Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Review - Shift by Jennifer Bradbury

Synopsis (from book cover): Imagine you and your best friend head out West on a cross-country bike trek. Imagine that the two of you get into a fight—and stop riding together. Imagine you reach Seattle, go back home, start college. Imagine you think your former best friend does too. Imagine he doesn’t. Imagine your world shifting… Shift is a tour de force—a literary debut that’ll knock the wind out of you as it explores the depths of loyalty, the depths of friendship, and the unknowable depths of another person.

Two friends go on a cross-country bike trek together after high school graduation. They get separated. Only one of them goes back home. Now, an FBI agent is asking questions.

We know this much in the first chapter, meeting Chris, who is starting his first year of college without having heard from his supposed friend, Win, in weeks. Win’s powerful and disapproving father wants to know what happened to Win, if Chris has heard from Win, if maybe Chris had something to do with his disappearance. Chris starts to wonder how much Win was hiding from him.

Then, we're taken back to the beginning, before graduation, when the bike trip was first conceived. The story splits into two time-lines, flip-flopping between Chris’s first year of college and the summer before, fleshing out the story of Chris and Win’s journey from West Virginia to the west coast.

We get to know Chris and Win, best friends since sixth grade, so close they practically shared a brain. The cross-country trip is a life-changing one, and not just because of the way it ended. More important are the people they meet along the way, the stories they share, the things they learn about themselves and each other.

With simple but elegant prose, this is one of those stories where the characters and the relationships between them can outshine even the best plots. It felt real, and had a lot of heart.

Lit Snit Verdict: A

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