BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Unhappy teen Scott Tyler finds out he can shift, undoing any decision he’s ever made. He’s not the only one with the talent, though, and being “special” might not be everything he’s hoped for, after all.
PROS: Fast-paced; lots of twists and turns.
CONS: Light on character development.
BOTTOM LINE: Shift was a fun, fast, twisty sci-fi debut that will appeal to teens and especially (hopefully) reluctant readers.
Scott Tyler, home life a shambles, outlook for the future decidedly pessimistic, is out with his friends one night when he notices the lovely Aubrey Jones and decides to show off a bit by scaling The Pylon. In short order he finds himself flat on his back and with no real memory of how he got there. Before he knows it, Aubrey is in his face, threatening him with arrest for unauthorized shifting. He has no idea what she’s talking about, but he soon finds out when she takes him to the local Shifter hangout. If you’re thinking shapeshifters, think again.
After time spent with Aubrey, soaking up her explanations of his talent, he goes back to Aubrey’s apartment and after a long discussion on shifting, falls asleep on her couch, then wakes up on the ground next to a park bench wearing clothes that he doesn’t recognize. He remembers Aubrey, and remembers talking of something very important, but can’t remember what. He remembers that Aubrey told him that home may not be safe anymore, but he doesn’t know why. One thing becomes crystal clear very quickly: he’s not welcome at home, and something terrible has happened to his sister, Katie. Called a murderer by his mother, his brain flashes on a memory of him and Katie on a moped, the squealing of breaks, and a crash. Now he’s running to the only other person he knows who may be able to help: Aubrey. But convincing her to help him may be tough, since she has no idea who he is. But that’s ok, because you can always shift…
Now, there are rules to shifting: you can’t change the past unless it occurred because of a decision that was made by you, and each shift has consequences. After shifting, you normally lose memory of the old reality in order to deal with the new one that results because of the shift. Shifters are usually taken away from their families by the ARES (The Agency for Regulation and Evaluation of Shifters) when they’re very young kids for training. Regulators monitor unauthorized Shifting. Mappers “map” all of the possible consequences that will result from each shift. Spotters (like Aubrey) work for the Regulators and round up kids with talent, and so on. Entropy occurs when Shifters lose their talent in their late teens. The SLF (Shifting Liberation Front) thinks kids should be able to shift whenever, and however they want and are the antithesis of the ARES. They’re also convinced that the ARES is up to something sinister, and they might not be far off the mark. So, obviously, it’s time to bring in some (rather gruesome) brain eaters and conspiracies.
The author keeps the pace pretty fast throughout Shift, and while I like fast-paced books, some meat might have better been sacrificed to keep that pace up. I would have liked to go into Scott’s training at the ARES in more depth. It’s understandable wanting to get to the really fun stuff — like the mysterious murders happening around Scott, and the fat man that seems to be following him (and also appears to think Scott would taste really, really good) — but it felt like some character development was lost in order to achieve that goal. Also, wrapping my head around the logistics of shifting sort of made my brain cells want to take a flying leap, but even the author mentions in the afterword that quantum physics (which are the core of shifting) were a bit of a blur to her too. Don’t let this scare you away, though; I thought the visuals were rather good, and the icky bits will definitely appeal to teens…which brings me to my next point. I’m notoriously hard on YA, because my wrinkly 36 year-old brain has problems going back to when I was 16, but I was especially thrilled to see another book told from a male point of view. I thought Kim Curran captured teen angst perfectly, and the way she handles Scott’s crush on Aubrey is really very sweet and endearing. Also, the fat man made even this jaded reader shudder. All told, I thought Shift was a fun, fast, twisty debut that will appeal to teens and especially (hopefully) reluctant readers. Calling attention to science of any kind is always good in my book, and I’ll be interested to see what comes next from this author.