Shift by Em Bailey was an extraordinarily gripping read. I loved every moment of it and I will definitely be keeping my eye out for future works by her.
The story follows the life of Olive, a girl who, following a recent breakdown and suicide attempt, has been put on a course of medication and therapy. She integrates herself back into a routine by attending school and working at the local cinema.
However, she no longer has any friends. Except for Ami. Olive’s old best friend, Katie, has now ditched her for the other girls in class. But then, Miranda comes into Olive’s life. And it’s rumoured that she actually killed her parents, and has been tossed around to different relatives ever since. Add a hot guy into the mix (Lachlan), and our heroine’s favourite band coming to town, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
Miranda is not quite the person she seems to be, though, befriending Katie, then dumping her for Olive. After a terrifying discovery, Olive and Ami must strive to get away from her as quickly as possible. But will that even be possible?
The theme of the book is toxic friendship (according to the ARC I got through the Waterstone’s Free Reading programme), and it covers it incredibly well. Miranda is fairly menacing in how her moods swing so dangerously, and how callous she is towards Katie and Olive after certain events in the book. She’s not the best villain in the world, but her fifteen minutes of fame are enough to give you the creeps.
I also really loved reading from Olive’s point of view. Things have changed so much for her since her ‘incident’ and although taking her ‘vitamins’ helps her get through the day, she’s still walking a bit of a tightrope. I especially loved the twist halfway through the book (though I twigged it a little bit sooner than that) that reveals that Ami is in fact a figment of Olive’s imagination. The only thing that spoiled my enjoyment of the book was the hot boyfriend angle that Lachlan is there to satisfy. Can’t sell a paranormal series these days without some understanding, beautiful hunk now, can we? Aside from one good scene in which he gets Olive to face her fears, he just didn’t feel very fleshed-out to me. I had to roll my eyes when it’s revealed that he’s the half-brother of one of the members of Olive’s favourite band Luxe. I just didn’t really take any interest in him, and even if I had, there just wasn’t much to go off of.
The supernatural angle of this book was also incredibly interesting. Miranda arrives in town, and comes across as a martyr at first, then reveals her true colours. It turns out that the hunch Olive and Ami had was 100% correct: Miranda is a shapeshifter. Oh, not that she shifts into other creatures, she just latches onto other people and siphons their best assets, like beauty and intelligence, leaving them dry husks of their former selves. Shapeshifter is a bit of an odd word here (she sounds like more of an energy vampire to me), admittedly, but this angle works, and the more we get to know Miranda, the more we see what a monster she really can be.
In conclusion, I really love the writing style, and the two main characters, but one of them is a bit of a let down. However, the supernatural element is well-handled and ought to keep your attention for 300+ pages. 4/5.