Shift gears or consciousness?

Shift by Jennfier Bradbury; published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, New York, 2008; 245 pages.

Chris Collins’ life changed in third grade, when Winston “Win” Coggans’ family moved to town and the teacher sat them side-by-side.  They’d been “Chrisandwin” since then.  Fastforward nine years and it’s high school graduation time.  In an effort to avoid a summer job, Chris tells his parents that he and Win are riding their bikes from West Virginia to Seattle, to Win’s uncle, then they’ll catch a bus back home for their first days at college.  Then the shift begins.  Chris, tired of being half of a duo wants more independence from Win.  Win also needs independence, but more from his family than his friend.  At the end of the roadtrip, there is only Chris, ditched by Win.  When he returns to West Virginia, he doesn’t tell anyone where Win is; he doesn’t really know.  An FBI agent follows Chris to college and dogs him about Win.  Is Win dead?  Where is the nearly $20,000 Win took out of the bank?  Simply put, where is Win and what happened to him?  Chris and Win both shift as the book comes to its close; this mystery is solved and its resolution is completely satisfying.

Bradbury’s debut novel is a well-written mystery which explores the obvious “where’s Win?” plotline, but also endeavors to unearth the mystery of coming of age for these boys of diverse backgrounds.  Enough hints are dropped throughout the novel to figure out what really happened well before Chris figures it out, but that’s okay.  I got as much satisfaction from witnessing Chris’ elucidation as I did in figuring out where Win was.  I enjoyed the descriptions of the places the boys visited along their trek as much as the story of their maturation.

The tire marks on the first page of every chapter was an interesting gimmick for about half of the book then I grew tired of it.  The book stands on its own without needing gimmicks, but perhaps teens would view that differently.  I think the book appeals to boys, certainly, because of the independence and adventure of their journey.  But I think that the story would appeal to girls as well.  In my 20s, my future sister-in-law and I bandied about the idea of dropping out, jumping in (the car), and crossing the country to read every single historical marker we ran across.  Never happened; wish it had.  This story is for everyone who, like Chris’ dad, every had that dream.  When is the movie coming out?  I can’t wait for the scenery for the travel bits, if nothing else!

4P     4Q     Grade Level: 8-12

shiftCover Art: The yellow certainly appeals to teens as should the bike graphic and shifted lettering of the title.  On closer inspection, there are footprints walking away from the bike and the long shadow of that person abandoning the ride.  The mysterious tagline on the cover also generates interest for teens: “Some friends fade away….Others disappear.”  Oooh, set the hook, they’re on the line.  Anyway, the black and yellow graphic spine and white lettering stood out on the shelves as well.

From Reading List: On the Edge of Your Seat (Mystery, Suspense, Thriller)


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