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Goat Heads and Sand Burrs, P. Kirby's Reading Blog

The good, bad, and fugly books I've read.
Shiver - Maggie Stiefvater Um...wow, just...wow.

Having fallen in love with the characters in The Raven Boys, I eagerly looked up Steifvater's other titles. Shiver came highly recommended with legions of gushing reviews at Goodreads and elsewhere, so I dove in.

Thank the dear and fuzzy-wuzzy lord that my copy came from the library, because day-yum, Shiver was dull. Like the razor I just threw out, the one that was leaving little swaths of hairy forest on my legs. Like a butter knife, only without the handy ability to slather yummy artery-clogging butter on hot toast.


Weirdly, I find myself tossing around the word "derivative" with regard to the story. Which is laughable, because normally derivative is my thing. I'm not afraid to admit that certain themes, including the "paranormal/powerful/rich/otherwise-extraordinary male falls for ordinary girl/woman" trope make me happy. Done well, the idea warms the cockles of my cold, cold heart.

But as with Mortal Instruments, my brain kept hiccuping up the same refrain: "Haven't I seen this before?" and "And Dude, there's a glitch in The Matrix because, 'Hola, deja vu.'"

The plot in a nutshell: As a very young child, Grace is pulled off a swing in her backyard by werewolves and dragged into the woods to be eaten. She is saved by one of the wolves, who -- well, of course -- is inexplicably drawn to her. A decade later, that wolf and his pack are still haunting the Minnesota woods that border Grace's home, and Grace remains fascinated with that wolf.

For Sam, Grace's savior werewolf, things are changing in his pack, as Beck, the leader has disappeared, and the younger more volatile members of the pack are jostling for power. Sam, however, just wants to be human. Because supernatural heroes can never actually be happy being "super." Yeah. It's trite, but sometimes it works wonderfully. Alas, not in this case.

As one might guess, Grace finally meets Sam, the human version, and these two crazy kids fall in love. Technically, they have been in love all along, even though he's just been a dark, hairy shadow in the woods and they've never actually had a conversation. But, okay. True wuve.

The primary conflict in their love story is the fact that this is probably Sam's last year as a human. In the mythology of Shiver, werewolves go all hirsute 'n stuff when the temperature drops and then change back to human form in the heat of summer. (Moving to Florida, apparently doesn't help.) After an unspecified amount of years, however, werewolves stop switching back to human, and this year, once Sam goes wolf, he ain't ever coming back.

So Sam and Grace need to find a solution or their relationship is going to get very bestial.

On the upside, Sam is about Grace's age, so none of the usual pedo vibes of Twilight and similar stories. On the downside -- and I can't believe, I'm writing this -- Shiver lacks Twilight's oddly engaging voice. No one should mistake me for a Twi-hard, but despite finding the story absent of plot, I found Stephenie Meyer's voice, and by default, her protagonist's, bizarrely engaging.

Other reviews describe the writing in Shiver as lyrical, but I found it flat and lifeless, and nothing like the lovely prose in The Raven Boys. At times, I wondered if the same person really wrote both books. Both Sam and Grace are thinly realized, lacking any real depth or personality.

Like A Discovery of Witches, tons of time is spent doing mundane stuff like cooking, going to bookstores, watching television, and staring into each others' eyes. There are a few tense moments, like when a bunch of gung-ho rednecks gather up their guns and march into the woods to hunt the wolves, but those points are too few, too brief, and lack suspense. An editor could have done this sucker a huge favor by grabbing a literary weed whacker and slicing off the overgrown story.

Ultimately, much of my irritation with this novel is driven by my fondness for another of the author's books. So death by comparison. Not going any farther with this series, but I will be reading the sequel to The Raven Boys.