This month, I had the opportunity to read Shiver, a young adult novel by Maggie Stiefvater. In keeping with our creature theme, this novel alternates between Sam who is trying to find a way to cure himself of being a werewolf in order to remain with Grace, the girl he loves, and Grace, who is trying to find a way to add Sam to her life as she tries to hold on to old friendships. Ms. Stiefvater's delicate plot development draws the reader deeper into the two characters' relationship with an intimate angle that suits both the inherent secrecy of the relationship and her physical, rather than supernatural, take on lycanthropy.
Ms. Stiefvater's werewolves shift between their wolf and human form according to temperature (colder for wolf form, warmer for human form) and eventually stop shifting altogether. The pack is a realistic group of survival-oriented creatures--there are no "super" forms or other supernatural creatures interacting with the pack. The wolves are both predatory and vulnerable, which allows the reader to keep a thread of empathy with them throughout the book. Shapeshifting seems to be handled as an infection that passes to humans through a werewolf's bite. This makes for some stomach-churning scenes in the book as the 'cure' for lycanthropy is attempted late in the book.
Although I found myself wondering about the minimal or dangerous presence of adults in the book after I finished it, from the moment I began the first chapter I was hooked. Handing off chapters allows each scene to play out from the point of view of the character who will be closest to the tension and it's interesting to see Sam and Grace from different perspectives. This is a great example of naturalistic fantasy--the werewolves allow the reader to see a suburban woodland throughout the seasons as a beautiful and mysterious place and the fantastic elements don't create a sheen of inhumanity over any of the characters. If you are looking for a good book to read for the upcoming spooky season or just a good book to curl up with, Shiver is a good choice.
If you're interested in reading more about this book, Linda Lindsey with the Legendary Creatures blog (featured in the previous post) was able to interview Ms. Stiefvater about her book and her take on werewolves and you can find that interview here.
Happy reading, Chrissa