A fresh take on the werewolf myth – Maggie Stiefvater’s “Shiver”
Shiver, a novel by Maggie Stiefvater, is a beautiful, magical story about werewolves, love at first sight, and loss. Its beauty haunts while its magic enchants.
Grace is your everyday junior. She’s practical, pragmatic and intelligent, preparing herself for college and enjoying the company of her best friends, Rachel and Olivia. But Grace has an obsession; the wolves that live in the shadows of the woods behind her backyard. When she was 11, a wolf dragged her off her tire swing in the middle of winter, and brought her deep into the woods, the main course for a pack of starving wolves. But one wolf, the one with yellow eyes, saved her life. He brought her back to her porch and to safety.
Ever since then she has been watching her yellow-eyed wolf.
But then one of her schoolmates is attacked and killed by a pair of wolves. The town returns the attack, chasing down and killing all the wolves they can find. And Grace receives the shock of a lifetime. The yellow-eyed wolf is not just a wolf. He is a boy. He is Sam. Now Grace and Sam must fight against the curse, against the very weather, to stay together, and to stay human.
The book’s beauty is in its simplicity and in its willingness to let the characters and the story speak for themselves. Grace’s description of her attack is one example of Stiefvater’s clean but elegant language: “There was no sun, there was no light. I was dying. I couldn’t remember what they sky looked like. But I didn’t die. I was lost to a sea of cold, and then I was reborn into the world of warmth. I remember this: his yellow eyes. I thought I’d never see them again.”
In most werewolf stories, the people can change at will or during the full moon. This one is different. The change is caused by a shift in temperature. When it is warm, in spring and summer, the werewolf is human. When it starts to get cold, in fall and winter, the werewolf is wolf. Sam explains to Grace his theory on where the curse began: “One day a wolf bit a man and the man caught it. Magic or science, it’s all the same. The only thing magical about it is that we can’t explain it.” This fresh version of the werewolf myth reflects the simple elegance of the writing.
The main characters of the book, Grace and Sam, are easy to relate to, despite their lives being to far out of the ordinary. The small details of the book (Grace’s parents are never home, Sam is a walking emo stereotype, Grace is the definition of stoic and Sam loves the German poet Rilke) make the couple jump off the page. Their young love reflects young love of every era and of every culture. And the bitterness of their loss, their fear of the cold, steer the story away from mushy and boring and towards enduring and fascinating.
This novel will draw you in with its hope, love and magic, and it will leave you sighing in sadness and wonder when you put it down for the last time. Shiver is a beautiful book.