Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Book Review: Shiver

I don't know if you feel it too, but I think someone punched the afterburners into high gear. I could have sworn Labor Day was a week ago. (And no, I still haven't taken that vacation...) It's also hard to believe that the year is almost three-fourths done. Around New Year's, I asked readers if they'd like to contribute book reviews. I got one back then. Now I have another to share with you. Though I know the writer's name, she prefers to be identified by her Agent Query moniker, Big Black Cat. Thanks, BBC, for your contribution.

Yes, I'm a YA librarian and I hadn't read Shiver yet. There, I said it.

With that off my chest, I have to share that I approach all YA romance with trepidation. I'm virulently anti-love-at-first-sight, which is so common in the genre. Maybe I'm a jaded adult, or perhaps I was just an unattractive teen, but I find the idea of love at first sight is usually an excuse for not having to bother with character development vis a vis the relationship. So I found myself pleasantly surprised by Shiver — but I digress.

The story's basic plot is human girl loves werewolf, which had me gagging at hello. But guess what, BBC was won over by something I didn't expect — really good writing. Stiefvater does a stellar job of using a cliched genre as a vehicle for some excellent writing. She also takes a big leap by introducing YA readers to a little culture, such as the German poet Rilke. Yes, that's a true statement.

While there is an element of "ba BOOM I'm fantastically in love," the rather complicated backstory of Grace, the female main character, and her obsession with a wolf pack, produces a relationship that builds on (gasp!) friendship and trust before evolving into something else. True, the male MC (werewolf Sam) is in his wolf form at the time, but hey — building blocks are building blocks, and if you can’t dig interspecies relationships you have missed the YA bus.

Another pro for me in this book was the supporting cast being well written — something you don't always see in YA, or adult literature for that matter. Teen characters often come off as stereotypes, so I was pleased to find an exception. There were perhaps two characters that I didn't feel I "knew" by the end, but for the most part the whole group was well written and individualistic.

Maggie Stiefvater is represented by Laura Rennert of the Andrea Brown Agency, and I can tell you, I'm jealous as hell about that.