"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." — Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Monday, July 19, 2010

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

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Summary: A teenager meets the human version of the werewolf who's been stalking/guarding her during her adolescent years.

Shiver should have been titled “Shudder.” It’s pretty weak, and encompasses most of what I don’t like about YA adult fiction. And I think the writing is terrible. But maybe the author is fourteen years old.

Grace – not-quite a high school loner, but one of a trio of barely-connected girls - is obsessed with the wolves who surround her house. Ever since Grace was attacked as a young girl, she’s been haunted by the wolf with yellow eyes and the howls she often hears at night.
Sam-the-wolf has loved Grace ever since he saved her life.
“I was a leaking womb bulging with the promise of conscious thoughts: the frozen woods far behind me, the girl on the tire swing, the sound of fingers on metal strings. The future and the past, both the same, snow and then summer and then snow again.
A shattered spider’s web of many colors, cracked in ice, immeasurably sad.”
(You went to school right? Did your teacher ever instruct you: Show, not tell.”? )

Turns out it’s not the moon that causes wolves to change, it’s the temperature. If it stays cold enough, they are wolves. When it warms up, they’re human. Except that it doesn’t work in warm weather – in Texas and Florida, they just become werewolves when the weather becomes a little cooler. But because Minnesota has such extreme hot and cold, it’s a perfect breeding ground (if you’ll pardon the joke) for werewolves.

And even though Grace was bitten as a child, her father left her in a hot car in a Minnesota summer and she got a raging high temperature, which caused her NOT to be a werewolf. This extreme heat experience, which has been making all the parenting magazines lately as an example of what NOT to do, is actually the cure for were-wolf-ism, which Grace and her friends discover and then implement.

So when a high-school classmate is bitten, the whole town goes a little crazy and starts shooting the wolves in the woods behind Grace’s house. They shoot Sam, and he comes to Grace’s house for help.
“My breath caught painfully in my throat as I moved still closer, hesitant. His beautiful ruff was gone and he was naked but I knew it was my wolf even before he opened his eyes. His pale yellow eyes, so familiar, flicked open at the sound of my approach, but didn’t move. Red was smeared from his ear to his desperately human shoulders – deadly war paint.”
And so Sam ends up living in Grace’s house while her parents totally don’t even notice. An entire person living in a house and two people don’t notice? How come I can believe in werewolves, but not oblivious parents? That’s what ruins many YA novels for me.

After Grace lands in the hospital after being attacked by a jealous ex-girlfriend werewolf, her Mom finally notices and thinks she shouldn’t date Sam anymore.
My voice was brittle. “I would say that by virtue of your not acting parental up to this point, you’ve relinquished your ability to wield any power now. Sam and I are together. It’s not an option.”
Mom threw up her hands as if trying to stop the Grace-tank from running over her. “Okay. Fine. Just be careful, okay? Whatever. I’m going to go get a drink.”
And just like that, her parental energies were expended. She had played Mom by driving us to the hospital, watching the nurse attend to my wounds, and warning me off my psychotic boyfriend and now she was done. It was obvious I was going to live, so she was off duty.” 
This book has been called The Jacob-and-Bella story, since it's about a boring teenage girl adored by a werewolf. But Twilight is much better written, which makes this book pitiful.

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