Shifty, a YA novel by Lynn E. Hazen

SHIFTY was chosen for: VOYA's Top Shelf Fiction, as a CCBC Choice, and as a Smithsonian Notable!

What's the Book About?

SHIFTY is a contemporary young adult novel set in San Francisco. Fifteen-year-old Shifty drives illegally, swipes court documents and lies to police and social workers--all in an effort to stay out of trouble. Shifty parks in a handicapped zone and fast-talks his way out of a ticket by convincing the cop that an old homeless woman is his grandmother. He drives off without a ticket, but with a new pretend grandma in the back of his van. Now his younger foster sister has very opposing views of what to do with their new fake grandma. Both funny and tender, Shifty's misadventures touch on themes of resiliency, home, and lost and found family. And it all begins with a $275 burrito!

VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates) "Top Shelf Fiction" for Middle School Readers

...Christina (8th Grade) would "recommend it to all my friends. Shifty has all the appeal that readers, reluctant and avid, would need—beautiful characters you can relate to, a passionate and expertly crafted story, an exciting plot, and a touching yet unanticipated conclusion. Nothing is idealized; nothing is too ugly. Readers will love it beginning to end." --VOYA, February 2009

A Smithsonian Notable Book 2008

"Surprising, inspiring and outstanding titles for youngsters and the grownups that read to them"

Lynn talks about her inspiration for SHIFTY and her writing process...

I had this teen character named Shifty lurking around in my imagination. He was driving without a license and arguing with a young girl. Who were they? Where were they going? And what were they arguing about? At first I kind of hoped they'd go away because Shifty was clearly a teenager, and I wasn't sure I wanted to write a YA novel.

Then (for real) I observed an older woman in a parking lot pushing her leashed cat atop an airport baggage cart--miles from any airport. When I saw her again--cat, cart and all--heading for the showers inside the women's locker room of a 24 hour gym, I couldn't help wondering who she was and where she was living.

I jotted some notes (because these characters were not going away). Drawing from memories of kids I'd met years ago while working at a summer camp for children and youth in foster care, I wrote a dialogue between Shifty and a young girl named Sissy. Then I began to weave together elements of their story, the old woman and her cat, and the universal need for home.

I know it sounds weird, but I feel as if all the characters in SHIFTY wanted me to create them--they wanted me to tell you their story.

I wrote intensely for about six months, capturing a first draft. Then I expanded and revised the story for two more years. At first
I worried my novel might be too bleak or depressing because it dealt with foster care and homelessness, but as I kept writing I discovered Shifty (and Sissy's) world was filled with humor, heart and hope.

Tricycle Press

Tricycle Press published SHIFTY in September 2008. Here's what publisher, Nicole Geiger, has to say about SHIFTY...

A Note From the Publisher

I read the original manuscript for Shifty late into the night; I couldn't put it down, even when my clock read a time that would have me cursing the morning. Even in the wee hours I felt a tidal wave of compassion for this kid. I felt I really knew him and I gave a damn about what happened to him next.

There are all kinds of people in the world and you just don't know what's under someone's skin unless you are fortunate enough to get a peek. Lynn Hazen provides that peek, in prose that will have young readers staying up well past when they should. I can't think of a better reason to do so!

Nicole Geiger

Please take a look at the opening pages of SHIFTY.

Click here to buy SHIFTY on Amazon. Thanks!

Shifty is being published in Australia & the UK, too.
Take a look at the cool Shifty tag (right) created by Bruno Herfst, the designer at Allen & Unwin (the Australian publisher of SHIFTY). They used it in the layout of the half title page inside the book. They made a different cover too (on the left).

You will also find a wonderful, free downloadable "Teacher's Notes" on the Allen & Unwin site. For the same Teachers Notes/Discussion & Curriculum Guide with page numbers cited corresponding to the American publication of SHIFTY, please download the free pdf U.S. Teacher's Guide. Teachers, librarians and book club leaders, please take a look. Many thanks to Dr. Susan La Marca for creating such a thoughtful discussion guide (and to Allen & Unwin for permission to make it available for educational use).

Please visit again soon for more activities. And teachers, if you have any curriculum ideas to share about using SHIFTY with middle school or high school students, I'd love to hear from you.