Sam and Grace Versus The Seasons

 
My first thought after reading Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater was: I was glad the book isn’t trying to be something other than what it really is, which is a teenage romance.  Yes, there is a fantasy element, but that is more of a backdrop and a source of conflict.  There is no huge, detailed fantasy world the protagonists had to play in, and that is refreshing for something from the teen paranormal romance genre.

Shiver is the first book in Stiefvater’s Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy.  It introduces Grace, a girl with a fascination for the wolves that appear in the woods near her house every winter, and Sam, a boy who is fascinated with Grace, but who has to live the challenging double life of a werewolf.  Don’t worry, that last part isn’t a spoiler, as it’s something that is revealed in the first few pages of the novel.

The book alternates between Grace’s and Sam’s first-person narratives and takes note of the temperature at the beginning of each chapter, since it’s such an integral part of the mythology of the werewolves.  This alternating narrative was a problem for me at times, when it was difficult to tell who was narrating; I often had to go back to the page with the chapter title just to make sure.  But in general, Grace and Sam have distinct voices.  (You will often know it’s Sam because he can be brooding and emo and spew out cheesy song lyrics; he can give Edward Cullen a run for his money.)

Speaking of Edward Cullen…If you thought Bella and Edward’s relationship was unhealthy, well, Grace and Sam’s would be on the level of…oh, I dunno, something fatal?  Seriously.  At least Edward still “sleeps” at the Cullen mansion most nights.

The werewolf mythology is interesting:  transformations are not brought about by phases of the moon, but rather by temperature changes.  And of course, once Grace sees Sam as a boy, she doesn’t want him to change back, and much of the conflict centers around this–Grace and Sam Versus The Seasons.

There’s also a side-story about another boy who was bitten by a wolf, and his sister’s quest to find a cure.  Grace and Sam become involved in this, and Grace eventually gets with the program so that Sam will remain a boy forever.  How this is eventually resolved may gross out some people, may cause some people to scratch their heads or tear their hair out, or may enduce a lot of “WTF?!”s.  Me?  I went on reading in the hopes of erasing the entire thing from my mind.  It sort of worked…until I started reading book two, Linger.

If some parts of the narratives in Shiver were confusing, well there’s double the confusion in Linger, as we get not two, but FOUR narrators: Grace, Sam, Isabel (the sister of the boy who was bitten in the first book), and Cole (a new character).  They do have distinct voices most of the time, but it can be tiring to keep track of four POVs.

The plot thickens a little more in Linger as new members are added to Sam’s old wolf pack and Grace struggles against the late manifestation of the consequences of her getting bitten by wolves when she was a child.

I liked Cole’s story arc; among all the characters, his makes the most sense, and his history is interesting.  I thought putting in Isabel was unnecessary, and as for Grace…she was more likable in Shiver.    Sam?  Oh, Sam.  *defeated sigh*

While the general plot of Linger was more urgent and exciting compared to the slow burn of Shiver and was, therefore, an easier read, Linger featured one of my pet peeves:  changing The Rules.

I bitched and moaned about the inconsistent Rules in Libba Bray’s The Gemma Doyle Trilogy but  I applauded the simple Rules of Werewolf Contamination and Transformation in Shiver.  Now, though, The Rules have changed.  Some would reason that the change was brought about by the characters’ new discoveries, but then… who’s the reliable narrator now?  What further changes to The Rules will be made to suit the narrative come Forever?  I would have preferred that Stiefvater work around the Rules she established in Shiver to solve the problems in Linger.  But, again, that’s just my pet peeve; this might be acceptable to other readers upon consideration of its context in the story.

Stiefvater’s writing style, at its best, is evocative; I could swear the air felt colder when I was reading Shiver.  She does have a good command of her characters despite the occasional lapse in the narrative.  The nature of Grace and Sam’s romance can be rather iffy, but it will work for its intended audience.

p.s.  I love the series’ book design.  It takes a while to get used to the colored print (blue violet for Shiver, and dark green for Linger), but it doesn’t really strain your eyes.  The covers are simple, but eye-catching.

Disclosure:  I was sent review copies of both books by the folks over at Scholastic.  🙂

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