Book Review: Shine

Published By: Amulet Books
Release Date: May 1, 2011
Buy it at Amazon
Source: Received from Publisher via Netgalley
Audience: Young Adult

Shine is one of those books that holds you tight from the first sentence and refuses to let go until you have read every single word. I was so enthralled with the story that I did little other than read; this book was finished in record time. I couldn't wait to sit down at my keyboard and begin to write down my thoughts. Shine kept me on the edge of my seat and delivered a twist I never saw coming.

I was originally drawn to this book because of the cover. I knew nothing about the book and had never read anything by Lauren Myracle before. I had seen her books around and several of my students had enjoyed her writing, but nothing really stood out for me. I am so glad that I opened this one. The writing is solid, the characters came alive, and I had a vested interest based on the setting. I commend Lauren for taking the bandage off the wounds of Appalachia and airing them before the world. Perhaps this will allow some healing to take place.

Shine takes place in the rural town of Black Creek, located on the outskirts of Asheville, North Carolina. I have strong connections to Asheville and western North Carolina. My family has lived in Asheville and other rural towns for generations. I feel that Lauren did a beautiful job of capturing the complexity of life in this part of the world. There is a constant struggle between the haves and have nots. The socioeconomic clashes that she brings to light in Shine are extremely significant as they are to blame for so many of the issues mountain people face.

Also, Shine looks at the harsh realities of prejudice, discrimination, and drug abuse. All of these elements are alive and well in these small mountain communities and towns. Her evaluation of meth use is spot on based on things I have observed as well. Many family friends have changed in ways I could never have imagined and lost themselves to the drug. It is a problem in small towns throughout the United States. I think it is extremely important for readers to understand the harmful effects of this drug.

Furthermore, Shine tells the story of hate crimes against homosexual teens. This is something that saddens my heart as more and more stories of abused teens comes to light in the media. Many of these teens are battered and bruised to the point where they take their own lives. Perhaps this book can cause people to stop and think before they act.

Lauren also does a beautiful job of breathing life into her characters. I felt like I was right beside Cat as she fought against her own fears in order to find out what truly happened to Patrick the night he was beaten and left for dead. She has the courage to be persistent and tenacious in her quest for justice – even when threats start to be aimed in her direction. Cat has a strong, true voice that rings loud and clear from the pages. Her bravery is truly inspiring.

One Last Gripe: I am not sure that I agree with the choice to remain silent about the identity of the attacker. I understand the reasoning of the characters, but I felt somewhat off when I realized the choice they had made.

My Favorite Thing About This Book: The plot – the pacing and suspense were masterfully crafted

First Sentence: Stunned residents of Black Creek, North Carolina, pray for seventeen year old Patrick Truman, beaten and left for dead outside the convenience store where he works.

Favorite Character: Cat

Least Favorite Character: Tommy 

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.