shiverIf I had to pick a side in the whole werewolves-vs-vampires supernatural love affair that’s taken over YA lit in the past few years, I’d have to go with werewolves. I’d rather not choose either, to be honest. Bestiality vs. necrophilia? ICK. But when it comes down to it, vampires are dead no matter what the moon’s cycle. With werewolves, at least it’s just a certain time of the month that they are an altogether different creature to steer clear of. And frankly, how many of us ladies can’t say the same thing? Plus, I know I married an Englishman, but there is such a thing as being TOO pale. And in my opinion, immortality makes those vamps awfully smug. All they do is stand around being poetic and tortured. Werewolves get stuff done. If I had a daughter who wanted to date a vampire, I’d be afraid that she’d die of ennui. If she was dating a werewolf, I’d be confident that at the very least he could change a tire.

All of this has little to do with Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver, the first in a series of books about Grace, a teenage girl whose parents ignore her, and who is obsessed with the wolves living in the woods of her Minnesota town. She takes care of herself and her whole family. When she is a young girl she is attacked and nearly killed by some of the wolves, but one saves her. This wolf, her wolf, is actually a werewolf (Sam). And when his true identity is revealed after a local boy is believed to be killed by the wolves, it kicks off a relationship and a series of events to be followed through more books. The sequel, Linger, comes out this summer.

I listened to the audiobook for this novel, and I’m not sure it did the story any favors. There is a lot of humor here, and certainly less melodrama than that other series that’s taking over the world. The writing is sharp, and there are great supporting characters. The wolf mythology is handled cleverly: it’s not the moon that makes the wolves change, but the cold. When winter arrives, so does the wolf. And each wolf only gets so many years to spend their summers as a human before becoming a wolf forever. This adds big drama as the characters try to figure out how to stop Sam from changing into a wolf permanently.

There’s also enough romance to make teen girls swoon. But even the romance avoids being too saccharine. Stiefvater makes it believable that a girl as together and self-sufficient as Grace would fall for someone like Sam, who was shunned by his family and lives on the fringes of society. They’re both really lonely and compassionate, and really driven. Sam is set to be the future leader of his pack. I appreciated that the story is told in turn by Grace and Sam. I liked getting both perspectives. But the audiobook always teetered right on the edge of overdoing things. If I read the sequel, I will definitely read it in print. But there is a lot to like about this new series.