Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Shiver (Book 1 of The Wolves of Mercy Falls)

Oh boy.

I hated this book when I was a bookseller. We were in the middle of the Twilight craze then this book appeared and seemed to be joining the fray. It received mixed reviews: Twilight lovers either loved it or they hated it because it was "as if Jacob won" (because women are something to be won, apparently); other readers seemed to generally despise it. A few of my friends read the book and hated it with a passion I had never seen and I found I wasn't very interested. 

Then I read The Raven Cycle and was so blown away by the author's writing style that I looked into her other work...

... and was completely shocked that she had also penned The Wolves of Mercy Falls. Okay, okay, maybe I got it all wrong. Maybe the books weren't as bad as I had previously thought. The Raven Cycle has completely blown my mind. It's art. So maybe, I was just tied up in the hatred of all things remotely related to Twilight and I took it out on these books. Maybe.

When I began reading Shiver it was pretty straight forward. I wasn't at all confused about what was happening with the characters and found the plot to be reasonably easy. It was an interesting plot though: a girl (Grace) who was attacked by wolves and then later on developed a soft spot for them, specifically "her" wolf who seemed to always take notice of her. Her wolf becomes a boy (Sam) and no one knows exactly how it happened, but they fall in love quickly while they are tangled up in a web of drama that always follows werewolves around.

The idea is interesting enough so I give props for that. I don't feel it's as original as The Raven Boys but there's nothing wrong with writing about classic monsters (hell, I do the same thing). What got me was the sort of unbelievable reactions the characters have. Here we have a girl who was literally attacked by a pack of wolves... and yet she isn't frightened by them, she loves them, and her friends who know of her fascination with the wolves don't seem to point out how weird it is. Personally, I'm terrified of loud barking dogs and I was never attacked by one; the people I know who have gotten bitten by dogs, however, live on with a fear. So for me, this was somewhat unbelievable. While the "reasoning" is given later on, I feel it's not very clearly pointed out and it's far too late of an excuse.

We also have this oddball connection between Grace and Sam. It's mere moments after they meet, really meet, like person to person rather than wolf to person, that they seem to be completely in love with one another. They're only teens and I struggle to believe this mentality. Grace's parents (I can't recall if this begins to develop in this book or the next) are rightly suspicious of their daughter being so "in love" with a guy she just met.

Wolves typically will have one mate, I believe, so if it was owned up to that it would make more sense to me. That Sam found his mate and that is why he's so in love. But there's a lot of lacking explanation in these books and that's what's frustrating.

Grace also lives in a world that is hard to believe. Her parents are basically absent and do not, at all, behave like parents to her. They're very off-hands and it's hard for me to comprehend. I know parents like this exist, but I've never experienced it myself. Grace's parents are so oblivious that it always came as a surprise when another extreme of their absentee parenting style was put on display.

There are a lot of female characters in this series, which is a plus, but I also feel many of them fit almost too perfectly into character traits. They're stereotypical and not that surprising. Their actions are actions that I shrug off and go, "well, I saw that coming."

Another issue with the book: we flip back and forth between characters, at one time reading from Grace's POV and then from Sam's, and I honestly couldn't see the difference. Typically I try to finish a chapter before I put a book down but that often doesn't happen. I run out of time to read and I'm in the middle of a chapter so it is where it is when I get back to it. When I would return to this book I would most times be thrown by who was talking unless it was blatantly obvious. I'd have to flip back to the back of the page, or read a little while, before understanding the POV.

Also, while Grace is interesting enough and certainly strong willed, Sam was made out to appear very weak. It's great to have men who aren't necessarily all bravery and muscles, but Sam was almost too far in the other direction. So often I wanted to shake him by the shoulders and just yell at him, tell him to stop his crap and do what he has to do. He wasn't a timid, teenage boy. He wasn't shy. He also spoke like a grandmother. It was just all so... weird. There are ways to take his likes and the goals of being a timid creature and achieve making a character without it seeming so forced.

Then. The ending. The ending frustrated me. In a rush, they try to find a cure for Sam and they think they successfully have. They administer the cure and then... that's it. You're left hanging and Sam is no where to be found until he just appears in Grace's backyard like a surprise. It had the heartfelt end but there was so little explanation (in this book or beyond) of what happened during all that time that passed from when he was given the cure to walking on two legs into the backyard.

Honestly, had I read Shiver first... I wouldn't have even given The Raven Cycle a go. I was that dissatisfied with it. Stiefvater's writing from this series to the other is completely different. She writes poetically, it seems, no matter what and both books have that poetry, but her character development and plot points are so much better in The Raven Cycle than in Shiver.

Last Week's Review: Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
Next Week's Review: Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

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