I don't always know what to do about book hype, particularly when the book being hyped is a Young Adult novel. I have nothing against Young Adult Literature, but ever since the Twilight fiasco, I have been a bit wary. Imagine my surprise, then, when I devoured Shiver, by Maggie Stiefvater, in a mere day and a half. I didn't know much about the book, but when I saw it on the library's new books shelf, I thought to myself, "what the heck. I'll give it a try."
Boy, am I glad I did.
First let me just say how much I appreciate that Stiefvater's publisher a) did not give away the entire book in the blurb and b) did an amazing job on the cover art. Okay, on to the review!
I'm not going to give a plot synopsis here since I am probably the last person in the blogosphere to have read this book. The main characters are Grace and Sam, and I liked both of them almost immediately. Grace is a junior in high school, but she pretty much keeps her family together: both her parents are rather scatterbrained, so most of the care giving responsibilities fall on her. Sam had a pretty rough childhood, and his teen years are proving to be quite trying, too. I don't want to give away the twist here, but I do want to commend Stiefvater for writing two great characters who feel like real teenagers. She understands teens without condescension or cliche. It's a book that deals with lots of emotions, but these emotions never feel fake or melodramatic; they are real and genuine and, as a result, evoked some pretty real emotional responses from me.
This is a sweetly told story, and it maintains its sweetness and sass despite some not-so-nice details. I especially appreciated that Stiefvater explored and present Grace and Sam's relationship in a realistic but tasteful way. She conveyed the strong feelings that so often come when great amounts of emotions and hormones are involved, but it never got weird or icky. The ins and outs of their relationship were very well done.
Needless to say, the book delivers. It is all about longing, loss, pain, and love, and it is supernatural/fantasy writing at its best: it takes a complex human dilemma, clothes it in some rather fantastical clothing, and then lets the situation unfold in a realistic, moving way despite its fantastical elements. If anything, because it is fantasy it allows for a more honest, up-close look at and answer to how we deal with the complexities of wanting someone, loving someone, and helping another person conquer his personal demons.
I am eagerly waiting for my turn to come up on the library's hold list so I can get my hands on the next book in the series, Linger. The last book in the series will be published next summer, and I'm sure it will be hard to wait if Linger is anything like Shiver.