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Monday, March 05, 2012

Strong, Sympathetic Heroine Makes Shifting Stand Out

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Maggie Mae Mortenson's been in and out of so many foster homes, she knows better than to get her hopes up too high—no matter how ideal her new situation may seem. After all, it's only a matter of time. Before too long, the 17-year-old will no doubt get picked up by the police for indecent exposure or prostitution or something and then she'll be kicked to the curb. Just like last time. And the time before that. And the time before that. Maggie Mae just hopes she can make it to graduation before the inevitable happens.

Because it will happen. As soon as the full moon glows bright in the sky, she'll shift into an animal, leaving behind her clothes, her humanity, her last shot at normality. She can't stop it. Her only hope is to stay invisible, hiding her secret as best she can.

Although Maggie Mae vows to keep her head down in her new town—that's the best way, after all, to keep her secret safe—it only takes a few minutes for her to become the most talked about student at Silver High School. Using her unnatural speed, Maggie Mae breaks a school track record, earning the attention of the wealthiest, most popular guy at school and the anger of his former girlfriend. While the vindictive Danni Williams gets busy making Maggie Mae's life a living hell, Maggie Mae's just trying to survive. She's got a good thing going with Mrs. Campbell, her stern but kindly foster mom; she's enjoying her part-time job as a waitress at a Mexican restaurant; and she can't deny her growing attraction to gorgeous Bridger O'Connell. Even with Danni's constant bullying, Maggie Mae's getting attached to Silver City, New Mexico, something she knows she can't do. It's too risky.

When a stranger shows up in town hunting for Maggie Mae, she knows she's let things go too far. Everyone who knows her is in danger. The Skinwalkers who stalk Maggie Mae won't stop until they kill her, stealing her mysterious power. Can she keep the monsters away from the town she's come to love? Or will her animal instinct be the thing that destroys everything—and everyone—she's come to care about?

I know, I know, the story I'm describing sounds just like every other YA paranormal on the market. But, guess what? It's not plot that makes Shifting stand out, it's characterization, specifically that of Maggie Mae Mortenson. Debut author Bethany Wiggins crafts her heroine carefully, taking the time to make sure readers know Maggie Mae, feel for Maggie Mae, and care about what happens to Maggie Mae, before throwing her into the perilous conflict that lies at the heart of the story. As a result, she's one of the most sympathetic (but strong) characters I've ever encountered in teen fiction. I felt her pain so thoroughly that I didn't really care if her story lacked originality or got predictable or had some plot holes. Maggie Mae made it engaging and enjoyable. I'm not sure what's coming next from Bethany Wiggins (a sequel, perhaps?), but I'll tell you this—I can't wait to find out.

(Readalikes: Reminds me of Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, Firelight by Sophie Jordan, the Need series by Carrie Jones [Need, Captivate, Entice] and a little of the Wolves of Mercy Falls series [Shiver, Linger, Forever] by Maggie Stiefvater)

Grade: B

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG-13 for mild language (no F-bombs), violence and sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love: I bought Shifting from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger. Ha ha.


  1. I'm excited for this one! The cover is beautiful and I don't car if it's like every other YA paranormal book out there. It looks good!

  2. I love shifting stories! And there's not enough of them in YA! Thanks for sharing about this one.

  3. Cover photo is owesome .. Thanks for sharing

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  4. Looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of this...


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