Title: Shift (Strange Chemistry)
Author: Kim Curran
May Contain Spoilers
When I discovered that Angry Robot Books would be launching a YA imprint, I was excited to check out the Strange Chemistry line. Every book under this imprint looks good. I don’t think there can ever be enough books released with fantasy or sci-fi elements, so I was eager to start digging into the launch titles for Strange Chemistry. First up for me is Shift; I found this one intriguing because protagonist Scott learns that he is a Shifter, and that he can undo decisions he’s made if they turn out to be bad ones. It’s like having a non-expiring do-over card, except for those occasional unpleasant consequences. Yes, you knew there would be consequences for using a power that cool, and after seeing the heartbreaking handiwork of one of his Shifts, he decides that maybe it’s not such a great ability after all.
I thought the pacing for Shift was great. I powered quickly through this book, and once I got a few chapters in, I didn’t want to put it down. I wanted to learn more about Scott’s ability and the world he lived in. This is a great blend of super-hero comic with equal parts futuristic thriller and murder mystery tossed in for good measure. There were even a few pages that completely freaked me out and got my heart pounding in fear as Scott got himself into some horrific and scary situations. For a kid who has no idea what he’s doing, he sure manages to get himself into so much trouble! Life-threatening trouble, too! I still can’t believe that he made it to the last page relatively unscathed. That just proves that luck is just as important as mondo-powerful supernatural abilities.
Scott discovers that he has the power to undo decisions he’s made quite by accident. He is showing off in front of a bunch of his classmates, and his uncharacteristic flash of bravado is just about to get him killed. Until he wishes with everything he has that he hadn’t decided to act like a moron. He’s never been cool, and he never will be cool, even if he completes the dare, so he wonders why he even bothered. Being a pancake after falling from a utility pole just doesn’t seem worth it. He regrets that he wanted to impress a pretty girl he’s never seen before, and now it looks like it’s going to be the death of him.
I loved Scott. He’s self-depreciating, and once he started getting over himself, he is a fun character. Thrown into circumstances far beyond his control, he finally starts coming into his own. As he begins to understand the consequences of both doing and un-doing his decisions, he begins to accept some the less favorable choices he’s made. He can no longer blame others for his poor judgment, and that helps to give him the kick in the pants he needs to start growing up. People can live or die by his actions, and there is no blaming anyone else when he messes up. Instead, he has to put on his big-boy pants and fix the chaos he’s caused. He needs to risk himself to save his friends from the harm he has caused them, and this time, a simple shift isn’t going to cut it. For a big nerd, Scott’s take charge attitude impressed me, and his determined charge to the end of the book kept me completely engaged in the story.
I had some quibbles with Shift, but they weren’t enough to ruin the book for me. Many of the secondary characters are one-dimensional and yawn inducing stereotypes. I would have liked more depth to all of the secondary characters. Overall, though, this is a fun read, and it got me geeked to read more releases from Strange Chemistry.
Review copy provided by publisher