May 22nd, 2008


Shift by Jennifer Bradbury

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

Sometimes, life takes a detour.

Shortly after graduating from high school, Chris and his best friend Win set out on their bicycles, determined to travel across the country before college. Like all good road trips, this trek is bumpy, memorable, and metaphoric. Towards the end of their journey, Win unexpectedly takes off by himself. Feeling abandoned and upset, Chris finishes the trip alone. When Chris comes home without Win, he has to answer to his parents, Win's parents, and the police. Where did his best friend go? Why? What really happened between Point A and B?

As close as he thought they were after ten years of friendship, Chris found himself surprised by some of the things his best friend did during their trip. He learns even more as he unravels the mystery of Win's disappearance. In the summertime sequences, their dialogue is always comfortable, sometimes teasing, sometimes competitive. They are friends who almost act like brothers, but they aren't one in the same. Chris comes from a working class family while Win, whose parents are well-off, obviously has difficulty getting along with his father. Growing up, the boys didn't really think about going their separate ways, but now that they have, Chris must figure out what his friend wanted and what he must do.

Readers will easily navigate through this story. Like a good film noir, Shift unfolds using both the past and the present: the chapters alternate between the here-and-now, with Chris starting his freshman year of college, and the summer, as Chris and Win make their way across the country. Their friendship and the investigation are accompanied by bicycles, patches, jackets, one glove, small towns, campgrounds, diners, and postcards. Though the element of mystery is always there, Shift is not a whodunnit. Instead, it asks: Why did Win leave? Who is he, really? How well do we really know anyone?

Shifting Into Gear

My favorite line from the book reads as follows:

Reality had a disappointing habit of not measuring up to my memories.

I also really enjoyed Chris' assessment of his situation:

[E]veryone kept telling me how much fun I was going to have in college, how much freedom I'd have. I was starting to believe that I'd used up my lifetime quota of both on the trip this summer.

Further Reading

Read my exclusive interview with author Jennifer Bradbury.
Veronica Mars, Kristen Bell, knowing

Interview: Jennifer Bradbury

Writing a novel then trying to get published can be somewhat like taking a road trip: you can be improved or hindered by impulses, distractions, breaks, false starts, and the input of others.

For author Jennifer Bradbury, traveling down the road to publication has proved interesting. Her debut novel Shift was partially inspired by a trip she took years ago. Though the circumstances and plot of Shift - a mystery about a college boy gone missing - are fictional, the novel was born out of that special trip and the anecdotes it provided.

What made you and your spouse choose to take a two-month trek via bicycle to celebrate your honeymoon?

One of the things I fell for in my husband was how adventurous he is. And when we met, I soon learned that he'd done quite a bit of bike touring - including a cross-country trip when he graduated from high school. I thought it sounded like fun, and he was thrilled that I was willing to try. I didn't even own a bike at the time - a friend ended up buying me one at a yard sale down the road from where we got married, and that's the one I've ridden since. And the trip itself turned out to be a great way to start our marriage. A couple of months of intense adventure, fun, and challenge proved a great foundation.

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Visit Jennifer's website and blog.

Related Posts: Book Review: Shift by Jennifer Bradbury, Class of 2k8

Today's SBBT Stops
Elisha Cooper at Chasing Ray
Dar Williams at Fuse #8
Jennifer Bradbury at Bildungsroman
E. Lockhart at The YA YA YAs
Mary Hooper at Miss Erin
Charles R. Smith, Jr. at Writing & Ruminating
Mary E. Pearson at A Chair, a Fireplace and a Tea Cozy

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Visit my archive of author interviews at Bildungsroman.