Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Book Review: Shift by Kim Curran

Shift by Kim Curran
Release Date: September 4, 2012
Publisher: Strange Chemistry 
Pages: 416
Received: ARC from publisher
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars


From Goodreads:

When your average, 16-year old loser, Scott Tyler, meets the beautiful and mysterious Aubrey Jones, he learns he's not so average after all. He's a 'Shifter'. And that means he has the power to undo any decision he's ever made. At first, he thinks the power to shift is pretty cool. But as his world starts to unravel around him he realises that each time he uses his power, it has consequences; terrible unforeseen consequences. Shifting is going to get him killed. In a world where everything can change with a thought, Scott has to decide where he stands.


It's bad when the best word I can come up with to describe the characters is "cardboard"

It's even worse when I want to attach the word "annoying" to that description. Which is pretty much where I'm at with all of the characters in Shift. They're boring. They don't have depth. They're caricatures. They felt unfinished. Whatever little bit of history they have doesn't do anything to make me feel for them.

Even better, they jump to conclusions, do stupid things, and they don't act in ways that are internally consistent. Scott, the narrator, is kind of uselessly, stupidly there while also being The One for no believable reason. Aubrey, Scott's romantic interest was...extremely grating. She's arrogant, quirky, totally independent, stunning, and nurturing a secret hurt. She gave me a massive eyeroll sprain.  

I also had a hard time believing any of these characters were teenagers.

We need to re-write that blurb

I hate it when blurbs mislead me. Shifting doesn't have Terrible Consequences. Not really, and at least not in ways that are the focus of the plot.

I would try to give a better blurb now, but I'm not even sure where to begin. There are so many different things going on in this book. Murders, mysteries, separate mysteries, secret experiments, political units, different murders, fighting factions...it's kind of a lot.

Oh, and boring "getting to know your gift" denials and training. And excruciating info dumping (and I usually like info dumping). For, like, half the book. 

On one hand, though, I did like the plot. It's pretty slow in the beginning, but the second half shoots off like a racehorse with barely a second to catch your breath. The crazy twists are what kept me reading because, though I didn't really care about the characters, I was curious about what was going on and how all of the different threads were going to tie together.

Except, they didn't really tie together. Not entirely coherently, at least. I'm also not really sure what the point of some of them were. I mean, I understand it and everything, but it seems very, "So what?" if you know what I mean. Like, why bother adding that plot point if that's all you're going to do with it.

The eventual reveals were very cackling evil villain all for the sake of evil villainyness, which was doubly disappointing because, well, that type of thing is always disappointing, but also because there was so much more potential there. The plot threads were zany and a little hard to swallow, but they were fun and they were leading toward conspiracies with murders and all that good stuff. It could have been so much more.

Also, despite all the info dumping, the world building leaves a lot to be desired. The rules had slapdash explanations and there was far too much time spent on talking about their abilities and not enough time actually using them. A lot of the plot relied on a big conspiracy about evil adults using shifting abilities(shifting is just for kids, btw. It disappears when you get older), but this whole concept wasn't developed enough AT ALL. 

As it was, everything was "not enough" for me. It all felt like it needed to go back to the drawing board for some major fleshing out and maybe even some re-thinking because "half-baked" is only a good thing if you're talking about cookies.

If just one part had been strong—the characters, the plot, something—then I think I would have at least bumped this up to a three if not a three and a half, but as it stands, eh, I feel like I'm being fair to generous with a two.

The writing

It's very British, and I don't mean whimsical or charming British speak like Downton Abbey or Harry Potter, either. It's more the slangy type of modern British English. I know some people love it and will probably love it here, but I don't like that.

I'm the type of person who wishes there were English subtitles on modern British TV shows. It's tiring reading a book where I need to mentally translate every British slang into American English. I'm lazy, so the whole thing was just one big frustrating experience.

Bottom line

It wasn't a total wash for me, and I did read to the end, but after getting to the end I'm not sure it was really worth it. My copy had only 290-something pages, so it didn't feel very long. The finished version is supposed to have over four hundred pages, and I don't think I would have pushed through to the end if I was reading that version.

I'm not sure what accounts for the difference in page counts though. Is the finished  version more fleshed out? Because that would be a very good thing. Or does the finished version just have larger margins and stuff?

At least this was a standalone, though there is certainly the opening left for future installments. I won't be reading them. While I can see a few of my library kids enjoying this book well enough (more the boys than the girls), I don't see it having the lasting power or generating enough interest to warrant a budget expenditure in our library.  

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about Shift that I haven't addressed?
Feel free to ask in the comments!

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  1. Hi Small! I'm back from my vacation! Too bad you didn't like this one. Still, you did a great job of explaining your issues with it.
    BTW...I think you put the wrong star rating image at the bottom of the review (it doesn't correspond to the 2 out of 5 rating).

    1. Yay! I'm so happy you're back! I hope your trip was a lot of fun. :) Thanks for the heads up on the stars. They're all fixed now :)

  2. Awesome honest review. Oddly, I still want to try it. :)

  3. Oh shoot! I was really hoping this would be a good book to recommend to boys. I always have a hard time picking stuff up for them. I'm going to take a pass and send my ARC to another librarian who has a larger teen board. Thanks for the review, Small!

  4. YEah, this book lost me at... you know, Cardboard!
    I'm sad you didn't like the book *hugs* but hopefully your next read will be awesome.

  5. I'm trying to read this one and can't get past the first few pages. Kudos to you for sticking it out. That's a lot of extra pages for margins and title pages. Maybe they did flesh it out more, but right now, I'm bored to tears. Good review.


  6. Uh oh, I was planning on reading this one soon. "urders, mysteries, separate mysteries, secret experiments, political units, different murders, fighting factions ..." would normally be a win for me. Too bad it doesn't work out here. Thanks for the review, Small!

  7. This book sounds like there is way to much happening in it for me to get into it. I had heard a few interesting things about this book but nothing that really captured my attention (other than the blurb). Now that I know the blurb is misleading it turns me off more. Thanks for the honest review

  8. A very well thought out honest review. I like it when you explain in depth why a book didn't work for you. Its very valuable to both the writers and potential readers. From what you've said, though, I think I'm going to pass on this one. It just doesn't fit my reading tastes. Thanks!

  9. Great, honest review which I totally respect! I have heard so many good reviews for this book that I've been a little wary of picking it up incase it didn't live up to expectations! I think that this book is going to be a little too action packed for me, but I will give it a go to see what I think. Great review!

    Steph @ SOOTP


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