November 28, 2008

Building Trust, Building Family: Shifty by Lynn Hazen

This book is a 2008 Cybils Nominee for Young Adult Fiction.

Soli has been in trouble a few more times than the average fifteen-year-old boy, but this time, he's really making an effort to stay on the straight and narrow. His new foster mother, Martha, is a little flighty but really does care, and his younger foster sister, Sissy, truly needs him, as she overcomes past traumas and tries to learn to be a regular girl.

The problem is, no matter how hard Soli tries, trouble seems to find him. And for a foster kid, trouble reflects poorly on the foster parent. Soli really doesn't want Martha to get in trouble, but when infant Chance comes into their lives, all of them come under much closer scrutiny by Social Services. Even though Chance is there on a temporary placement, he brings their little family together in ways they'd never imagined.

Unfortunately, Soli hasn't had the supportive upbringing or the life experience to make all the right decisions--at least not yet. He tries hard to do right, but every little mistake, every accident and not-so-wise decision, snowballs for Soli into a WEB OF LIES (sorry--that turn of phrase just seems to demand all-caps) that threatens the stability of his new family. He's used to relying on himself when everyone else thinks he's shifty, but learning to trust--and be trusted--is a critical life lesson he'll have to figure out.

Soli is an engaging and sympathetic narrator. Author Lynn Hazen quickly and deftly gets the reader on his side and cheering for him--and his well-meaning, loving family--all the way through. Written in a simple, clear style, the narrative voice in Shifty rings true and keeps the story moving at a fast pace.

Buy this book from an independent bookstore near you!

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