Author: Lauren Myracle
Release Date: May 2011
Published By: Amulet Books
Pages: 376 pages
Goodreads Rating: 4.14 stars
Review: Patrick is found dead, with wounds from a baseball bat, a fuel nozzle connected to a gas pump in his mouth, and the words "Suck this, faggot" written on his chest in blood, all because he's gay. His tiny home town, Black Creek, is disturbed but doesn't seem too interested in finding out who did it. But sixteen year old Cat, who had been childhood friends with him, is, and wants to make up for betraying him by solving his murder. As she investigates, what she learns isn't just about Patrick, but other people too... including herself.
One of the most striking aspects of this book is the setting. Although I live in a suburban town much larger than Black Creek, the small town Lauren Myracle paints feels honest. It's gritty, surrounded by poverty and drugs, but provides so much more depth to Cat's story. The intolerance and you're-either-in-or-out community portrayed is horrifying but scarily believable, given all the hate crime that goes on in the world, and Myracle shows this without ever becoming the slightest bit preachy.
Each character has his or her own heartbreaking story, but it never feels forced. Everyone suffers real problems, lending a great deal of emotional intensity to SHINE. I got an ache in my chest from reading this, and I appreciate that the author refused to shy away from such tough issues. The prose was unflinchingly honest and raw, digging deep into the heart of matters that other books might dance around.
The mystery wasn't an obvious one, even though SHINE was about not so much the mystery but the emotional journey accompanying it. I didn't see the answer coming until the very end, finding out at the same time as Cat. The ending was perfect for the story, wrapping things up well without presenting it in a pretty little package and a smiley face. Like the rest of the story, it struck me as true.
Though it's still early in the year, I can tell that this will make it onto my Best Books of 2011 list. I had my reservations going in because I didn't enjoy the author's previous books that much, but I was completely blown away by the intense, emotional ride SHINE provided. This is a book I recommend to everyone, because it's rare to find one with such a heavy story, and such beautiful prose brimming with honesty and strength. I will be reading more of this author's work.
FTC Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review. This is no way affected the review, which is 100% honest.