Tuesday, December 23, 2008

SHIFT by Jennifer Bradbury



Chris and Win have convinced their parents that after graduation they should have a summer of adventure. They will both be starting college at different universities in the fall, and as best friends they have a plan to bike cross-country from West Virginia to Seattle.

If they were honest, their reasons for the trip may be a bit different. Chris's mother has made it perfectly clear that she thinks a summer job to earn college money is what he should really be doing. When he breaks the news of the trip to his parents, his dad takes his side and encourages the idea over protests from his wife. Chris later learns that his father once had similar plans and perhaps is using this adventure to live a little through his son.

Win, however, doesn't have the backing of such a supportive family. When he announces their plan, his father barely gives him a glance and instead says Win shouldn't plan on being rescued if he gets tired or in trouble. On the actual day of departure, his mother is busy catching a plane for a trip of her own. Win's privileged background has often made him crass and wreckless, but one thing is certain - he can't wait to put distance between himself and his self-absorbed parents.

The trip is truly an adventure of a lifetime, and the young men immediately begin gathering tales they will tell for years to come. But as they travel further, Chris finds things that puzzle him about his long-time friend. There's the lack of contact with his folks back home, his vagueness about the uncle they will be visiting once they reach Seattle, and the huge wad of cash that Chris stumbles across in Win's pack.

The mystery only deepens when within a day's ride of the west coast, the guys have a falling out over a coyote and flat tire. Win rides on leaving Chris to change his flat. That's the last Chris sees of his friend. He finishes the trip alone and returns to West Virginia and then school in Atlanta. He figures Win has done the same until the day an FBI agent arrives at Chris's dorm asking all sorts of questions.

Debut author Jennifer Bradbury has created a mystery that will grab readers on the first page and won't let go until the last. With vivid chatacters and plenty of plot twists and turns, Bradbury shows a talent that promises to bring the YA world many fantastic books in the years to come.

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