I want to start with something like a disclaimer, or a confession. Maybe it's more...I want to share a personal struggle with books. It's a principle that can be transferred to other aspects of life, but in this instance, it's for books. So it's about books.
When I received my formal education in creative writing (read: B.A.), many of my peers and even some professors scoffed at or openly hated Young Adult fiction. If it wasn't art, it wasn't worthwhile. It was selling out. It was...deplorable and disrespectful to the craft.
Every person I'd met wanted to get published.
Then I went to a publishing institute, where the vast majority of the student body did not have a formal educational background in creative writing. They were business majors, and poli-sci majors, and art majors, and pre-law. There were a few writers, but we were a rare breed in a program about book publishing--mostly because you don't have to be a writer in order to be an editor or to be a publisher (but that's neither here nor there). And you certainly don't have to be a writer to figure out what sells.
Everyone I met read and loved Young Adult novels. I didn't understand--and still don't, to a certain extent--why Young Adult is booming as it is. I'm still struggling to wrap my head around why is sells when, in my experiences, they're all very much the same. So the protagonist is the special/chosen/mundane-but-not wizard/savior/half-breed and has to overcome pre-teen/teenage problems while balancing saving the world/other world/their home planet. There's a love interest. There's sometimes a love triangle. They're all pretty...formulaic. And maybe that's why it works. Mystery novels are considered the highest grossing genre and they are, literally, all the same thing. The detective might be a woman instead of a man, and she might be recovering from the death of a sister instead of having just been divorced. But, basically, every protagonist of any genre can be broken down into the same fundamental blocks (except literature). And once that happens, the character loses its complexity, the story can become plot-driven instead of character-driven, and it all kinda...just stagnates. But people love it! Why?
(That's another post.)
The point is I didn't get it in Denver, and I still don't really get it now. I understand that Young Adult is evolving into New Adult. But why? WHY? So I asked for a few recommendations from my Denver friends. Who were their favorite authors? Was there a particular type of Young Adult they liked--steam punk, dystopian, supernatural? I was handed a copy of Shiver and told to read it. That the author was super popular, that she had several series, and that if I liked werewolves, I'd like this.
Well, okay. I do like werewolves (and supernatural mythology in general) and I did ask for a recommendation. I want to understand why so many people love this genre and just buy books and books and books of this stuff. To see how people light up when they tell me about their favorite authors, or how passionately they compare the similarities and differences between series protagonists...I want in on that. I want to be part of those discussions and debates.
But I have to read the books, first. And, you know, not shit-talk them in my head the entire time I'm doing it.
It took me over a year to finally sit down and read Shiver. Despite this, I bought two of the other three books in the series. I wanted to have them available to devour if I got hooked like I did with The Maze Runner series (which I will review later). I tried to give it a fair shot. It was recommended to me! It has werewolves! It's Young Adult! This was supposed to be the book that showed me WHY THIS STUFF SELLS!
I didn't get hooked.
I wasn't particularly impressed with the author's spin on werewolf mythology. Maybe it was because of how poorly it was utilized. I'm not sure. It was different, but not unique enough to warrant any sort of note.
I only burned through the book half as fast as I did because I was hoping for the story to pick up, for things to get more interesting. And I was left disappointed. Ultimately, it felt like the book made a promise it couldn't keep, like it was building towards a climax it couldn't deliver.
The characters weren't fleshed out, and were pretty archetypal in their presentation and interactions. As such, I found them hard to be seen as relatable, even to a less mature audience. The female protagonist, Grace, is aloof and independent because her parents are borderline negligent, and she's fine with it. The male protagonist, Sam, is a werewolf who's been 'in love' with Grace since she was, like, eight, and survived a werewolf attack that he'd saved her from. And she's strangely drawn to this wolf (Sam) that happens to lurk around her house every winter. None of the premises are very well constructed, and it leaves too many completely reasonable questions unanswered for me to buy into the universe. I couldn't completely immerse myself, so it was an effort to grind out pages.
Grace has friends, but their relationships are only mentioned in passing, never truly shown to the reader through action, and once Sam comes into the picture, it's always GraceAndSam, pushing everything else into the background. Something dramatic and catastrophic even happens to one of Grace's best friends, but as a reader, I cared so little, I was almost ashamed of myself for how apathetic I was to the girl's plight. And Grace certainly doesn't act concerned, so there's even less reason for the reader to care. It's all Sam Sam Sam for Grace, and it's...because it's told in the first person, it's a little obnoxious.
The chapters alternate between points of view--Grace and Sam--and everything is written in the first person. I'm not a fan of first person point of view. I find it very limiting for the reader (see: The Hunger Games), but because the chapters alternate between characters, it allows a fuller sort of understanding. However, there's no set pattern or structure to how or why the view points change, so it seems more a matter of lazy writing than fleshing out the universe. Changing the point of view is used because it's more convenient for the author than for the story being told.
Sam is also much more developed than Grace. I don't know if this is because he's the werewolf, and the author was just more interested in him than in the boring human Grace, but the imbalance is very very painfully obvious. It's even driven through Grace's chapters because she's so interested (read: obsessed) with Sam. The book should basically be called, "Sam the Werewolf and his Human Girlfriend."
By the end of the book, nothing particularly exciting has happened. Exciting maybe if a person had actually lived it (because, wow, WEREWOLVES), but not in terms of a read story. And the way it ends...there's little to no reason to continue the series. The one notable loose end is so far removed from the characters' thoughts that I honestly kinda forgot about it as a reader. And with how GraceAndSam the whole story was, I doubt the second book even focuses on that particular loose end and, instead, focuses, AGAIN, on GraceAndSam, the single, dull, entity this entire four book series revolves around.
Overall, it read like fanfiction to me. I think that was the hardest thing for me to get past. Slap in Stiles and Derek from MTV's Teen Wolf, and this story could be something you'd find on Archive Of Our Own, available to read for free, and probably written with a deeper understanding of the characters.
If you're looking for yet another romance-driven, supernatural, Young Adult novel because that's your jam, Shiver would be a perfect fit for you. Myself, I had higher expectations--both in terms of the story as a whole, and what insight I could glean from it about why Young Adult is so popular.
I'll eventually get around to reading the second and third books of this series (Linger and Forever, respectively), but I'll be reading and reviewing a few other books first. I think I might need some more experience with Young Adult before returning to the world of GraceAndSam.