The Golden Woods

Shiver: Book Review

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater, originally published August 1st, 2009, by Scholastic

When I first picked this book from the bookshelf, I admit I was not expecting a good story. The concept of including werewolves into a story was an immediate turnoff– after all, we all saw how Twilight turned out. However, being the first Maggie Stiefvater book I had ever read, I kept my mind open. Especially considering the main character shared my own name.

Shiver is the first book of a trilogy. The second book is called Linger, and the third is Forever. It is certainly one of those series where you must read them in order, otherwise you risk exposing yourself to spoilers and an endless amount of confusion. The trilogy also has a companion book, Sinner. This is also something you should read after the series.

Shiver, in my opinion, is the best of the entire series.

The story is set in Minnesota, where a girl named Grace lives in a house with dense woods as her backyard. She has an obsession for the wolves that live there. In fact, one specific wolf in particular. As a child, Grace was dragged from her swings and attacked by the wolves during one brutal winter. She was saved by a wolf with yellow eyes. Ever since, she has kept her eyes on him with pure fascination.

Sam is this yellow-eyed wolf. He lives in two different worlds. In the summer, he is human. In the winter, he is a wolf. He watches Grace back, but lacks the courage to talk to her during the summer when he is human.

This all changes one fall, when the two meet unexpectedly and under a particularly dire circumstance. Grace is struck by his familiar yellow eyes, knowing instantly exactly who he is. Together, they fight for warmth as winter nears so that Sam can stay human. Otherwise, he loses everything he has known and loves, forever.

The chapters alternate between first person perspectives of Grace and Sam. While I typically find alternating perspectives unnecessary, this format is actually extremely beneficial in gathering all the knowledge necessary to understand both characters fully. 

Unlike Twilight, Stiefvater’s unique twist on the werewolf mythology was what kept me reading. The way one becomes a werewolf was the same: getting bitten. But in Stiefvater’s version, the transformation is uncontrollable and is persuaded by temperature. During the winter, the werewolves were wolves. In the summer, they were human. In addition, after a certain number of years, each werewolf would shift back to human later and later into the summer, until eventually they would not turn back at all, deeming them wolves for the rest of their lives. Another conflict– nobody had a cure.

While I particularly enjoyed this unique take on werewolf-ism, it was the characters that earned Shiver a spot on my Top Picks of 2018. First, Grace Brisbane. One of our antagonists, she is independent, strong-willed, and determined. Her fascination with the wolves and the compassion she has for them, despite their dangerous reputation, made her a remarkable character.

Then, a favorite of all characters I have met before, Sam Roth. Our second antagonist, he is sensitive, earnest, and raw. He is a flawed but lovable character, and the pain he has endured makes his character even more endearing. He has a painful past that haunts him, and he is a complex character with many different parts to him. From his love for poetry to his admiration for his father-like figure, Beck, Sam’s character is enchanting. It is rare for a character to stick in a reader’s mind years after having read the book, but this is Sam’s character for me.

And then there are the side characters. Cole St. Clair, an extremely flawed and not very likable musician who has a knack for getting on someone’s bad side. Isabel Culpeper, an equally flawed character but with positive hints of character development throughout the story. She also is the culprit of a lot of the humor in the story. Two characters I wish we saw more of are Rachel and Olivia, Grace’s two best friends. Once Sam enters the picture, Grace hardly talks to them, apart from when she is in class with them. I wish we saw more of that friendship. I think it would have deepened Grace’s character.

Being the first book of Maggie Stiefvater’s that I had read, I was blown away by her writing prose and her talent for combining unlikely elements into incredible plot lines. Magical realism definitely seems to be a skill of hers, something I didn’t know I was a fan of until I read her books. My copy of Shiver is worn to the spine, which is held together by a few trusty layers of duct tape. Somehow, the book manages gets better and better every time I read it. 

Rating: A

Click here to listen to my Shiver Spotify playlist.

“You’re like a song that I heard when I was a little kid but forgot I knew until I heard it again.”

-Maggie Stiefvater, Shiver

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