Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

A few weeks ago I came home to find an envelope from Scholastic on my porch. I opened it and let out a little yelp of joy, as a copy of Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver fell into my hands. I had just mentioned here how much I wanted to read it but figured I would have to wait until its publication in August.  First of all, the cover design is absolutely gorgeous- a stark design of blue and white.  And now that I have read Shiver, I can attest that Stiefvater’s writing is even more beautiful than the cover.  Lyrical, yet stark at appropriate times, her subtle characterizations will leave you in tears.

Sam lives a double life- one in the warmer months of summer and one in the winter.  During the warmer months of spring and summer  he’s human.  But when the cooler temperatures of winter begin to chill the earth, he shape shifts into a wolf for the winter.  Each year that he changes, his time as a human becomes shorter and shorter.  Sam knows that eventually he will remain a wolf forever, leaving behind all of his human emotions and attachments.  But through it all, human or wolf, he watches and loves Grace, the girl who sits on her swing and doesn’t shy away from his stare.

Grace loves the wolves that run through the woods behind her house; some people might even say she’s obsessed.  And this is despite the fact that she was attacked by the wolves as a young child, dragged into the woods and almost killed.  However, she was saved by a wolf with striking yellow eyes. She watches and loves him, never understand why she’s filled with such longing for what she sees as “her” yellow-eyed wolf. When she meets Sam, a boy with those same striking yellow eyes, she is immediately drawn to him.  As impossible as it seems, she knows he is her wolf.  Her savior.  And her obsession.

Soulmates, they know they are meant to be together.  But Sam knows that their time together will come to an end.  He knows this is his last summer.  What are they willing to do for the chance of more time together? 

Maggie Stiefvater may be one of the best writers I have ever read when it comes to creating chemistry between two characters.  The love between Grace and Sam is palpable between the pages of the book.  The story is told by both Grace and Sam, making it even more magical. Stolen glances, brushes against each other, and silent looks of longing create a love between a girl and werewolf that is completely believable.  In fact, Sam and Grace may surpass Bella and Edward when it comes to forbidden love!  But unlike Bella, Grace is a solid, strong heroine.  And Sam is human and flawed, though he sometimes may seem perfect to Grace.

This is a romance for the ages- poetic, lyrical, soft, bittersweet, and full of longing.  Stiefvater is a gifted writer and I fully admit that she had me sobbing at points during the story.  I can’t believe that I have to wait until 2010 for the next book in the series!  

 But the true sign of a book that will be a huge hit?  One of my girls was paging through the book when she saw it on my desk.  She begged me to loan it to her and I said I couldn’t, not until I finished reading it.  Today, I was reading the last 10 pages during our independent reading time, while she sat and stared at me, willing me to finish.  I handed my ARC over and within minutes she was gushing about how amazing the first 3 chapters are.  I fully expect her to come in tomorrow with the book finished, and I know she’ll be raving about it to all of her classmates!

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

Dystopian novels are my weakness.  So when I read a few reviews of Carrie Ryan’s debut novel, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, I was intrigued.  Zombie novels aren’t my usual fare, but neither were vampires at one time, and I loved Stephenie Meyers’ books.  I was thrilled when I received an early review copy of The Forest of Hands and Teeth on Monday and immediately set aside the book I was reading.  

Mary is a strong, independent young woman struggling to fulfill her dreams while living in a post-apocalyptic where zombies run rampant.  Everyday, Mary’s mother goes to the fences that surround the village, looking into the Forest of Hands and Teeth.  She spends her days searching for a glimpse of her husband, Mary’s father, who disappeared in the Forest.  Mary and her brother Jed, a Guardian, makes sure their mother never, ever goes to the fences alone.  They fear her reaction should she ever see her husband as one of the unconsecrated. If she sees him, they know she will risk getting infected herself.  But one day, when Jed is guarding the fences and Mary is late, her mother does the unthinkable.  She gets too close to the fence and is bitten by an Unconsecrated.  Infected herself, Mary is forced to make an impossible decision- kill her mother or release her into the forest?

When Mary is left as an orphan, she is forced to live with the Sisters.  The Sisters hold the knowledge of the past and create the rules for the community.  They never marry, but instead devote their lives to the Scriptures. (The Sisters are clearly a future, post-apocalyptic version of nuns).  Mary must despises her new life and longs for the world her mother described- a world that included an ocean and life outside the fences and beyond the forest. Can she give up these dreams to remain in the village? Her decision is made for her when the Unconsecrated manage to breach the fence.  Mary is forced to brave the Forest along with Jed and his wife, her best friend, the man Mary loves, and his brother who loves her.  They are surrounded by the Unconsecrated at all times, risking infection and death.  With no idea where the path they are on will lead, or if it will even lead anywhere.

This is a fantastic book!  Once I started it, I couldn’t put it down.  I was sneaking in pages at every possible moment.  I’ve never been a zombie fan, but I definitely am now, thanks to Carrie Ryan!  I’ve already passed my copy on to my biggest Twilight  fan, and I can’t wait to hear her reaction.  The Forest of Hands and Teeth  reminded me of Twilight in some ways, but it is written much better!  Mary is a strong, independent woman who is struggling with her own life decisions in the midst of a love triangle, while being surrounded by zombies.  What more could you ask for?  How about lyrical prose, edge-of-your-seat suspense, and a strong female protagonist?   The Forest of Hands and Teeth has all of these in spades!  Get yourself to a bookstore ASAP and pick this one up!