Shifting - Bethany Wiggins

"'Something really important came up,' he said. 'Something so important you didn't have the decency to give me a freaking ride home? What came up?' 'I can't talk about it.'"

So. Let's talk about 'Shifting', a paranormal Young Adult Romance debut about an orphaned girl, who has been handed from one abusive foster home to the next, and who has had some collisions with the police lately because of nightly nudity and kitty fights for pieces of clothing with local prostitutes in her home town Albuquerque, New Mexico. As the title already suggests, Magdalene Mae Mortensen is a Shifter, someone who has to shift at full moons and can shift into whatever she wants whenever she wants (kind of like Sookie's bartender boss Sam). A few months before the State's responsibility ends Maggie's social worker, Mr. Petersen, made the strange last-straw-decision to hand his toughest ward cookie over to his own mother in small-townish Silver City. The change of abode comes with a change of hair color also Mr. Petersen's idea - to make her blend in. Shouldn't he rather try to make her feel comfortable in her own skin?, a change of social workers and a change of schools. Now Maggie Mae is in the hands of incapable, insensitive blabbermouth Ollie Williams, surrounded by mega-bullies and supposedly hot jerks, cared for by an old, naive and superstitious lady who is not accustomed to keeping a girl safe and fed, and hunted by someone ruthless, dangerous and unknown. Sounds great?

No. I don't think so either. So do not ask me what made me put the title on my wishlist in the first place. Certainly part of the blame goes to the cover, which is a bit fitting, actually, although Maggie's black-dyed hair is always wet or filthy and the attempt to shift into a snake went freakishly wrong. Then there was the promise of a New Mexican setting and Native American mythology. What puzzles me in hindsight is, that I somehow managed to graciously overlook the accumulation of brightly glowing jerk-inside bumper-stickers on positive and negative reviews alike. Inexplicably the praise of one single reviewer, who was even more or less unknown to me, stuck and overrode all warning signals: She gushed about the fantastically normal guy filling the love interest spot. I should have taken the time to run a check on her favorites shelf before mustering the galls to even suggest to my friend Teccc a read-along! But guess what: He chuckled evasively and didn't say yes or no, but expressed himself to be partly curious. Luckily I did not pester him again and saved myself from having to perform some apologetic groveling. For 'normal' is the very last word I would select to describe rich, snobby, aloof, smarmy, horny, self-centered, impolite, irresponsible, rude, one-eighth-Navajo-blooded Daddy's boy Bridger, beloved little shit, track star and French-fiancé-owning, mysterious Crown Prince of Silver City. Even a good month later leafing through the offensive quotes I've marked makes my blood boil with disgust, and I hate the heroine for relenting and forgiving and being turned on again and again:

"Who was verbally beating me to pulp this time? I was straining my ears but couldn't separate one voice out of them all. Bridger frowned and stopped dancing. He took a step away from me and said, 'I'll be back in a couple of minutes. Want some punch or cookie or anything?'" Naturally Bridger does not return all evening. He lets Maggie stand among a group of harpies who identified her - beautiful - dress as being from the Wal-Mart clearance rack and wondered loudly if he wasn't embarrassed being seen with someone "so shoddy", but he does not see a reason to apologize the next day (see quote on at beginning). Prom Night is not the only occasion Maggie Mae has to run in animal form home to Mrs. Carpenter's house in the middle of nowhere because of Bridger's sudden change of mind. Once he chivalrously picks her up and says she shouldn't consider walking alone at night after her shift in the Mexican restaurant, but spontaneously shoves her out of his car because of a mysterious phone call. The incident on graduation day tops everything - although part of the disaster is Mrs. Carpenter's fault, who should have known better about Silver City hierarchy, since she had lived all her life among her rich and poor neighbors. She gleefully flaunts the information that her foster daughter plans to celebrate the end of school with their quasi-royal son into his posh parents sour faces and then leaves the school grounds - and Maggie Mae, who is car-less and also phone-less - without a second thought. Cue for Bridger to make the following little speech: "I'm so sorry - I know we were going to hang out tonight, but my mom's made other plans. I've got to cancel. So ... I guess I'll see you around. I'll call you sometime. Or drop by and help you with the garden." and making a quick no-looking-back-exit that ignores her feeble "But ... I don't have a ride" protest. Shortly before Maggie is almost mobbed to death he quietly tells her to be careful, because "something might be up", but doesn't do anything to prevent her getting hurt. When he takes her "as a friend" out to a five-star-restaurant, where she stands out like pus on a model's face in her tattered second-hand clothes and bewilderedly discusses the unavailability of tap water with the condescending waitress, who fawns over Bridger (Hello, Twighlight's restaurant scene), but suggests to his date to "go eat somewhere that is better suited to trailer trash", Bridger nervously watches Maggie form a frown, yanks her out of the booth before she can decide to retort (new destination: KFC) and testily asks "Are your previous brushes with the law for fighting?" without even contemplating to put the waitress in her place for being rude to a paying customer. In addition, he invites poor Maggie to stay over, although he must have known how his parents would react after detecting an undesirable girl without money or connections under their roof, and succeeds, although Maggie's only friend Yana had warned her in time about his rich fiancé and his girl-eating habits: "Well, there's a problem. France is on another continent. So when Bridger's hormones rage, he finds someone local to use as a temporary replacement. And then he tosses her aside." By the way, I am positive Bridger is something paranormal, too. Something that needs invitations into houses, something at war with the dangerous species Maggie Mae seems to belong to at the first superficial glance: Skinwalkers. I did not venture in far enough to find out, but I am almost betting my battered Kindle on it.

The second obstacle which quickly rubbed me sore has been the unprofessional behavior of Maggie Mae's replacement social worker Ollie, who is officially in charge of Silver City's foster children. He talks to Mr. Petersen, Mrs. Carpenter and Bridger about Maggie Mae as if she wasn't present or as if she was deaf or stupid or had no feelings at all and accepts rumors circling "in the office" about her as the unquestionable truth. "'I've come to visit with Ms. Mortensen, too,' Ollie explained, holding my file up. '[She]'s been in the fostering program since she was five,' Ollie said. I wanted to punch Ollie. Wasn't my life, contained in the file under his arm, supposed to be private? 'Oh,' Bridger said again, studying me as if we had just met." Later on Ollie shows only minimal remorse when his niece Danni, Maggie Mae's number one bully, reads aloud from said confidential file and systematically riles up the mob to shame and punish "the prostitute" in the locker room. The teachers and the principal act and react almost as bizarrely and wipe the last bit of reality out of a story that did not have much life-like to offer in the first place.

Well. I conclude with saying that I am rather surprised that I made it until 56%. In my opinion the book did not deserve the time I spent reading it. So should you have a jerk allergy as severe as mine, do yourself a favor and avoid repeating my mistake. It's not good for your health.