A Book Review
Author: Lynn E. Hazen
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 188 pages
Publisher: Tricycle Press (September 1, 2008)
Shifty is a heart warming story about a couple of hard to place kids in foster care and the precarious situations they have to deal with every day. However, Lynn Hazen melds reality, love, trust and an uncaring social service system that is over burdened and buried in red tape, with compassion.
Fifteen year old Shifty (a nick name he got when in juvie) has finally landed in a home that he can feel good in. His foster mother, Martha, foster sister, Sissy and crack addicted baby, Thaddeus (aka Chance ), are not a typical family but deep down where it counts love shines through. This is the first time Shifty has felt like he could belong and maybe he wouldn’t have to move again until he was too old to be a foster kid. Shifty has been on the move all of his life that he can remember and many of his previous foster parents were in trouble with the law one way or the other, which is why he landed in juvie in the first place, but you will have to read the book to find out what happened. Also, he desired to find out about his biological parents but no one would ever tell him. He didn’t know if he ever had parents.
Shifty is a resourceful kid who looks older than his fifteen years and maybe that is why he gets away with driving Martha’s van all the time with an expired permit in some one else’s name. Besides he is a good driver. But that doesn’t keep Shifty from getting a $275 parking ticket for parking in a bus zone when he stops to buy a burrito.
When the regular social worker leaves to have a baby she is replaced with a worker who is inexperienced, unknowledgeable and treats all foster homes and kids like they are nothing but a case number. Shifty spends some time trying to outsmart her and the results are remarkable. Between befriending a homeless lady and trying to keep himself and Martha out of trouble creates many dilemmas for this inventive teenager. However, it also creates page-turning excitement for the reader.
Hazen depicts the grim circumstances of this foster family on the edge of disaster with hope and humor. I was laughing a lot as I read about various predicaments Shifty managed to escape from with no dire consequences for him or his foster family. Hazen introduces the right amount of suspense to keep you sitting on the edge wondering if Shifty’s luck will fail this time.
The story is not depressing but it is realistic about foster care in the sense that kids in foster care are totally at the mercy of other people. Some who care about them and some do not. When they finally make a good match it only takes one person who can make it all go away. Hazen has created an original fast paced plot that flows smoothly to the end. There are many surprises and many aha’s! I highly recommend this book for adults as well as young children.
About the Author
LYNN E. HAZEN earned her M.F.A. in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College. She is the author of several picture books and a middle-grade novel called Mermaid Mary Margaret that was hailed "a winner" by Kirkus Reviews. Also Kirkus Reviews praised Shifty as a "realistic story that resonates. Smart writing and an engaging narrative...." She lives with her family in San Francisco, California.
Look for an interview Friday May 29 right here at Carma’s Window with Lynn E. Hazen.
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