Shift by Jennifer Bradbury
Chris and Win have been best friends for years, less because of anything they had in common than for the simple reason that neither one had any other friends. And while Win’s antics sometimes aggravate Chris, their friendship lasts through their senior year of high school, when they set off on a post-graduation bike trip across the country.
Chris’ mother was afraid of what might happen to Chris on the trip; Win’s parent’s frankly didn’t care. None of them expected that when Chris returned home at the end of the summer, it would be without Win, who ditched Chris with no explanation just short of Seattle, their final destination.
As Chris starts his freshman year at Georgia Tech, he learns that Win didn’t just ditch him, he’s disappeared. Win’s wealthy and powerful father, who never seemed to approve of anything Win did, is now desperate to find him. And since Chris, as far as anyone knows, was the last person to have seen Win, Chris is the one under pressure—or is that suspicion?—in the form of questioning by an FBI agent and not-so-subtle threats from Win’s father, to discover what exactly happened to Win.
After a bumpy first couple of pages, I really enjoyed Shift, Jennifer Bradbury‘s debut novel. Bradbury’s author bio notes that “she and her husband took a two-month long bicycling trek from Charleston, South Carolina, to Los Angeles, California,” and you definitely get a sense of this in the book, from the people and small towns Chris and Win encounter, to the technical details of planning and actually completing such a trip. The story is told by Chris, but the time frame alternates with each chapter, switching back and forth from Chris’ current perspective, as he learns that Win never returned home and attempts to find out what happened, and flashbacks covering the events of the bike trip. And it’s all told in such a way that unfolds smoothly, that never left me feeling cheated or upset that certain information was (or was not) withheld. Instead, I was drawn into the story and invested in the characters.
Plus, I’ll admit that it was very refreshing to read a book about the friendship between two teenaged boys and growing up, with no wars, no trying to hook up with a love interest, and no spying involved.
Shift is a Cybils YA Fiction nominee.