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
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
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.’
‘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
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
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
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.
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
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
‘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
‘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.