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THE SHIFTER (Healing Wars: Book 1)

Author: Janice Hardy

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Publisher: Balzer and Bray, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2009

Material: hard cover

Summary: Nya (15) is a Taker, or more specifically a Shifter. She can draw (or "take") pain from one person and transfer it to someone else. It is the only opportunity for a Gevegian to escape poverty and the oppressive rule of the Duke of Baseer. However, because she can't empty the pain into pynvium, she is ineligible to be a Healer in the Healer’s League. Revealing herself as a Shifter is not an option either, unless Nya wants to become the Duke’s new assassin. When Nya accidentally shifts pain to escape the wrath of a furious chicken farmer, the myth of the existence of a Shifter transforms into a rumor, and all too soon, her shifting powers are sought after. When apprentices within the League start to disappear, including her sister Tali, Nya decides to barter her powers so she can rescue Tali. WAs Nya uncovers the horrifying story behind the disappearances, she must learn to accept her power and make choices that determine who lives and who dies. This is a finely crafted dystopian nvel featuring a strong female character

Type of Reading: bedtime story, anytime reading, family reading, independent reading, read aloud book

Recommended Age: read together: 10 and Up; read yourself: 10 and Up

Interest Level: 10 and Up

Reading Level: 4.4

Age of Child: Teen STAR Review Team, Be the Star You Are!™

Young Reader Reaction: The Shifter has all the elements an enchanting fantasy, with a touch of adventure, mystery, and humor. The intriguing plot is continually being built upon and it keeps readers on their toes. Nya’s tenacious and spunky, yet altruistic personality is really what makes the story so enjoyable to read. She narrates the story so we get deeper into her personality, as well as occasional glimpses into her past life. The diverse group of supporting characters have stories intertwined with the main plot, so they are introduced logically.

Even though the plot is complex and lengthy, I would still recommend The Shifter to middle school students. Because they are handled so well, even the weightier topics will not confuse or frustrate younger readers.

Adult Reader Reaction: I loved Nya and the whole story. The plot and characters are unique, refreshing, and still "comfortable." The story grabbed me on page 1 and will likely draw in the most dormant reader. I found myself thinking what would I do a number of times ... particularly when Nya had a no-win choice to make. I can't wait to see what's next.

Pros: A suspenseful plot and vibrant characters are sure the capture the attention of anyone looking for a delightful fantasy book.

Cons: The villains have bland, predictable and similar personalities. That detracts from the overall quality of the story, but not so much that they ruin the unique plot.

Borrow or Buy: Buy! It has great potential as a crossover for adults and the story is worth reading again!

If You Liked This Book, Try: Eragon by Christopher Paolini; Hidden Talents by David Lubar; Messenger by Lois Lowry; Savvy by Ingrid Law SCUMBLE   SON   THE UNWANTEDS

Educational Themes: Readers have the chance to walk in Nya's shoes. There are some pretty hefty questions here that could make for wonderful discussion in a classroom, in a book club, or just among family members.

Notes: The publisher donated a copy of this book knowing that we would consider it for review and provide an independent, unbiased profile. This book will be given to a nonprofit to help readers in need.

Literary Categories: Fiction - fantasy, science fiction, dystopia, series

Date(s) Reviewed: April 2014

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