Shifting

ShiftingBy Bethany Wiggins

Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 27, 2011
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Source: Purchased

After bouncing from foster home to foster home, Magdalene Mae is transferred to what should be her last foster home in the tiny town of Silver City, New Mexico. Now that she’s eighteen and has only a year left in high school, she’s determined to stay out of trouble and just be normal. Agreeing to go to the prom with Bridger O’Connell is a good first step. Fitting in has never been her strong suit, but it’s not for the reasons most people would expect – it all has to do with the deep secret that she is a shape shifter. But even in her new home danger lurks, waiting in the shadows to pounce. They are the Skinwalkers of Navajo legend, who have traded their souls to become the animal whose skin they wear – and Maggie is their next target.

Goodreads Summary

Maggie Mae is just seventeen and starting all over again in her thirteenth foster home. She’s been neglected, abused, passed off when her foster parents got tired of her and taken away because she keeps getting arrested for indecent exposure. This time, she’s being placed with the elderly Mrs. Carpenter in a remote New Mexico town and if there’s something worse than a square peg in a round hole, she’s it. With her scruffy hand-me-down clothes and black dyed hair, there are literally less than a handful of kids at school who’ll even speak to her. One is the town golden boy, Bridger O’Connell, who unsettles Maggie with his hot and cold behavior.

There’s something else that sets Maggie apart from the rest of Silver City – when there’s a full moon, she shifts into the form of an animal. Something evil has followed her, something that knows what she is and is willing to kill to get to her.

The story had elements of a traditional paranormal YA romance and woven throughout, Navajo traditions, beliefs and practices. Maggie came to Silver City not knowing what she was or that anyone was after her – then she’s attacked at school by the mean girls, at night by her mysterious stalker and she has to deal with Bridger, who never seems to be what she thinks he is when she needs him.

I thought Maggie had probably been given a past that was a little bit too tragic, but it did go a long way towards explaining how she could deal with the insanity the story kept throwing at her. I think everyone probably knew someone from high school that was a little weird, dressed wrong and that no one talked to and was sort of pushed around. I liked that the author didn’t make Maggie so tough – this stuff hurt her and really emphasized that she was just a teenaged girl. When she faces her fears and starts to accept the shifter part of herself, it means more because there are other places where she’s still vulnerable.

One of those big exposed places is Bridger. From the start, she was drawn to him – the unattainable rich boy who could never be with a local girl, let alone someone who was so far beneath him socially. He’d take two steps toward her, one step back, always keeping just out of reach and giving her some lame excuse. I kind of thought he was a weasel, honestly. He’d be very sweet and romantic and I’d start to like him and then he’d do something boneheaded and hurt Maggie – by then, I was feeling pretty protective of this make-believe girl – and I’d want to punch him in the nose.  His role in the shifting mystery/suspense plot is murky all the way to the end and he certainly didn’t react to things the way I thought he would, so Wiggins gets a thumbs up from me for dropping a surprise in my lap.

The supporting characters are all wonderful and perfectly placed. Maggie’s foster mother could easily have become a caricature – the feisty older lady, always butting into her life and saving the day. Instead she was used sparingly enough that when she was in the story, she had impact. Maggie’s friend, her Navajo boss at the restaurant who gave her advice and warnings and even the more minor characters like her gym coach, her social worker and the lead nasty girl all added great texture and urgency to the story.

The list of what didn’t work for me is relatively short but added together dropped my rating – even though this is still a book that gets my recommendation. Bridger and Maggie’s relationship didn’t always sit right with me. It was one-sided too often and given her background, sometimes I felt pity for a character who was wonderful and deserved better. I don’t like ending a book knowing I should believe wholeheartedly in a HEA but still feeling a little let down by the hero. I think there may have been too much time devoted to the mean girl antics at school, or at least too much detail. I knew Maggie was being bullied but when it was combined with Bridger’s attitude, her shifter problems and whatever was hunting her, it was oppressive.

My Summary: I always hate to say that I started a book really not expecting much and being really happy with it, but that’s exactly what happened here. Not only did I love Maggie and find the addition of Navaho customs and beliefs fascinating, Higgins has a wonderful writing style that goes beyond technically perfect straight to absorbing. I wish I’d liked Bridger more and that his side of the paranormal story had been fleshed out better, but Maggie was a wonder. Even thought I’m a romance junkie, if Higgins writes another book that doesn’t have it, I’ll still be in line to buy it.

My Rating: B+

Barbara

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Comments

  1. Thank you for a wonderful review!

  2. Thank you for stopping by! I really enjoyed the book and I'm excited to see what you have next. 🙂

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