Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Shift (your mind, your views, your opinions)

Shift by Jennifer Bradbury is a classic mystery, not so much in the "whodunit" vein, but in the "howdunit." When the book opens, we meet Christopher, a college freshman in Atlanta. He's approached by an FBI agent and asked about the cross-country bike trip he took from West Virginia to Washington over the summer with his best friend, Win. Win is both Chris's best friend and his worst enemy. Just before the end of their bike trip Chris and Win parted ways. Chris hasn't heard from Win since. Neither has anyone else.

Win's rich, powerful, domineering father is convinced that Win is dead and Chris is somehow responsible. He's hired investigators to tail Chris and even goes so far as to threaten Chris's family in nonviolent but definitely hurtful ways. Chris gets a clue that leads him to believe that Win is alive, but he wants to verify it for himself before telling Win's dad or anyone else. To find the truth, he'll have to lie, run away (albeit temporarily) and retrace moments of the bike trip that seemed insignificant at the time but now are heavy with meaning.

Why you'll love it: Ah, the great tradition of the YA road trip novel. PPYA is even doing an entire road trip list this year. I love a good sinister twist to my literature and Shift definitely has it. Chris is smart but not wise beyond his years, making him a great protagonist. His dedication is not just to Win but to his family, himself and the mystery of where Win disappeared to. He is perceptive and honest...and perceptive enough to know when to be dishonest. The story moves back and forth in time but is easy to follow, so there's never any confusion as to what's happening when. Suspense comes not just from the constant wondering of whether Chris will find Win, but if he'll find Win, dead or alive, in time to save himself and his family from the wrath of Win's dad. There are lots of literary and Biblical (my favorite) allusions, too. This is one of those perfect summer reading books; it's heavy enough to engage your brain but not heavy enough to fry it.

Many thanks go to the children's publicity department at Simon & Schuster for sending me this book.

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