Monday, January 04, 2010
My Wolfie Boyfriend
If left to my own devices, I will avoid reading romances. I think this is because they generally all end the same way, and how girl gets boy isn't all that compelling a storyline for me. So under normal conditions I would never have picked up Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater because it's a paranormal romance. However, last summer I stumbled upon the trailer for Shiver, thought it was lovely, and picked up the book when I happened upon it at the library.
I am not the first person to notice the similarities between Shiver and Twilight--star-crossed paranormal boyfriend and teenage girl, paranormal boyfriend drives teenage girl to school, paranormal boyfriend watches teenage girl do homework, paranormal boyfriend spends chaste nights with teenage girl in her bedroom. Shiver just does a lot of things better than Twilight.
Basic story: A few years before the start of our story, our main character, Grace, was dragged from her tire swing by a pack of wolves who were seriously hungry. She notices one particular wolf, who also notices her, and ends up saving her. In the intervening years, he often shows up at the back of her yard where they watch each other, developing a relationship, so to speak. Then, sure enough, you guessed it, he turns up one day on her deck as a real, naked boyfriend! And then you go on from there. Will Grace or won't Grace get to keep Sam in her life?
Grace in Shiver is a far more dynamic character than Bella in Twilight. She does things, she helps others, she directs the action at various points. She even has a sense of humor. Once you accept the werewolf thing, Sam is a far more realistic character than what's his name...oh, yeah. Edward. He is far from a picture of male perfection. Grace and Sam are a balanced couple, one partner doesn't have all the power. This book is not as sexually charged as the original Twilight, but the sex is more realistic and dignified than in the Twilight series overall. (I'm still cringing over the begging-for-sex scene in one of the later books.)
I have to say I still found some of the love scenes a little long. I felt as if I were just treading water while waiting for more wolves to show up. But, still, Stiefvater does some intriguing things here. She makes stereotypical nasty rich kids more interesting without actually making them nicer. We've got an intense father/son relationship. The readers in this story work particularly well. For me, characters in books who love books usually don't work. There's something fake or maybe improving about them. But in Shiver the readers are tragic because they won't always have reading in their lives. I like tragic much more than I like improving.
Thematically, Shiver works very well as a YA book. It explores these teenagers' places within their "families" as well as their movement away from their families. And then, of course, there's the whole human transforming into wolves in a werewolf story just as children transform into adults during adolescence. What will the kids in Shiver end up being?
I was actually sorry to learn there will be a sequel to Shiver. Why mess with a good thing? Is there really more to say about this situation? Well, I'll probably find out.