I'd heard this lauded as just the thing for Twilight readers who counted themselves among Team Jacob so I moved this up on "high priority" on my "to read" shelf. I have to say, the first several chapters didn't initially rope me in. I stuck with it though, and I'm glad I did as the tone of the story quickly changes about a quarter of the way through the book.
16-year-old Grace is a bit of a loner, in Mercy Falls, Minnesota, with two best friends Olivia and Rachel. Her inattentive and disengaged parents seem happy to let her have the run of the household. Sam is a werewolf, who we soon learn, takes human form during summers and spends his winters as a wolf. All Grace knows (at least, at first) is that she was attacked by wolves as a child, and was saved by one of the pack. Ever since then, she's been fascinated by "her" wolf, watching and photographing him whenever she can.
Writing first-person narrative between two alternating characters can be tricky -- readers could be left struggling, wondering, "Now who is this speaking again?" but when done well, it's brilliant. Steifvater handles the transitions between viewpoints with aplomb. Each extremely short chapter is clearly marked with a heading of the protagonist that we are hearing from, along with a report of the current temperature (something which really amps up the tension, as temperatures steadily drop and Sam and Grace's fates hang in the balance.) In addition, Sam and Grace each have very distinct voices.
The language in this book is rich and lyrical. Once Sam regains human form (after being shot by local hunters), the romantic connection between him and Grace deepens. Grace meets the other members of his pack and we learn that Sam is being groomed to take over as "pack leader" once his mentor and father-figure Beck goes totally wolf. Both Sam and Grace struggle with issues from their parents -- while Grace has just been neglected, Sam's parents tried to murder him when they realized what he was.
I liked this new spin on a werewolf story. Jettisoning the full-moon component of the lore seems akin to the recent trend of getting rid of vampires aversion to sunlight, but adding the component of being so reliant on the weather really works here.
The sequel, Linger, will be out in July 2010, and from everything I've heard from reviewers who have snagged ARC's of it, it's not to be missed.
I borrowed this book from the library.