This book is justification for trolling the Middle School and YA (and even Juvenile) sections in the library. Even though it was listed as being for Middle Schoolers, there is nothing about this book that makes it inappropriate for adults. You can ask your kids’ permissions first if you like, but I’m sure they’ll say okay.
I’m not going to go too much into the plot, because SHIFT is a deftly woven mystery and discovering what happens is most of the fun. Basically, two boys decide that the summer after their high school graduation, they’re going to ride their bicycles from West Virginia to the Pacific coast. Chris is the protagonist, an ambitious Eagle scout who got a scholarship to an unnamed tech school. Win is his best friend, the scion of a wealthy and powerful industry mogul.
When the novel begins, we know that two boys set out, but only Chris completed the ride, and that something happened on the way. Chris isn’t saying what happened, however, not to the reader, nor to the FBI agent who has been sent by Win’s father to track down his sons whereabouts. As the story unfolds, the actions flips back and forth between the ride and the time afterwards with Chris at college. Chris has to decide what he’s going to do about the numerous implied threats Win’s dad has leveraged against him, if Chris fails to tell Win’s dad where Win is.
As mentioned before, I loved the mystery of this. I loved the way Bradbury slowly unveiled what had happened. I can’t say too much about this, but the motivations of the characters followed logically and plausibly from their interrelations. I also liked the adventure of it. Who hasn’t fantasized about a cross-country trip? It’s got crazy campers and rabid animals and friendly ranchers. It feels like something that really could have happened, which seems logical since the author herself rode across country on a bicycle.
This is a great coming-of-age story, a mystery, and a plausible real-world adventure. It’s not a long story, and its subject matter makes it suitable for people who don’t read often (like maybe teenage boys). I also recommend it for cyclists, and mystery-lovers, and for people who enjoy novels written for a younger audience. I don’t recommend it for book-snobs that think that only dense, dull, pedantic LITERATURE (preferably written by a man) is worth reading. You will impress no one by admitting you troll the children’s section for good books.