Thursday, September 04, 2008

Shift by Jennifer Bradbury

Plot Summary: Chris and Win (short for Winston) have graduated high school and gone off on a trek cross country. On their bicycles. It’s a dream trip for any teenage boy desiring freedom and fun...except that only one of them comes back.

I heard about this book on Jenn Hubbard’s blog. It sounded interesting, so I picked it up from my local library...then couldn’t put it down until I’d finished it.

As with all my book discussions, there are SPOILERS below.

This story is told in alternating time periods. The first chapter starts in the present: the bike trip is over, and Chris has returned without Win. Then the second chapter starts with Chris and Win first getting the idea, and permission, for this bicycle trip across the country. The chapters alternate, past-present-past-present, until they ultimately merge by laying out the whole chain of events.

I’ve read stories with alternating time periods before, and, most of the time, felt it wasn’t necessary. These stories were interesting, but didn’t NEED to be told in this alternating fashion. SHIFT, however, isn’t one of those stories. Not only is it amazingly effective, it’s the only way this story should be told. A linear story line would have made it average, even boring.

But Bradbury skillfully gives us information that furthers the story in each chapter. I mean, of course, the story as a whole. Not just that particular time period (past or present). If she had a question hanging from something in the past, she answered it in the present. And vice versa. This is NOT an easy thing to do, and I thoroughly enjoyed the thought and precision that went behind each chapter. Nicely done.

There was only one place in this book that gave me pause. That was the post card that Win sends Chris in the present. He sends it posing as a girl they’d met on their trip, dropping subtle clues to let Chris know it’s really him. To the reader, it is painfully obvious. But Chris doesn’t get it. Granted, he catches on a couple chapters later, but the way the post card was presented made me want to scream at him to turn on his brain – the brain that he says he’s been sharing with Win for the past ten years.

I realize that these things do happen, even to friends who are as close as Chris and Win are. And my guess is that the author wanted Chris to discover the post card sender’s identity at a particular moment. If that’s the case, then I think the post card should have been as downplayed as all the other ones he’d received. Since it wasn’t, the reader knows right away that there’s something special about this one. And we start looking at it closely, analyzing the details, until we’ve figured it out. Personally, I find it frustrating when I figure something out way before the main character does...but this was the only place where I had trouble.

The ending was really, really good. Unconventional, interesting, happy, and sad all at the same time. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but all loose ends were well taken care of. Much care, thought, planning, and work has been poured into this book. And it shows. Highly recommended.


Marcia said...

This sounds great! I've put it on reserve at my library.

PJ Hoover said...

And Jen is a fellow Class of 2k8er and I get to meet her in November! I can't wait!

Anne Spollen said...

When you read good books like this one, doesn't it make you feel inspired?

Tabitha said...

Marcia - my library has the same feature, and I've been hoarding a zillion books as a result. It's just too easy to reserve them, wait for them to come in, then bring them home and stack them on the nightstand. Right now I'm trying to work my way through the pile before I'll allow myself to reserve any more. :)

PJ - very cool!! I can't remember when her book comes out, but it sounds interesting. I'll definitely pick up a copy! :)

Anne - it surely does! :) It spurs me on to write a great book so it can sit on the shelf next to the other great ones. :)

PJ Hoover said...

I mean Jen as in Jennifer Bradbury!!! Sorry! I should have used her full name!
You have it!

Tabitha said...

Ahh! Too many Jen's! :) LOL!! Very, very cool you'll get to meet her. I hope you'll tell us all about it afterward! :)

Mary Witzl said...

You've made me want to read yet another book. I very much like the idea of a time shift like this, though I have a terrible linear streak in me.

I am going to a place where there are almost no books in English and they have NOT given us a book shipping allowance. It is the only aspect of this job and new life that depresses me -- the thought of leaving behind all our books and not being able to easily get more. But I'm determined to find a way, and at least I can keep up with what is being written on your blog, and on the blue boards at Verla's!

Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

Glad you enjoyed this book too! It's definitely been one of my favorites of 2008 so far.

I figured out the postcard instantly as well (and I think practically every reader will)--though I didn't think Win intended to mislead Chris with it. I think Win expected Chris to get it right away. I was glad Chris caught on pretty quickly--I can tolerate it if the MC is a little bit behind me as a reader, but only a little bit.

Interesting question: Why didn't Chris get it right away? Still trying to block out the whole thing with Win, and turn his back on the past?

Jenn Hubbard

Tabitha said...

Mary - I was so hoping you'd be moving closer to the states, but it's not up to me so I'll just have to wish you luck. And I'll keep my eyes peeled for ways for you to still have access to all the great books coming out. The electronic age is getting stronger every minute, so maybe there will a larger e-book presence soon. I'd hate to feel like I'm teasing you with all these books you can't read. :)

Jenn - I loved this book! I'm so glad you mentioned it on your blog. I agree that Win wasn't trying to mislead Chris, but was trying to throw everyone else off his trail. But I, too, was wondering why Chris didn't get it right away. They were so close, it seems like he should have gotten it instantly. I'm curious why it took so long...

Gottawrite Girl said...

Thanks for the review! I will read this book, if only for the example it provides of typing up lose ends in a satisfying way. I can't read enough examples of this...thanks!

Tabitha said...

This is definitely a good book for that! If I think of others, I'll send them along. :) Enjoy!