“Shiver” review: a “thrilling story that grips to the end”

The very kind Ani Johnson, of thebookbag.co.uk, wrote a great review of Shiver the Whole Night Through. I am mightily pleased and more than a little bit chuffed. I will now cheekily paste up the review here, but do go onto their website for more great book reviews.

Summary: A supernatural YA thriller that evokes teen years so well that those suffering them will nod while those of us past them will nod with recognition. This is a thrilling story that will grip right through unexpected twists to the very end.

Aidan Flood’s life is miserable; he’s not only bullied but he lost his girlfriend to someone who works at the local carnival and even heard that from someone else. Life is just rubbish and needs ending totally. This is something he almost manages to accomplish as well if it wasn’t for a do-gooder passer-by. The next morning while coming to terms with the fact he’s still alive, he hears that Slaine McAuley, a girl he knows vaguely, has killed herself. The only thing is that Aidan knows she hasn’t – she told him herself after she’d died. What did happen to her and why does she choose to tell him, of all people? Aidan is on a mission: he will find out.

After writing some very convincing adult crime novels, Irish journalist and author Darragh McManusoffers us his first YA novel – and it’s a scorcher. Not only does it cover murder (with an imaginatively killed off body count) and a friendship on either side of the grave, there’s also a non-slushy, bloke-friendly love story but I’m getting ahead of myself…

Aidan is someone who any teenager (and anyone who has ever been a teenager) will recognise. He’s beginning to pull away from his parents and build his own idea of the world. However while doing this he’s also more than acquainted with the darker side of growing up. For a while he’s distracted from this as searching for the reason behind Slaine’s death becomes his driving force. But then even darker things start to happen…

Darragh’s treatment of Aidan’s other-worldly relationship with Slaine makes this a paranormal romance that won’t scare off the male readership or the section of the female readership who abhor slushy stuff. This is going to sound daft in the light of Slaine’s super powers (oh yes, they develop gradually but they’re super!) but this is a low key love story that doesn’t get in the way of the action, feeling more life-like than Twilight as well as, for me, more appealing. Indeed, although the story may be from Aidan’s first person perspective, it crosses the he/she divide seamlessly.

Slaine may be dead, but she isn’t the only unusual character Aidan encounters. Oddity is all around him and has been for years – he just doesn’t seem to have noticed it. Which reminds me, there will come a point at which you will feel you know who did it. Enjoy that feeling for as long as it lasts but don’t let it stop you reading after it hits you. Not only may you be very wrong (not giving anything away), it would be a shame to abandon a story that gets more and more tense right up to a lounge showdown and beyond.

Talking of showdowns, Darragh has cunningly made it tenser than out and out scary and, although there’s blood, the violence isn’t hugely graphic. So people who think they have delicate stomachs or may be prone to a fear of turning out lights after horror novels.

It isn’t all dour or nail biting; Darragh enjoys a bit of humour and here ambushes us with the odd giggle, for example when Aidan’s mum decides to give him a life lesson lecture. (For we adults, this is a moment to squirm as we recognise the situation and us being on the end that embarrasses!)

I only felt one slight quibble about the story, otherwise it would have been a resounding 5*. I appreciate that Aidan’s friend Podsy’s uncle being a Garda would help the plot along, but would a Garda or any policeman have told their 14 year old nephew as much as he told Podsy? It’s definitely not the sort of quibble that would put anyone off though as the uncle-led revelations are only a side issue as opposed to the highly engrossing main event.

Age-wise this is a true teens novel, probably appealing to 13 year-olds (and even mature 12s) right up to those of the riper age of 90-teen and beyond. I guess what I’m trying to say (rather clumsily) is that, if you’re going to give this to a YA relative for Christmas, don’t read it first or you may just hang onto it for yourself!

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