept the fact that they will eventually be a wolf. Sam feels he loses himself by becoming a wolf. His fire to stay in his human form burns deeper than just the thought of losing Grace when he transitions again, though that is motivation. But he doesn't want to lose his cognizant abilities and the talents that make him Sam.

Grace has a greater self-awareness than Sam. She knows what her abilities are. She's very intelligent and extremely practical. She's the parent in her house and her parents live like teen-agers. Sam is protective of Grace. The book starts with him saving her life. However, something that intrigued me about this book was the way Grace took care of Sam. Grace kept Sam warm. She was the one heating up the car, and offering her lover her jacket, and keeping his secret. In a lot of ways, Grace is the stronger character. Grace protects the boy, and doesn't need a lot of protection. The strong female protagonist and Sam's transient life-style kept this from being another Cinderella story for me.

Perhaps, one of the darker elements of the novel, and one worth discussing are the parent figures. Sam's parents were atrociously abusive. Grace's are abusively neglectful. And Sam comes to the realization at some point, that an older werewolf whom he has always considered a father betrayed him in the most fundamental way. I read another review that claimed the negligence of Grace's parents was a plot device and absent that much of the book would have been impossible. It probably to some extent was, but there are a lot of neglectful parents in the world! That means there are many children who feel that no one cares about them, or live in abusive situations and with the actions of the other adults in the book, it seems unlikely that the characteristics of Grace's parents are just a plot device. I'm glad someone is writing something that teen-agers in less than ideal situations can relate too!

The ending was powerful! There is no other way to describe it. When I heard there would be a sequel, I wasn't so enthusiastic because I liked the ending. But after reading the first paragraph of Linger, the sequel, I felt there is sufficient ground for a sequel, and I'll read it.

It's a "young-adult fiction" fantasy romance. And it's good book, about all the unexpected way we find ourselves. If you can accept for that, you will love it. The words sing on the page. The back drop, situations and characters are beautifully written, without being overly descriptive. It's poetry in prose form. I'm sure the author hates this, but I have to say it. All the things that made Twilight so appealing, make this book appealing, and the writing is stronger, less melodramatic dialogue and more core. I'm disappointed that Hollywood overlooked this one.

No comments:

Post a Comment