“Take it in while you’re here. All of it. And I don’t mean just going through the motions. I mean, really seeing it, smelling it. Maybe you’ll find a reason to change your mind about this place.”
-Suzanne Nelson, Shake It Off
An easy-to-read yet fully entertaining and enjoyable, Shake It Off by Suzanne Nelson
illustrates the character development of a city girl, forced to stay in the countryside with her outdated cousins. Told through the eyes of middle school student, Bria, the outlook on the events in the novel is told in a way that captures the essence of a youthful, slightly immature perspective while still being able to flesh out events in the plot. Furthermore, the plot ties nicely into everyday struggles such as first crushes, toxic friends, and struggle to fit in which readers of a younger age group can relate to and learn from. While somewhat basic and cliché in plot and characters, the novel is nevertheless a pleasant read. Delivering a simple and amusing story, Shake It Off is an effortless read that will entertain readers of all ages.
Bria did not want to waste her summer. She did not want to have her phone taken away. And she most definitely did not want to work on the family dairy farm with her cousins, Wren and Luke. All she wanted was to spend her summer drinking milkshakes in the city and spending time discussing fashion ideas with her “best” friend, Leila. But no, she has to go to the countryside all for a little joke. Nevertheless, when her parents leave her on the farm, she is not happy about it and clearly displays her displeasure. Her cousins are far from fashion forward, and her aunt and uncle clearly are technologically behind. No matter how much she “tries” to help, Bria doesn’t seem to learn or try hard enough to succeed. She just doesn’t belong.
On the bright side, her cousins’ close friend, Gabe, is surprising pleasant even after several unpleasant incidents. As the story progresses, Bria and Gabe gradually grow closer, only for Wren to confess that she also likes Gabe. On top of this, the family dairy farm is in danger of being closed down and going out of business further increasing tensions between Bria and the rest of her family. It is only when Bria begins making milkshakes at the family creamery that things begin to look up, only to have everything Bria has built up come crashing down to a single mistake. Will Bria help save the farm she didn’t even want to come to? What will happen with Gabe and Wren?
As someone who has read similar novels by Suzanne Nelson, the overall plot seems to have the same structure as the other novels. A girl struggles to befriend a guy, only to fall for him while something around her is changing. It’s a fairly straightforward premise, one that has been copied countless times. Nevertheless, each character from their individual stories does maintain their own individuality in terms of character development, making this novel still interesting to read. And despite each event the plot throws at the characters being visible from bounds away, it never hindered actually seeing those events realized. It seems that Nelson realizes this herself towards the conclusion where she pulls out all of the stops. It all blends into a wonderful finale that perfectly surmises the novel in one heartfelt emotional punch.
Shake It Off is easily a novel that readers can pick and quickly finish within a few hours thanks to a snappy pace but also enjoy the events as they play out. Including relevant topics such as finding identity, learning to stick with your true friends, and becoming more open-minded, this novel applies to readers of all ages and isn’t restrictive or stubborn in its focus. Not once did I ever have the sensation of reading a novel targeted for younger audiences. It’s mediocrely simple but also fantastically vibrant and full of color and texture that only an author like Suzanne Nelson could have created.