Shifty by Lynn E. Hazen
“Holes in a urban environment [San Francisco]”? Apparently that’s what the editors of Shifty have been calling it. To which I say, um, NOT! It doesn’t have the same humor or delicious sense of irony, no shifting between time periods or friendship between boys. But that’s okay, because the book it did remind me of is another one of my favorite books, America by E. R. Frank.
Soli has spent nearly all of his life in the foster care system. He picked up the nickname Shifty because of his ability to talk his way out of trouble, including those tight situations he keeps getting into whenever hunts for parking spaces in San Francisco. But now he’s facing the kind of trouble he may not be able to talk his way out of. Soli likes his current foster mother, Martha, and the younger children who have also been placed with Martha, seven-year-old Sissy and baby Chance (recently named by Soli, since Soli doesn’t like Chance’s birth name). Adoptive parents will be taking Chance in a few days, but Soli’s new family may be torn completely apart by the arrival of a new, by-the-book social worker. Both Soli and Martha have good intentions, but the things that their previous social worker would willingly overlook are definite violations in Sheila’s eyes and therefore valid reasons to possibly remove Soli and Sissy from Martha’s care.
Shifty would be a great choice for reluctant readers. I don’t care for the cover (which seems rather Dough Boy-ish), but the chapters are short and the voice and plot compelling. Soli, Martha, and Sissy are likable and easy to root for. There is some humor to lighten the mood, which is never as heavy or intense as America. Overall, Shifty is an enjoyable read about a tough subject.