October 15, 2010

A guestbloggers review of Shiver and Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

Shiver (Hardcover)Linger (Wolves of Mercy Falls, Book 2)Forever

 This review is brought to you by my bookclub bestie Jeannie - Tanja

Grace is fascinated by the wolves in the woods behind her house; one yellow-eyed wolf in particular. Sam leads two lives. In winter, he stays in the frozen woods. In summer, he has few months to be human. Grace and Sam finally meet and realize they can't bear to be apart. Sam must fight to stay human - or risk losing himself, and Grace, for ever.

Yes, this is a book about werewolves. Yes, it's a young adult novel written for teenagers. Yes, I am still (the last time I checked) in my late 30's and most definitely yes, I enjoyed this story. Phew, I'm glad I got that out of the way first. 

http://a.images.blip.tv/Expandedbooks-BookTrailerSHIVERByMaggieStiefvater392.jpgIt’s not often I am rendered speechless by a book. And it’s even less often that I will review something so many weeks after finishing it, but that’s what Shiver and Linger will do to you. The story just stays with you, haunting you in a way like a kind spirit follows you around and whispers secrets in your ear. I loved both books in the series and am anxiously looking forward to the last book in the trilogy, Forever, which will be out in July 2011. 

If you haven’t heard of the Mercy Falls Wolves trilogy by Maggie Stiefvater then you may have been drawn to the beautiful cover art on her books at some point while traipsing through the “best seller” shelves at your local mega book store. My history with her first book of the series, Shiver, goes way back to when it was first published almost 3 years ago. I stumbled upon the cover art and was immediately drawn to its striking starkness. Unfortunately, at the time I had ZERO interest in reading about werewolves (Oh Jacob, you’ve ruined me for life!). It wasn’t until just a few months ago that I stumbled upon it again while on my latest post-Hunger Games haze to find something to read in the Young Adult genre. 

I was floored by Shiver. Floored. I could not put it down but not for the usual reasons. Shiver doesn’t read like an action/adventure novel with twists and turns at every corner, quite the opposite, in fact. Maggie Stiefvater writes her words in such a way that you savor each phrase. She makes you fall in love with ordinary words to describe something. I can honestly say that her words are some of the most beautiful I have ever read in a young adult novel or any novel for that matter. At the heart of Shiver is a story about love overcoming immensely impossible obstacles. It's the story of werewolf Sam and human girl, Grace who fall in love as children and meet for the very first time as humans when they are in their late teens, on the cusp of adulthood. There is an unspoken sadness that they share as lonely isolated kids growing up in separate but equally depressing circumstances which binds them together. When they meet for the first time Grace says to Sam that he is like a song she used to hear in her childhood that she had long forgotten until the moment he shows up.

But aside from the sadness, pain, and insecurity that they both suffer from when they are apart, the magic that comes from their union is so unspeakably remarkable. Sam and Grace have such an ease and comfort in their moments together you feel sometimes you are intruding in a very private moment between two people falling in love with each other and you want to excuse yourself from the room. But even from the beginning you know that their days together are numbered, that eventually, Sam will change back into a wolf and possibly stay that way forever and Grace will be left alone in her beautiful sadness. But you never give up hope that somehow they will find a way. You end up truly believing in their love to the point where sometimes a terrible thing is happening on that page in front of you but you push through it, hoping beyond hope that it will end up ok.

This is going to be hard to say without being too spoilery, but I’ll give it a try: In Shiver we are given an introduction into this world and the running theme of wanting to change what you were meant to be in order to be something better. In Linger we are faced with similar circumstances but the theme here is you can’t really change what you’re meant to be...or can you? The differences in the two books deserve a mention simply because the tone from one to the other changes. Where in the first book you are still getting acquainted with the characters and their impossible circumstances that prevent them from being happy together, the second book definitely tests the solidity of their binds. Character point-of-views change from book one to book two also, this might seem distracting when you first start the second book, but the payoff is tremendous. You are still graced with the loveliness that is Maggie Stiefvater’s beautiful style yet you glimpse through the perspectives of other characters to give you a more well-rounded view of this world.

One last thing that I do want to mention is that Maggie Stiefvater is also not afraid to write about teens having sex and she doesn’t “fade to black” like other YA writers tend to do (ahem). I think it’s truly respectful to portray responsible sexually active teens in literary fiction and not all writers have the talent (or the balls, frankly) to do it. But Stiefvater’s treatment of the topic is not only commendable, it’s downright realistic. Not to say that they go at it like wild dogs (because in a book about werewolves, that’s certainly a possibility) but there is an awkwardness to it that is simply charming.

I laughed and cried throughout these two books and enjoyed them immensely. It balances the fantasy and the mythology of werewolves so well in a story that is basically about prejudices and fear of the unknown. And before you shun this story because it’s about werewolves, I just want to wrap this up and say that at the heart of it all, this story wasn’t just about wolves, but it was truly about a love that stands the test of impossible odds. I hope you enjoy it.  

If we got you interested in reading those books, you can buy/preorder them at Amazon (see below)


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