Vampires, Werewolves, Girls, Oh my!

March 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

I’ll admit it.
I like vampires and werewolves.

We all have our guilty pleasures, right?  Mine just happens to be Twilight and Harry Potter and other movies and books about vampires and werewolves.  Like Cursed.

But when I heard the book Shiver by Maggie Siefvater made ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults list, I was halfway shocked and surprised, because the book is about werewolves.

I probably shouldn’t have been surprised, because in the age of Twilight where werewolves are the major the sub-culture, it’s not going to be long before the shape-shifters take center stage.  And ever since Stephenie Meyer decided to take her own original spin on the personality of vampires–vampires as vegetarians, with sparkling diamond skin, never sleeping–why shouldn’t Stiefvater take werewolves in her own direction?  So these wolves are susceptible to temperature.  They become human when it’s warm, and werewolves in the extreme cold. And different from Meyer’s concept, these werewolves are not immortal.  At one point they forever lose their humanity and stay in their wolf form, then eventually they die a wolf death.

So naturally, the werewolf falls in love with a human girl.  Or maybe the girl falls in love with the werewolf first.  Or were they both in human form when they fell in love?  Whatever way you want to describe it, the love between Sam (the wolf) and Grace (the girl) holds steady.

The book is told in alternating viewpoints of Grace and Sam, and what I liked about it was that it wasn’t every chapter that flip-flopped.  Three chapters in a row would be Grace, then a short one of Sam, then Grace, then maybe four of Sam, etc.  Stiefvater has a way with words that makes this love story intriguing with an underlying eerie atmosphere that envelops it.

Telling a story in alternating viewpoints, like this one, is tricky because you have to get the voice of the characters just right.  Grace can’t sound like Sam and Sam can’t sound like Grace because then I (the reader) has to flip back to the beginning of the chapter to see who the particular speaker is.  And like most authors, Stiefvater could have done a better job in defining the voices as well as she defined the voices.  (For my favorite YA book with two story tellers, check out Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen.)

But as much as the voices failed, Stiefvater does a great job in creating a world of wolves found in the backyard forests of Grace’s house and around the Minnesota town she lives in.  And with any mythical creatures, there has to be a set rule of structure they have to follow, and Stiefvater does a good job of not leaving any open-ended questions about what the wolves can or cannot be.

What I like most about YA romantic literature is the portrayal of love.  It’s usually that first love that everyone writes off later in in life.  “I didn’t know what real love is until I married my husband,” or “I didn’t know what love was until I had been married for fifty years.”  But I think that first love can sometimes be the real-est of loves, can sometimes be the strongest of loves, because for a fifteen or sixteen year old, it’s the first time they come in contact with that inner part of themselves that has never been explored before.  In books like Twilight, the love becomes too obsessive.  With Meg Cabot, the love is oftentimes based too shallow-y.  But, surprisingly enough, Stiefvater captures first love’s strength and power, though it just happens to involve  a werewolf.  And the end is most definitely my favorite part of the book.

But with all this stuff about vampires and werewolves and faeries and golems, when does the girl get to be the mythical one?  And I don’t mean like Bella Swan who whines about it and throws a tantrum until she becomes immortal.  I mean, why can’t a chick be the protagonist and mythical?  Just a thought.

The book is long, with almost 400 pages, but it moves swiftly (like a wolf?) and easily held my attention on my five hour plane ride to Boston.  And, although it has nothing to do with the actual content of the book, the jacket design is really pretty.  Aesthetically pleasing is probably a more intelligent way of saying it.

So two thumbs up for werewolves.

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