Shine by Lauren Myracle
May 1, 2011; Amulet Books
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. (courtesy of Goodreads)
Shine is a whodunnit mystery disguised as a novel. Or is it a novel disguised as a whodunnit mystery? Cat's childhood friend Patrick was savagely beaten and is in a coma barely holding onto life. Cat sets out to find his attacker. In doing so, she has to confront her past and all the people in her community that she has labeled as ignorant, cruel, or addicts, be they friends or family.
Patrick's beating is the frame around which the entire story was built, but it's not the most important part. The story really depends upon Cat's neighbors and family. Cat lives in a rural, Southern town. People are uneducated and very poor. Hardly anyone is interested in accepting a gay teenager like Patrick or really interested in discovering who nearly killed him - since his homosexuality is abhorrent to them. Cat has separated herself from all of them. After an incident when she was 12 or 13, she turned inward. She left her friend Patrick and ignored everyone else in town. Now she needs them to discover Patrick's attacker.
The townspeople are richly portrayed. So many of them have been ravaged by drugs and alcohol. Others are simply ignorant. It was easy for the reader to look down upon them, as Cat seems to do. I liked how, in their own way, they challenged Cat to look at herself and realize that her abandoning them was not the wisest thing to do. These people may be ignorant and have lots of problems, but they're still people of worth.
Lauren Myracle does a great job of keeping the tension high in this book. It definitely isn't a thriller or suspense novel. It moves slowly, but there's so much going on and so much emphasis on the characters that you really need to take your time. There is very little humor in this book, if at all. Cat is not a happy girl and no one in town has an easy life. It's not a book to read when you're having a bad day.
There's a little bit of romance in the book - a really little bit. It was unnecessary to the story. The addition of Cat's love interest was an awkward turn to the story. I think the book would have been just as good without it.
On the whole, Shine is a beautifully written novel that transports you to another world and introduces you to characters who you will love, hate, and pity.
Rating: 4 / 5