Thursday, March 10, 2011

Shine by Lauren Myracle

Title: Shine
Author: Lauren Myracle
Publisher: Amulet Books
Release Date: May 1st, 2011
Pages: 366 pages (Adobe Digital Editions document)
How I Got the Book: From Amulet Books through NetGalley (and thank you very much for this!)

When her best guy friend falls victim to a vicious hate crime, sixteen-year-old Cat sets out to discover who in her small town did it. Richly atmospheric, this daring mystery mines the secrets of a tightly knit Southern community and examines the strength of will it takes to go against everyone you know in the name of justice. 

Against a backdrop of poverty, clannishness, drugs, and intolerance, Myracle has crafted a harrowing coming-of-age tale couched in a deeply intelligent mystery. Smart, fearless, and compassionate, this is an unforgettable work from a beloved author.


Cat's best friend (or former best friend, seeing as they haven't spoken much recently) Patrick is nearly killed in a hate crime and she's determined to find out who could hurt Patrick, the saintly guy who was such a sweetheart. Her search for the truth will take her to friends she abandoned a long time ago around the time of that incident for help, to the very person she hates the most, and to people she'd never thought she'd meet otherwise. It will even take her back to when she was thirteen years old and that incident happened. But someone doesn't like that Cat is sniffing around and isn't afraid to threaten her.

I had no plans to read this novel until I came across a phenomenal review of it by the Sparkle Project, which spurred me to pursue a copy. From the sight of the cover (which I think is beautiful) and the first few pages, where a newspaper clipping (that I, as a journalism student of three years, thought was very good) detailed the events of Patrick's attack, I was caught in the book's trap and unable to get free. Other commitments were all that kept me from finishing the book sooner!

As with anything, cliches would have been easy to fall into, especially the ones for small towns. All cliches I can think of were avoided in the course of Shine. Not one character was perfect. Not Cat, not Patrick, not Aunt Tildy, not Beef or Bailee-Ann or Tommy--no one. They all had their secret problems and their flaws and the things they'd done wrong once upon a time. The unofficial small town motto seems to be "everyone has secrets" and this motto is especially true within the pages of this book. Cat was my favorite character in particular, but maybe that's because I relate to her in a way that others might not. It's a personal matter that I don't feel comfortable disclosing in this review, but the way she reacted to what Tommy did to her was very similar to how I reacted when a similar situation happened to me. Myracle took a reaction that can vary from person to person and nailed it perfectly. Cat's eventual decision to face up to the past is more than I'll ever be able to do with what happened to me.

In places, the novel is almost chilling because all the awful things that are said about Patrick because he's gay? They aren't completely fictional. Every day, I hear similar slurs and even worse slurs on the streets. Every word in this book comes together to form a picture so real that it's uncomfortable. No one wants to think that the things that happen in this novel might just be possible, but a little bit of research and maybe some firsthand knowledge on what some small towns are right will show a person that what happens in Shine is completely possible. In fact, a similar situation may have already happened. Who's to say it hasn't?

I'm a big city girl, but both of my parents were born in and grew up in very small towns like Black Creek. They don't tell me much about what their lives were like there, but I'm a magnificent eavesdropper and overhear things when my parents reminisce with other people over the phone or when we're visiting family in their former hometowns. From the drug use to the narrow-minded slurs to the church being the center of the town, Black Creek almost perfectly mirrors the towns my parents lived in for over half their lives. Because of this, the town came to life for me in a way that few settings do anymore.

I had exactly one annoyance with the novel, but it was so small and more an opinion than a matter of quality that I refused to count off for it: Robert. I was this close to coming out of this novel and hating eleven-year-old boys for the rest of my life. I swear, I must have said soemthing along the lines of "Robert, you idiot!" at least seven times. Is... Was anyone really that stupid when they were eleven? I know I was because I was evil then, but I'm not really normal. Is it really normal to be so unaware at that age?

Shine is a powerful novel. It's more than just a "whodunnit?" mystery; it's the portrait of a small town, the workings of its people, and one girl's coming-of-age in the middle of a crusade for justice. Slurs and cussing and drug use abound may make some readers uncomfortable (it made me uncomfortable for a little bit because I'm a bit of a prude), but don't let that stop you from reading Shine. Give it a chance when it comes out in May and I almost guarantee you won't be sorry.

5 stars!

What am I reading next?: Always a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough