Thursday, 3 November 2011

Review: Shine

Title: Shine
Author: Lauren Myracle
Publisher: Amulet Books
Publication Date: May 1st, 2011
Genre: YA, Realistic Fiction

When seventeen-year old Patrick Truman is attacked and left for dead outside the gas station where he works, his former friend Cat sets out to find out exactly what happened that night. Patrick was found brutally beaten and the attack was clearly a hate crime. In the small town of Black Creek, North Carolina, most people were aware that Patrick was gay. As Patrick lies in a coma, Cat is filled with guilt over not being there for Patrick when he needed her. Now, she must question her former friends to find out what actually happened to Patrick, beginning with the events of the night leading up to the attack. As Cat delves deeper into the secrets of those involved, she learns more about the lives of the people she’s known forever. When everyone in town seems to want her to let it be, will Cat be able to find the truth about what happened to Patrick?

I hadn’t properly heard of this book until a few weeks ago, during the National Book Awards fiasco. Shine was accidentally nominated in place of Chime, due to a phone miscommunication. Although originally Chime was simply added to the nominations, people wanted Shine off the list and Myracle decided to withdraw before it was removed. After this happened, I decided I wanted to read this book not because I wanted to know whether it deserved to be a nominee, but because it looked like something I’d be interested in. Plus, I thought Myracle handled everything much better than I ever could. Shine also received a lot of attention in June, when Meghan Cox Gurdon’s infamous article, “Darkness Too Visible,” referenced its dark themes. I actually didn’t even know that Myracle was the writer of Shine when I read the article, months ago. About a year ago, I read her short story in Let it Snow with John Green and Maureen Johnson and wasn’t impressed. I was a bit wary of this book because of that; I just didn’t think that Lauren Myracle was my kind of writer. And, of course, whenever I assume I’m not going to like something, I end up loving it.

Shine isn’t just about homophobia; it’s also about poverty, drug use and a town that makes its residents feel trapped. Although it addresses so many ugly things, it still managed to feel like a story about hope, despite all things. I thought it was an emotional and well-written story that felt very realistic. The mystery element was interesting and I loved how everything came together in the end. The plot was well thought out and expertly paced, packed with suspense and mystery. Although I did guess who was behind Patrick’s attack, I didn’t figure out how all the details fit together. The characters all felt very real and I loved Cat and Patrick. I felt all of Cat’s sadness for Patrick and her regret over not being there for him. One character that I found unnecessary was Cat’s love interest. Midway through the novel, I was thinking to myself how great it is to read a YA book where the author realized that a love interest for the main character isn’t a necessity. Of course, a love interest for Cat was eventually introduced, and I didn’t think it worked very well at all. However, the other characters all felt very real. In a way, Shine was very character driven, and I liked how that was combined with a fast paced and interesting plot. Although I don’t know a lot about Southern small towns (or any small towns, really,) Myracle painted a picture of a town that will stay in my mind for a while. From the unemployment, to the number of homes touched by abuse, alcoholism and drug use, the town of Black Creek was memorable and tragic. Well written and captivating, Shine is a book I’m glad I read. I’ve heard some people say that the homophobia in this book was an extreme case that was difficult to relate to. It never felt that way to me, since the whole time I was thinking of Matthew Shepard and other cases of hate crimes. Sometimes, it takes an extreme example to have an effect on people. I think that Myracle did a good job of showing how extreme and violent homophobia begins with the seemingly harmless views of respected adults. The women Cat encounters in church, who believe that Patrick’s attack was tragic but felt that he had been asking for it, were good examples of this.

In response to the dark themes referenced in Fox Gurdon’s article, this book was definitely dark and dealt with a lot of ugly things. And I don’t think that that’s a bad thing at all. Books like Shine help readers going through similar things know that they are not alone. And even if they can’t relate, books like this show that even when horrible things happen, you can still carry on. In the end, Shine left me feeling like things could get better. Although I wish that Lauren Myracle didn’t have to go through what she did two weeks ago, I am glad that it lead to me reading Shine.


“I felt sucker-punched. It wasn't God's fault Patrick had been treated worse than dirt, as I'd let myself believe. It was mine.”

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