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Shift | Em Bailey | Review

"As mousy Miranda edges her way into the popular group, right up to the side of queen bee Katie – and pushes the others right out – only Olive seems to notice that something strange is going on. Something almost . . . parasitic. Either Olive is losing her grip on reality, or Miranda Vaile is stealing Katie’s life.” Source
Described as a dark and gripping psychological thriller Shift is Australian author Em Bailey’s young adult debut. It follows the life of troubled teenager Olive Corbett when a strange new student named Miranda joins her school. Olive quickly comes up with a theory that Miranda is a shapeshifter which introduces a supernatural element to the book. Shift isn’t really about shapeshifters or the supernatural though, its about real-life friendships and how toxic they can become.

Olive has recently dramatically changed her appearance and returned to school following her suicide attempt which she refers to as the 'incident'. Although she used to be extremely popular and best friends with the Regina George-esque Katie, her only friend when she returns is Ami who also plays a big part in the story. The other main characters are two new students who show up at Olive’s school around the same time; love interest Lachlan and of course potential shapeshifter Miranda.

For the first half of the book Miranda stays at a distance from Olive which made her mysterious and intriguing. In my opinion this factor made the first half of the story much stronger than the second as things did become increasingly unbelievable as the book went on. Around the halfway point, just as it began to feel as if it wasn’t headed anywhere interesting, the first of the twists was introduced. Unfortunately I had suspected this particular twist from early on as there seemed to be a lot of obvious hints along the way. For me it felt as though I was being walked straight to the answer rather than having it keep me guessing which was a real shame as I would have loved to have been surprised by it. Later in the book there are a few other twists and turns as the girls become closer and Miranda seems to take hold of Olive’s life, none of which I found shocking - the synopsis of this book actually gives quite a bit away! I did feel that it was fairly unlikely that Olive would fall for Miranda’s act after the earlier events of the book and for me that made her a less believable character altogether.

The pace of the book was reasonable although a times it felt a little conflicted over what the main storyline was as there were whole chapters which focused on everyday situations and the supernatural element seemed to be completely forgotten. The length of the story also seemed right at the time of reading but after finishing the book I felt like the ending was unsatisfying and left a lot of unanswered questions. Neither the secondary characters nor Olive’s relationship with her father were really explored in much depth because of the short length of the book which was quite disappointing. I would have also liked to have known more about Miranda’s aunt Oona as it was implied that her story was a particularly interesting one. The same goes for Lachlan’s background as I couldn’t quite buy in to his character and at times it even felt like he might have more in common with Miranda than we are led to believe.

For a book deemed a 'psychological thriller' I didn't really feel Shift lived up to it's claims but surprisingly enough I did find myself enjoying it all the same. Of course it wasn’t perfect, the predictable twists and slightly underdeveloped characters in what was meant to be a dark thriller did leave me feeling like there was something missing. It is a nice quick and easy read however right up until the last page I was hoping for a genuine surprise, a twist that would make me stop and rethink the whole story but unfortunately I didn’t find it. 3.5/5

This post was written by regular reviewer Erin, get to know her here.
Photo © Erin Elise

1 comment

  1. This was an interesting review to read because I haven't heard a lot about this book!


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