Saturday, December 26, 2009


By Maggie Stiefvater

Ages 16-up

Six years ago, when the wolves came, Grace didn’t fight them. They pulled her off the tire swing and out into the snow, and they worried at her body and tore holes in her flesh. But they didn’t kill her — something made them stop. Since then Grace has been obsessed with the wolves, specifically one wolf: A male with yellow eyes. He comes to her in the winter, and she watches him. But Grace is practical — interested in numbers, order, and logical thought; so this irrational fixation is quite unlike her. Then a bleeding, naked young man appears on Grace’s porch. His name is Sam, and Grace feels drawn to him in a way she can’t explain — somehow she knows he is her yellow-eyed wolf. Werewolves are a little different than the stories would have us believe: Instead of shifting to their wolf shape when the moon is full, lycanthropes change to their animal form when the temperature drops. And a werewolf cannot shift back and forth from human to animal indefinitely — eventually there is only animal, nothing left of the person who once was. Somehow Sam knows that this will be his last summer as a human. Has Grace finally found the person her soul was seeking, only to have him ripped away from her?

Told in alternating chapters from Grace and Sam’s point of view, this supernatural love story is beautifully written. Certain sections of this lyrical, melancholy novel read like poetry:

    I was not a wolf, but I wasn’t Sam yet, either.

    I was a leaking womb bulging with the promise of conscious thoughts: the frozen woods far behind me, the girl on the tire swing, the sound of fingers on metal strings. The future and the past, both the same, snow and then summer and then snow again.

    A shattered spider’s web of many colors, cracked in ice, immeasurably sad.

    “Sam,” the girl said. “Sam.”

    She was past present future. I wanted to answer, but I was broken.

This well-written tale of star-crossed lovers will break your heart and leave you longing for more. Fortunately, the sequel, Linger, will be released in July 2010.

Caveats: Violence, premarital sex.

Possible discussion topics: Relationships, comparison of werewolves in mythology to modern depictions of werewolves, parental roles, poetry.

Some discussion questions to get you started:
    1. There are a few unexplained elements in this book: Sam has not been a wolf for as long as some of the older wolves, yet he is about to lose the ability to change into a human. Why does Olivia have a change of heart about the wolves? Why does Isabel want to help her brother? What happened to Shelby?

    How do you make sense of these questions?

    2. Grace loves math, logic, and order. Sam’s very existence is one of wild disorder. Why do you think they are attracted to one another? Is there any reason for it beyond “love at first sight?” Is this a relationship you think could last? Or is this just infatuation?

    3. This novel is written in a very poetic style. And Sam writes song lyrics and reads Rilke. In what way does the text of Shiver reflect or echo the words of Rilke? Where does the writing feel like a song?

    4. Sam’s parents tried to kill him; his surrogate wolf-father, Beck, behaves in a way that can be interpreted as manipulative; Grace’s parents are neglectful; the police are useless. Why are there no trustworthy adults in this book? Is the author trying to make a point? Does it simply enhance the sense of isolation of the main characters? Or is there another purpose for this?

If you liked this book you might enjoy: A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause, Freaks: Alive, on the Inside by Annette Curtis Klause, Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr, Twilight by Stephenie Meyer.

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