Interesting twist on werewolf love w/room for improvement, 3.5 stars
After reading Maggie Stiefvater's debut novel, Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception, I couldn't wait to get my hands on Shiver. Sadly, it didn't grab me in the same way.
Shiver tells the story of Grace, a high-achieving but quiet high school junior, who is engrossed by the pack of wolves that roams outside her Minnesota home each winter. She has a special connection with the wolf with yellow eyes, as this wolf saved her from the pack's attack when she was eleven. We quickly learn that the wolves are actually shape-shifting humans that turn into wolves each fall and winter and then become humans again in the warmer months; as time passes and the cycle repeats, each person gets less and less time as a human until he/she ceases to change back anymore. The yellow-eyed wolf is Sam, an eighteen year old boy who has cared for Grace since he saved her six years prior. Due to some unfortunate events, Sam changes back into a human during cold weather, but he is finally able to meet and be with Grace in his human form. Sam and Grace must fight against the increasingly cold weather and other forces to keep him human and prevent what may be his last change into a permanent wolf.
I liked the author's variation on the werewolf fable, even though there were a few times that the temperature/season argument didn't work. The romance between Sam and Grace is believable in its human form, albeit sometimes boring, as they do regular things that grow a relationship, like watch TV together, go to the book shop and candy store, steal kisses, etc. Their love was sweet and sometimes sexy, with all the trappings of a first real relationship. However, the relationship seemed inauthentic in how easily they got along, with little conflict other than trying to keep Sam warm so he didn't morph back into a wolf. Even though they claimed to have been in love for the six years since the wolf version of Sam saved Grace, it was questionable and a little bit creepy to have that love translated automatically and without hesitation into a human form.
This book is told from both protagonists' POV, as indicated by a name at the top of each chapter. However, the two voices of the characters weren't distinct enough, and I found myself sometimes checking the top of the page to see who was speaking. Sam's voice was also a bit too overdeveloped and wordy to be believable for a boy of eighteen who's spent much of his life as a wolf. Each chapter also shows the current temperature. Other reviewers didn't like the temp being shown, but I thought it provided a heightened sense of urgency regarding the risk to Sam and his impending change that the book would have lacked otherwise. Compared to other YA authors, Stiefvater has a wonderfully lyrical and well-written style of prose, full of description and imagery. However, it went overboard at times as each description was flowery and dramatic. There were also some gaping plot holes in that Grace has completely absent parents, who never noticed that a boy was sleeping in their daughter's room for weeks; the whole "cure" was implausible in how the characters came about obtaining it; and the maturity, sensitivity, and emotional development of Sam seemed unlikely given his past.
Despite these qualms, it was a nice, enjoyable read overall, even if it didn't impress me like Lament did. I look forward to more from Stiefvater in the future, though, and I hope that some of the weaknesses in this book will be resolved in the next two in the trilogy, Linger and Forever.