I absolutely adore reading - my love for books has had a huge impact on my life! I'm going to grad school to be a children's/YA librarian.
For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf—her wolf—is a chilling presence she can't seem to live without.
Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human… until the cold makes him shift back again.
Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It's her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human—or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever. (source)
I'm incredibly disappointed by this book. I had pretty high expectations for it because some teenagers at the library where I intern had told me how much they loved it, and I was hoping to have the same experience... sadly, I did not. I think that this is a case of me looking at the story with a critical eye and not getting wrapped up in the romance, as I'm sure I would have at 14 years old.
There's so much about this that let me down that I honestly don't know where to start. I guess to begin with, there's too much that just simply doesn't make sense, and Stiefvater makes only the most half-hearted attempts to explain these plot points. I had posted an update early on in my reading of this book in which I complained about how the main character had been attacked by wolves at a young age - and then became absolutely obsessed with them. I think one of the other characters may have pointed this out to Grace (MC), and her response was basically, "Idk, that's just how I am." So, essentially, Stiefvater is just asking the reader to look past this gross irrationality and accept it for what it is. For me, it was too much to ask. Another thing that didn't make sense was the whole temperature thing. Stiefvater's werewolves don't turn as a result of the cycle of the moon, but because of temperature changes. If it's warm, they stay human. If it's too cold, they turn into wolves. For the vast majority of the book, I felt that the solution was obvious: move South and avoid the harsh Minnesota winters - problem solved. Finally, I think around 200 pages in, a character suggests this to Sam, one of the werewolves. He explains that a few pack members did attempt this, but this just made them hypersensitive to cold and one of the pack members turned instantly just by walking into a store that had air conditioning. The late occurrence of this explanation, plus the fact that this begs the question of why werewolves aren't turning during exposure to air conditioning in the summer, makes me think that an editor or beta reader must have questioned the temperature thing, too, and Stiefvater threw this little exchange in to attempt to fix the problem. Well, for me, it didn't. There are some other plot elements that didn't make sense to me in addition to these, but I think that they will probably be explained in further detail in later novels (such as why Grace didn't turn when she was bitten as a kid), so I'm giving Stiefvater the benefit of the doubt in those cases.
Additionally, while I'm usually not opposed at all to romance in YA (or any genre, really), in this case, I felt like it took away from the rest of the story. I will acknowledge that the romance is the main reason why teens are probably reading this and it's probably meant to be the main focus, with the werewolf plot as a background. But for me, the werewolf stuff was SO much more interesting - and I usually am happy to let everything else slide for a good romance! However, in this case, as much as I liked Grace and Sam together (and I really honestly did, although their insta-love was more than a little nauseating at some points), I think that the werewolf storyline had the potential to be super dynamic and interesting, and instead, it took a total backseat. It felt underdeveloped and almost like an afterthought in the writing process - like "Oops, maybe I should throw a couple of werewolf things in here!" I would have loved to have been able to see more of the other werewolf pack members, or for there to have been more confrontations and developments with Jack Culpeper. Instead, he had basically the most anticlimactic storyline ever,(show spoiler)
Ugh. That really, really could have been more masterfully done!
Although there were clearly many things about this book that I didn't like, I will say that there were a few moments where Maggie Stiefvater's skill at creating beautiful phrases shined through. This is the first book that I've read by her, so I have no idea if it's a typical example of her writing abilities. Overall, I didn't find them to be particularly impressive - not the worst that I've seen, but definitely not the best, either. But Sam, Grace's love interest, is super into music and he writes lyrics constantly in his mind - and most of them were absolutely beautiful. He's also very into poetry and Stiefvater did a great job of choosing amazing poems to sprinkle throughout the story, particularly some by Rilke. I'm not a huge poetry fan, but seriously, some of these took my breath away. So if nothing else, Stiefvater has introduced me to a new poet to look into, and that's a lot easier said than done in my case, since usually the word "poetry" is enough to send me running in the opposite direction!
I am glad that I read this book because it is pretty popular with teens right now and it's important that I'm reading what they're reading - and I definitely understand why this would appeal to teenage girls. But for my personal tastes, this was not a very good book. I don't think that I will be continuing the series by choice, but it might be one that I'm required to read in its entirety for my Resources for Young Adults course. There's a part of me that's curious to see how everything plays out and to see if certain plot elements are further explained, but mostly I just want to put this book behind me and move on to better things!