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.
Full of romance, mysticism, and intrigue, this dark take on Navajo legend will haunt readers to the final page.You can read my Afterglow Review of this book here (that's a review written within the hour of finishing the book so you get my rawest reaction).
What's so unique about this book?
- The setting: It's refreshing to see a setting that's a) not a big city and b) feels like a real place, not just generic Small Town America. From the opener, you can feel the author's love of New Mexico in the vivid descriptions of the horizon and the sky. But you can also feel the protagonist's dread at starting over in a barren place like this. Lots of little details combine to draw a clear picture of New Mexico even for people like me who have never spent time there.
- The proactive protagonist: Maggie Mae is not perfect, but she's certainly proactive. After being introduced to the reader as an orphan with a juvie record for showing up naked in the morning streets, Maggie could easily have lounged around her new digs for a while, sulking. I totally would have understood. But she didn't. She went to school on day 1, even without shampoo to wash her hair or decent clothes to wear - no complaining to her new foster mom. And by lunchtime, she had a lead on a possible part-time job. She knows people stare because of her strange looks, and she embraces the loner label even though she'd rather be wearing a different one. Basically, she takes what life gives her and deals with it. She's got guts.
- A real girl: Maggie Mae cries. She doesn't do it to get attention or to manipulate someone. Her crying isn't stigmatized as 'being a girl'. But she's put in horrible situations, and she responds like a real person would. Sometimes she's mad at herself for crying. Sometimes she lets the tears flow. But even though she's been drawn as a tough character, she owns her vulnerability. I got the sense that Maggie just accepted herself in a way that one mean girl antagonist (Danni) didn't. Of course, there's one thing Maggie doesn't accept about herself...
- The paranormal ability: Maggie Mae wishes she didn't shift. This was different from a lot of the paranormal books I read where the character discovers he/she can do something amazing and geeks out about it pretty much immediately. For Maggie, it's kind of a curse and she lives in constant dread of somebody finding her out. But it really is an awesome paranormal ability. There's one shifting scene that had me grinning from ear to ear, even though it didn't actually work out the way Maggie Mae intended. Oh, and one more thing about this: the paranormal didn't swallow the characters. It's an important part of the book, but I didn't feel knocked over the head with it. It's also unique because it's drawn from Navajo legend. Lots of people have heard of Skinwalkers, but I've never seen a novel based on it. That makes this one pretty special.
- The romance: I saw a review of this book that claimed Bridger was 'the hot guy that inexplicably likes the ordinary girl.' I didn't get that sense at all. I thought the romance was very well-developed. I loved the author's use of gossip to introduce ideas that had a grain of truth but were ultimately false. Maggie Mae catches Bridger's eye first because of her appearance, but it's her attitude and skill on the track field that hold his interest. And then, of course, when he looks closely he sees more of what makes her special (as we all do when we choose to look more closely at someone we're already crushing on). Like everything else in this book, it felt real to me. He struck me as cocky, but in an endearing way. Also, when we get to know him a little better and what he can do, the confidence is not unwarranted. :) The attraction between them makes for some great charged moments throughout.
- The bad guys: are so creepy. Maggie Mae gets attacked a lot by mysterious things. She's strong, but she's not that strong and I pretty much freaked out every time she was pursued by the creepies. And I was suspicious of everyone, for which I give kudos to the author. :)
So there you go. My breakdown of what makes SHIFTING by Bethany Wiggins a unique YA paranormal.
Its book birthday was yesterday, so if you head out to your bookstore today, you should be able to go home with it!! Happy reading!