All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Shiver by Allie Reynolds

on March 3, 2021

Allie Reynolds
Hachette AUS
2021, 425p
Personal purchased copy

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

When Mila is invited to a reunion in the French Alps resort that saw the peak of her snowboarding career, she drops everything to go. While she would rather forget the events of that winter, the invitation comes from Curtis, the one person she can’t seem to let go.

The five friends haven’t seen each other for 10 years since the disappearance of the beautiful and enigmatic Saskia. But when an icebreaker game turns menacing, they realise they don’t know who has really gathered them there and how far they will go to discover the truth.

Imagine Agatha Christie said in the Alps and you have Shiver, a spectacularly sinister psychological debut that delves into the competitive side of human nature. If you can’t trust your friends who can you trust?

This was such an enjoyable read.

It’s told in alternating chapters – one set in the present and then one set 10 years before for the whole book. Milla in the present has been invited to a reunion high up in the French Alps before the snow season really starts. She’s only going because it’s Curtis who invites her, someone she cannot refuse. Ten years ago, Milla was trying to make it in professional snowboarding when she met Curtis and his sister Saskia as well as other boarders Brent and Dale and also Heather, the only one who was not a snowboarder but who worked in a bar that the boarders spent their downtime in. Saskia made Milla’s life hell, it’s what she did to her competition. But Milla kept coming back for more, getting more and more involved with the group. Then Saskia disappeared and no trace of her has ever been found. At first the reunion sounds like a chance to catch up, reminisce, see what everyone has been up to. But after they arrive, they realise that they might not be alone at the resort. And that someone is out to find out exactly what happened all those years ago…and make them pay for it.

I loved so much about this. The setting is amazing. High up in the French Alps at a resort that isn’t yet open for the skiing and boarding season, so the five of them are alone (or are they?) in this huge building. Most of the five haven’t seen or spoken to each other in ten years, since a highly dramatic season ended in tragedy, disappearance, broken relationships and other damaged feelings. There’s a lot of seething resentment I think, under the facade of this awkward reunion that hardly anyone really wants to be on and yet here they all are and everyone is pretty much suspicious of everyone else in regards to a lot of things. Did one of them do something to Saskia? And if they’re discovered, what will happen? When they play a simple game of icebreaker, where they each write a true fact down anonymously and put it in a box, the five slips of paper pulled out are not what any of them wrote. And they contain secrets from ten years ago that stir up even more distrust, fear and resentment.

The book is told from Milla’s perspective and we get a lot of how she feels coming into the group as probably the weakest snowboarder. She has to really push herself and she wants to be the best. She’s got an older, successful brother and is very determined to make it to the top of her sport – but not it seems, as determined as Saskia is. She cements her position by competing off the half-pipe as well as on it and half the time, her opponents don’t even realise they’re in a competition. Milla does, though. And she’s determined not to let Saskia beat her in any way. She will be better than her and even Curtis’ warning about not taking her on, because she will retaliate, falls on deaf ears.

I know very little about competitive snowboarding – just from reading about Torah Bright. Allie Reynolds is a former professional snowboarder and it shows. There’s a lot of information about this, about learning different moves and tricks, the injuries and the competition. Despite the fact that I’ve never seen real snow in my life, I greatly enjoyed reading about the sport. I really felt the undercurrents of tension between the group (sexual and aggressive) and in the present day, the location is used to really isolate the group. The reader feels it too and I know I felt the cold, despite not having actually experienced temperatures like that and the fact that I was reading it in summer. But it’s all too easy to picture having no way to escape when things start going wrong – intermittent power, strange happenings, the possibility that it isn’t just the five of them up there. Who else could it be and what do they want?

There’s some really great twists and turns in this, kept me guessing secrets and motivation the whole way through. However if there’s a bit of a weak point, for me it’s in some of the characterisation. I never found Curtis particularly compelling, especially enough that Milla would be drawn to him still after ten years of not seeing him and he comes across as very weak where his sister is concerned. I preferred Brent as a character and felt like the poor guy got a raw deal! Also Saskia’s character often feels very over the top whilst people just stand by and passively watch, like oh well. Only Milla really seems to want to go up against her, and I felt like there’s one scene in particular which felt baffling and did not evolve naturally.

But apart from that, this was a rollercoaster of a read and I think it’d make an absolutely fantastic movie or television adaption. There’s so much you could do with it and the setting and isolation as well as the flashbacks would work so well in that format.


Book #30 of 2021

Shiver is book #14 for The Australian Women Writers Challenge of 2021

3 responses to “Review: Shiver by Allie Reynolds

  1. It was a great read, definitely! Saskia was unbelievable at times, and yes, seemed to get away with stuff with an absurd ease.

  2. Remembering back to your post about your March tbr, this one was on the special top secret project pile…. 🤔

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