Friday, November 20, 2009


Biblio Bits Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater, Scholastic, 2009 (ISBN 9780545123266)

Reading Level/Interest Age 740 lexile/Ages 13+

Genre Supernatural, Horror, Romance

Plot Summary
Grace, age 17, is sort of raising herself: her mom is a self-absorbed artist and her dad is usually absent with his own work. Grace has two close friends and has a strong connection with the woods behind her house and the wolf pack who inhabits it. She was attacked by wolves the winter she was nine, pulled right out of her back yard, but a wolf with curious yellow eyes intervened and Grace survived. Since then, that special wolf has become a bit of an obsession for Grace: she watches for him and frequently catches glimpses of him, watching her from the edge of the woods. When a youth at her high school is viciously attacked by, what appears to be, the wolf pack, the townspeople stage a hunt to exterminate the wolves. Grace discovers her own wolf, in human form, badly hurt from a shot to his neck and takes him in. There is strong tension in the story, both romantic (Romeo and Juliet go paranormal!), and when a new werewolf is running wild in the community, without the rules or protection of the pack.

Critical Evaluation
This book received starred reviews from both School Library Journal and Publishers Weekly, so I was prepared to be wowed by a book that is being touted as the "next Twilight." This one has more elements of horror, more actual gore as well as some pretty scary situations that involve suspense. The narrative alternates between Sam and Grace, which works to give the story some perspective. Clearly, Stiefvater has worked hard to create a seamless world in which lycanthropes have a place, and some of the details seemed perfect (explaining the mental differences that Sam experiences in his two forms) while others seemed a bit forced (the elaborate emphasis on the permanent change to wolf form). Somehow I just couldn't get emotionally engaged with Grace's character. Sam's character seemed much more accessible and fully-formed; I got a clear sense of the emotional angst and the haunting troubles of his past, as well as the challenges of pack life. For fans of the emotionally-charged, doomed, paranormal romance story, this will be a sure bet.

Reader's Annotation
In the mood for a tense story of first love gone terribly wrong? Grace and Sam know their moments together are numbered; Sam will be changing into wolf form for good this year, and Grace is just a regular girl.

Author Information
Maggie Stiefvater was born in 1981 and has worked as a waitress, calligraphy instructor, and technical editor. She describes her current life as "eccentric" and lives in Virginia with her husband and two children. She has a pretty snippy tone on her bio page regarding questions that she won't answer (if it's something she has already posted on her FAQ page) and adds that she likes "plain English" instead of text-speak when fans write emails to her. I certainly wouldn't write her a fan email after reading that sort of condescension, and I don't even know text-speak! (Information obtained from her bio page on her official website.)

Challenge issues
Lots of romantic tension here (Sam's sleeping in Grace's bed!), some very passionate scenes, but nothing too explicit. What was more disturbing is the image of Sam's parents who attempted to slit his wrists and kill him when they found out what he was. And there are some explicit moments of graphic violence.

Booktalking Ideas
Paranormal romance for teens is pretty much the order of the day, since Twilight, so there are plenty of booktalking bedfellows for this title. I might also include it in an Adrenaline Books booktalk, since that covers both horror and suspense.

Curriculum Ties
I would love to do a comparison of various representations of werewolves in teen literature, from Professor Lupin of Harry Potter fame to the "shifters" of Cynthia Leitich-Smith's books to Jacob from Twilight. Each author has a unique take on the parameters, powers, and limitations of lycanthropes.

Why this book?
Another book that falls into the "If you like Twilight..." category. I saw the cover as a full-page advertisement on the back cover of Horn Book, so I decided to see where the Meyer-inspired literary explosion is going.

Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2009; Amazon's Top Ten Books for Teens.

Rockport Public Library owns?

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