The Mountains of Instead

Championing fiction as an escape from pandemics, politics and bad TV.

Stop Crying Your Heart Out (Review: Shift; Jeri Smith-Ready)

Shift (Shade, #2)Shift
Jeri Smith-Ready
Simon Pulse 2011

Shift is the second book in Jeri Smith-Ready's series, the first is Shade. If you haven't read Shade (and you really should) then this review will contain spoilers. You have been warned.

Aura is still reeling from the events of Shift.  Caught in an unimaginably painful place between her dead, yet terribly present boyfriend Logan and the new and delightful Zachary - a boy to whom she appears to be inextricably tied.  It's not the easiest position to be in and just when she thought things might be improving, they're about to get a whole lot more complicated.  With the authorities increasingly focused on Aura, her secrets are becoming harder to hide - especially with the ever spotlight seeking Logan dragging her onto the world stage.  On top of this, Aura's still trying to sort out her own feelings and tread carefully through the minefield that is high school, prom and first (not to mention second) love.

As a character, Aura starts Shade as confused and sad as she ended Shift.  Unable to let go of a boyfriend who has died yet refuses to leave, she struggles to grieve.  In fact, at points she struggles to feel anything.  Her torment is believable but so also is her increased irritation at her inability to move on.  She's pretty stubborn, and seems to be on her way to knowing what she actually wants but she's also got a tendency to be slightly over-honest and can also a little selfish.  However, she's very likable and it's hard not to feel for her and her impossible situation, particularly in regard to Zachary and their oddly shared past.

Logan starts of Shade as arrogant and cocky as ever.  He's never been one of my favourite characters and much of Shade does little to change this.  Yet, very slowly, Logan starts to mature although it takes a while, and he often ruins his good intentions with his larger than life ego.  His saving grace is that, despite his bluster and showboating, he recognises his flaws and his temptations.  While he never becomes a tragic character (and nor should he, being as ironically full of life as he is) he does eventually become a sympathetic one.  His character development is clever, skillfully staying true to the Logan seen in Shift while also showing glimpses of the man he might have become had he been given the chance.

Then there is Zachary.  Ah, Zachary, you will always be mine... I'd like to say lots of clever, insightful things about him but (due to Jeri allowing me a hand in his Scottish-isms) he has become way to close to my heart for me to be at all objective.  Seriously, he's another excellently written character, mainly because he is never allowed to become too perfect and we all know that the best boys are the slightly flawed ones.  His interactions with Aura are all beautifully written, yet he's not always nice and certainly makes a few mistakes along their complicated road.  However, he always manages to redeem himself and ends up being better than ever.  Ach, I give up - I can't write anything negative about him, you'll just have to read about him yourself and make up your mind that way.

The cast of characters that surround these three central figures is well rounded and interesting. From the rather infuriatingly mysterious Eowyn to the psychotic Becca they're all great to read.  Stand-outs in this installment are Mickey and Dylan Keeley, both dealing with the loss of their brother in both believable and heart-wrenching ways.  One of the great strengths of Shade (as with Shift) is Jeri Smith-Ready's ability to write teenage characters who actually seem like teenagers.  From the protagonist down, this lot are 100% believable.  While almost all likable to a fault, they are also flawed, sometimes selfish, indubitably awkward, confused teens who curse, drink (to varying degrees) and really, really want to have sex - all while dealing with ghostly friends and high school proms...  To go back to the sex, this is an author who doesn't shy away from the fact that many, if not most, teenagers are really quite interested in all things of that nature.  While Aura is portrayed as someone very much in tune with her body (yay for chilled out approaches to female masturbation and pleasure - yes, I went there, I used the M word...) the sexual encounters in Shade are, while sometimes pretty hot, also as awkward and fumbling as you would expect in this age group.  It is genuinely refreshing to read, particularly in paranormal YA where such things are often suspiciously perfect and entirely unrealistic.

Plot-wise, Shift shows all the originality of the initial book in the series and Smith-Ready builds carefully on her previous mythology to heap mystery upon mystery.  While some things become clearer, there is yet much to resolve and many of the events in Shift create more questions than answers.  Rather than being frustrating, though, these questions set readers up beautifully for the final book in the series, Shine.  When I initially read Shade, it restored my faith in paranormal YA, proving to me that this often hackneyed genre could be refreshing, original and also carry positive messages and provide relatable role models.  I finished Shift feeling the same way.  For all of you out there who think you've had enough of paranormal, or (heaven help us) the ghastly-monickered Dark Romance shelf pick up Shade and Shift.  You won't be disappointed.


I love this series! And Zach is awesome:)
Vicki said…
I love Zach too! I picked up my copy of Shift a few days ago, your review convinces me I should get to it sooner rather than later.
Anonymous said…
I just finished reading Shade and I loved it! I am quite firmly on Zach's side! Logan's nice and everything, but Zach is even better! :)

Hope I get to read Shift soon!
Lauren said…
I haven't read anything paranormal for ages, but having loved Shift I am really tempted by this one. I think you make a great point about Smith-Ready's characterisations - she gets her teenage characters and their behaviour spot on, so her paranormal story is incredibly *real*. Great stuff.
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