Challenge Participant


Friday, 2 May 2014

Blog Tour -- Shift by Jeff Povey

Today I am excited to welcome Jeff Povey to my blog. His debut novel has been described as an apocalyptically funny and thrilling read for young adult readers. 

I am pleased to say that the publishers, Simon and Schuster Children's Books, have allowed me to share the first chapter with my blog readers: 

There’s an ape staring at me. 

It’s sitting in the stale musty classroom and it keeps looking 
at me. 

I’m trying to ignore it. But it won’t stop staring. 

‘What?’ I ask it, but it doesn’t reply. 

I’m supposed to be meeting my boyfriend Kyle and could 
have done without getting an after-school detention. I won’t 
even have time to get home and get changed out of my 
school uniform now. 

‘What?’ I hiss at the Ape again. ‘Like, seriously, what?’ 

The Ape doesn’t even blink – just carries on gazing at me 
from halfway across the classroom. 

‘What d’you want?’ Billie, my all-time best friend, asks 
the Ape. She is sitting at the school desk nearest to mine. 
Because of her supermodel height, her long slender legs are 
bent awkwardly under the desk. 

The Ape doesn’t reply but the teacher, Mr Allwell, clears 
his throat – his way of telling us to stop talking without actually 
bothering to speak himself. 

Which acts as a cue for the Ape to start talking. 

‘What you in for?’ It’s only taken five minutes for the 
words to travel from his empty brain to his mouth. 

‘What are we in for?’ Billie screws up her face. ‘This isn’t 
a prison.’ 

The Ape’s eyes drop down to my chest. Many a boy has 
done this, but never so blatantly. 

‘What you in for?’ I think he’s expecting my boobs to 

‘If we tell you, will you stop staring?’ Billie asks the Ape. 

‘What?’ he says transfixed. 

Billie sighs hard enough to make her point. ‘I got thrown 
out of rehearsals for Hamlet.’ 

‘What’s Hamlet?’ 

‘Seriously?’ Billie rolls her eyes. 

‘I dyed my hair pink. Didn’t know it wasn’t allowed.’ 

The Ape’s eyes wrench themselves from my chest and 
wander up to my hair, which is dyed a hot pink. Kyle’s going 
to either love it or hate it. 

‘That not real then?’ 

Allwell clears his throat again, only louder this time. 
Good, I think. Excruciating conversation over. 

‘Ask me what I’m in for,’ the Ape says, continuing to 
ignore Allwell. 

The Ape is bigger and wider and hairier than anyone at 
the school – hence the nickname – and I swear all of the staff 
are praying that he finally leaves this year. Holding him back 
to retake Year Eleven for the third time wasn’t the best idea 
they ever had. 

‘Sykes caught me stealing petrol from his car.’ The Ape 
points to a petrol stain on his red T-shirt that depicts a 
bikini-clad woman from the Fifties posing amongst faded 
playing cards. I don’t think he’s ever worn a uniform. The 
Ape is wearing the stain like a badge of honour. 

‘That’s amazing, really – awesome,’ Billie tells him with 
a straight face. 

We look away from the Ape and hope he gets the message 
that we seriously don’t want to talk to him. But as soon as 
we do, Carrie sticks her brittle-boned middle finger up at me. 

‘What are you looking at?’ she snipes at me, her icy blue 
eyes staring right through me, and I wish she didn’t hate me 
so much. She is a size minus, as in her weight is somewhere 
in the negative, and which ever way you look at her, her 
bony body always comes to a point. 

Being in detention is bad enough without having a gorilla 
and a human knitting needle for company. The only bright 
spot is the eternally sunny GG, who is sitting at the desk 
between me and Carrie, painting his fingernails canary yellow. 

‘What’s your problem?’ I hiss at Carrie. 

‘You know what!’ She looks at me with complete hatred. 
‘You so know what.’ 

‘Ooh. Girl war. Handbags are locked and loaded.’ GG 
talks without taking his eyes off his nails. 

‘Who asked you?’ Carrie gives GG a sneer, which bounces 
straight off him. Getting his nails right is all that matters. 

Still seated, the Ape grabs his desk in one meaty paw and 
then kangaroos it and his chair across the classroom, straight 
towards Billie and me. We look up at Allwell, expecting him 
to tell him to stop, but like most of the staff here, he prefers 
to avoid direct confrontation with the Ape. 

He edges loudly across the floor, in his weird chair and 
table caravan, and it’s like the Ape’s decided we’re in his 
circle now, or he’s in ours, because he’s grinning hopefully 
at us. ‘I got a question.’ 

Billie gives me a wary look and I know she’s thinking the 
same thing I am. The Ape is trying to make friends with us, 
but that is most definitely not going to happen. He’s barely 
the same species as us. 

He drags the chair and table right up to mine. 

‘What you doing after?’ 

‘Oh, good God,’ Billie mutters. Thankfully the door opens 
and distracts the Ape. 

Lucas stands in the doorway waiting for the Moth, who 
motors in in his wheelchair. Lucas is a straight-A student 
and doesn’t do anything wrong ever, so coming to after-
school detention is the equivalent of getting twenty years for 
armed robbery for him, and his anxious face shows that’s 
exactly how he feels. Lucas is clever, athletic, and talented 
at everything he tries – at our school he’s like the boy who 
would be King, a beautiful, caramel-skinned god. 

The Moth is Lucas’s best friend. A paraplegic with glasses, 
acne and a flat boneless nose that means his glasses keep sliding 
down it. No one could be physically further from Lucas 
than the Moth, but on other levels they are closer than brothers. 
Whenever you find one of them, the other isn’t far away. 

Lucas doesn’t know where to sit at first. He looks at the 
permanently scowling Carrie and then gets a delicate little 
wave from GG. 

‘There’s a lap going free here,’ he suggests to Lucas with 
a smile. 

Not that GG really knows Lucas. None of us here apart 
from the Moth have ever reached that rarefi ed height. 

Lucas turns to Allwell, hesitant in case he does anything 
else wrong. Allwell points to a vacant chair at the front. 
Lucas nods, sits down and the Moth parks his wheelchair 
beside him. 

The Ape immediately scrapes his desk and chair in 
Lucas’s direction, manoeuvring himself as close to him as 
he can manage. He can’t believe Lucas is in detention either. 

‘What you in for?’ 

‘Oh, I was—’ the Moth begins. 

‘Wasn’t talking to you, Hawkings.’ 

The Moth sometimes gets called Hawkings because 
everyone thinks he must have a brilliant space-brain to 
balance out his broken, twisted body. He is cleverer than 
most so it’s not completely inaccurate. Usually though, 
he goes by the Moth, which is short for his real name, 

‘How many times do I have to say this? It’s Hawking,’ 
says the Moth. ‘Haw-king, not Haw-kings.’ 

‘What you in for?’ The Ape grins eagerly at Lucas. 

‘Nothing,’ says Lucas quietly. It’s hard to tell if he’s 
blushing because his Caribbean skin gives little away. 

‘Tell me.’ 

In truth we all want to know what happened to bring the 
school god to this room, even Allwell, so he lets the Ape 
grill Lucas some more. 

‘Be a pal. What you in for?’ 

The Moth nods to Lucas as if to say it’s OK. He also 
knows that everyone is now looking at Lucas, who will hate 
the scrutiny. Lucas may be the boy that everyone wants to 
be, but he’s also painfully keen to do the right thing. He puts 
constant pressure on himself and one slip, or in this case, 
one detention, and Lucas is approaching total meltdown. 

‘I kicked a football at my games teacher.’ 

‘It hit him in the nuts,’ adds the Moth. 

Lucas gets a big hefty slap on the back from the Ape. 

But Lucas just folds in on himself, looking like his whole, 
entire life is ruined now. 

The Ape turns to the Moth. ‘Your turn, Hawkings.’ 

‘Daz, it’s Haw-king,’ the Moth replies. 

‘You in for?’ 

‘Doesn’t he know any other words?’ Billie says to me. 

‘Brakes failed on my chair and I ploughed into that 
parents’ night presentation, the one in the hall – brought the 
whole lot down.’ 

‘Yowza!’ The Ape leans over and high-fives the Moth. 

‘They keep doing that. Malfunctioning.’ 

GG puts up his hand. ‘Can I go to the bathroom please, 

The Ape snorts, puts his hand up and does the worst 
impression of GG ever. ‘Can I go and do a big dump, sir?’ 
The Ape laughs loudly while staring at Lucas, willing him to 
laugh along with him because then he could fantasise that 
they were best friends. 

GG is the world’s happiest person. Happy and gay. Run 
the two together and you get happy gay, and gay used to 
mean happy, so someone said it was like he was double gay 
or Gay Gay, and the name kind of stuck. Rake thin and with 
eyeliner to match his dyed blond quiff, GG revels in his total 
campness. He’s completely OK with who he is, and because 
of that everyone likes him. Apart from Billie, he’s probably 
the only other person in detention that I actually talk to. 

‘Sir,’ he says again, ‘may I have a tinkle, please? I’ll be 
very quick. Barely time for an unzip and drip.’ GG told us 
earlier that he’s here because he was fl irting ‘inappropriately’ 
with the new maths teacher. I’m so not surprised. 

Before Allwell can respond, a match strikes and we all 
turn to the back of the classroom. Johnson holds the match 
and watches it burn before blowing it out. 

That’s it. That’s all he does. One simple act that gets 
everyone’s attention. 

He is sitting with his feet up on the desk gazing out of 
the window, long thin legs stretched out in front of him. 
His wild dark curls fall over his eyes and I’m so glad I’m 
half facing away from him because there’s nothing like a 
bad boy to turn a girl’s head. Not that Johnson is bad like 
the Ape is – he just does his own thing and makes his own 

‘That’s Johnson,’ whispers Billie, barely keeping the thrill 
out of her voice. As if I needed telling anyway. ‘Johnson,’ 
she repeats. No one knows if that’s his first name or surname, 
or if in fact it’s his only name. I’ve certainly never managed 
to get close enough to ask. 

Johnson flicks the dead match across the room and as 
soon as it lands on the fl oor the fire alarm goes off in the hall 
outside. It’s loud and piercing. Panicked voices join in with 
the alarm and Allwell gets to his feet, worriedly raising his 
hands to us. ‘Stay there.’ He has to speak loudly to be heard 
above the alarm and the shouting. Something is happening 
in the corridor outside. More people are joining in, footsteps 
charge up and down. 

‘Sir?’ Carrie calls out, looking worried. 

Allwell opens the door, and the voices and the fire alarm 
immediately fill the classroom. ‘Good God!’ he shouts. 

I don’t know what Allwell has seen, but after the door 
closes behind him there’s a flash of light that seems to illuminate 
the whole room. Carrie jumps in her seat, letting out 
an involuntary scream. It’s like someone’s put million-watt 
bulbs in all the light sockets, and the flash all but blinds me. 

The light goes as quickly as it came and the Ape kangaroos 
his chair and desk towards the door. ‘Did you see that?’ 

‘Don’t open the door!’ yells Lucas, panicked. 

The Ape ignores him and yanks it open. We wait with 
bated breath as he gets to his feet and leans over the desk so 
he can peer out. 

‘Well?’ asks Billie. 

The Ape turns his big head left and then right, checking 
the hallway. It seems to take him forever. 

‘Tell us then!’ urges Carrie. 

‘Nothing,’ he says, eventually. 

‘It can’t be nothing!’ Lucas wails. 

‘Wait. The alarm’s stopped,’ says GG. ‘And the shouting.’ 

We take a moment to listen and it’s true, there’s just 
silence now. 

‘Where’s Mr Allwell?’ asks the Moth. 

‘Who’s Allwell?’ says the Ape. 

I get to my feet. The Ape is clearly the last person you’d 
send on a fact-fi nding mission. 

‘Rev, what you doing?’ Billie looks worried. 

‘I’ve got to see.’ 

I edge over to the Ape at the doorway and dare to peer out. 

‘Well?’ the Moth asks. 

All I can see is an empty hallway. The Ape is right. There 
is nothing out there. Nothing at all. 

‘No one’s out there,’ I add. 

‘There must be,’ GG argues. 


‘Is the school on fire or what?’ snaps Carrie. 

The Moth can see that she is tense and tries to calm her. 
‘It doesn’t feel like it’s on fire.’ 

‘And you know what that feels like do you, Hawkings? 
You’ve been in hundreds of fires, have you?’ she snaps back 
at him, and I can see it hurts him a little. 

‘There’d be sirens by now, people would be spilling 
out into the car park,’ he says in his strange little nasally 

I turn back to the others and find that Johnson is looking 
straight at me. The surprise of it makes my heart skip a beat. 
‘There’s no fire,’ I tell the room. 

‘Later, losers.’ The Ape shoves the desk out into the hall, 
then gets up and lumbers into the corridor. 

‘I’m not staying either.’ Carrie brushes past me, jabbing 
me with her bony elbow on purpose as she leaves. ‘And you 
so know what.’ 

Lucas is now in a total panic. I can see his brain overloading 
as he tries to decide whether to stay or not. ‘What if the 
teacher comes back and none of us are here?’ he says. 

‘I shouldn’t even be here anyway. I was wrongly accused,’ 
the Moth says as he whirrs his way towards the door. 

‘But you can’t all just disappear.’ Lucas looks seriously 
worried. ‘Moth, wait.’ 

The Moth stops and turns to his best friend with a pretty 
good stab at irony. ‘C’mon, live on the edge, Luke, just 
like I do.’ 

Lucas wrestles with his conscience and then, with a low, 
ominous groan, he follows the Moth out into the corridor, 
giving himself an excuse as he does. ‘If anyone asks, I’ve 
got football practice and I need to get changed.’ 

Before I leave, I sneak one last glance at Johnson who 
remains seated with his feet up on the desk, looking to be in 
no particular hurry to leave. 

His eyes meet mine and he gives me a lazy salute, touching 
his index finger to his temple and then gently cocking it 
my way. 

‘Don’t get burned out there.’ 

Billie drags me away before I can respond. Not that I had 
any idea what to say to him.

I hope that you can see how exciting this book is and that blog readers will be hitting the book shops to get your copy soon.

Thank you again to Simon and Schuster and the author, Jeff Povey, for inviting me onto this blog tour. 

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