Friday, June 17, 2011

Book Review Friday: Shiver & Linger by Maggie Steifvater

I know, you're wondering why I have a picture of Anne Rice here when this post if about Maggie Stiefvater.  Here's why.  Back in my college days, I devoured Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles.  If you haven't read Anne Rice and enjoy paranormal romance and vampire lust,  you must check out Interview with the Vampire to see where it all began. 
But I had not read much in the way of romance novels for years.  I had picked up Twilight to see what it was all about and because I loved Rice's vampire novels, I thought I would enjoy it.  If you love Twilight, I mean no offense, but for me Stephanie Meyer is no Anne Rice!
While at the library recently searching for something new, the YA librarian pulled out Shiver and handed it to me.  "This is really good," she said.  I thought what the heck, I'll give it a try.  But truthfully I was afraid it was another Twilight wanna be.
2010 Author Photo, Batch 1 square
Maggie Stiefvater
Thankfully, Shiver is no Twilight.  Stiefvater's lyrical writing recalls for me what I liked most about reading Anne Rice's books.  When poetry meets prose, the reading feels magical.
The premise of Shiver is simple enough.  Girl meets wolf.  In summer wolf turns into boy. Girl loves boy.  The love can last only for the summer unless they find a way to keep boy from becoming a wolf again.
In Stiefvater's capable hands, this girl in love with wolf story is beautiful and profound rather than comic and cheesy.  She starts with a well thought out mythos for the werewolf.  Rather than the wolf being ruled by the full moon, they are instead beholden to the temperature.  Wolf in the winter, human in the summer.  This provides a poignant ticking clock to the love story.  They may have only the summer to love a lifetime.
Stiefvater not only creates a new mythology for werewolves, but she creates a romance that feels real.  Every romance story has to have a complication to their love.  In the Wolves of Mercy Falls series, the whole werewolf thing is the complication for the lovers and provides interesting twists and turns and makes the ride more fun.  For me this is one of the few of the genre where the love feels organic to the story rather than forced.
In Shiver, the love story between Grace and Sam is center stage.  Stiefvater introduces other characters such as Grace's parents and Isabel and Rachel, but they are in the background in Shiver.  The first in the series is told in the dual first person of Sam and Grace, switching back and forth between the two deftly.  Sam loves poetry and is a musician so his voice is more poetic of the two.  The reader is never confused about which one is telling the story.
Linger is Book 2 in the series and while not as strong overall as Shiver, it was still a wonderful read.  In Linger, the love story between Grace and Sam is still the main story, but Stiefvater also introduces a new character, Cole, and Isabel has a larger role as well.  This produced what for me was one of the few problems with the book.  In Linger there are four first person narrators and at times it became jarring to switch between story tellers so frequently.
In Linger Stiefvater explores further what the characters refer to as "wolf logic," as they try to figure out what makes the infected shift from human to wolf and other issues regarding werewolfdom.  At times it felt like Stiefvater herself was trying to figure out this wolf logic and there was a little "muddle in the middle" as pieces of the puzzle were being worked out.  But before long the book picked up pace again and it was a page turner to the end.  The last 60 pages kept me up past my bed time (and made me cry!).
One of the things I really enjoyed about Linger is the handling of the relationship between Grace and her parents.  Stiefvater laid the groundwork in the first book.  Grace's narcissistic parents are too busy with their own lives to be parents to Grace.  In fact it is Grace who seems to parent her parents.
In Linger the parents provide that additional tension and conflict to raise the stakes.  For me, it was so realistic it called to mind my own melodrama when I was 17 and dating a 19 year old who my parents were sure would corrupt me and make me "ruin my life."  (FYI, I married him and we're still together, 23 years later!)  Grace's parents have been so wrapped up in themselves that they haven't been around to pay attention to Grace let alone her needs and wants.  But when she does something they don't approve of (i.e. that may end up reflecting poorly on them), then they get up in her grill and attempt to control her.  Stiefvater's depiction of the adults shows the all too present condescension and paternalism of parents toward their teen children; the assumption that just because you're seventeen, you know nothing about your own heart.
I highly recommend both Shiver and Linger.  Now I can't wait to read Forever!

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