shineShine by Lauren Myracle
Release Date: May 1, 2011
Publisher: Amulet Books
Source: Library
Rating: starstarstarstarstar
Buy It: Amazon | IndieBound

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.

Review:

In real life, I’m a pretty political person, though I rarely let that show through in my internet life and it almost never influences my reading choices.  Shine is different.  When my friend Salma read it, she gave it five stars so I knew it was something I had to read.  I am so glad I did and I love this book and its message, but be warned:  this book is brutal and it offers no apologies or sugarcoating.  Black Creek is a town that is dying due to economic collapse.  It was never a wealthy town to begin with, but the closing of the local paper mill has everyone living in poverty.  The inhabitants of Black Creek are rife with racism, homophobia, sexism, rape apologism, drug abuse, and suicide.  This is not a book for the faint of heart.

Right at the very beginning, we learn that Patrick, a gay teenager, has been brutally beaten, tied up, and left for dead in the parking lot of that gas station where he works.  This is the beginning to one of the twistiest tales I have ever read in my life.  As Cat details her childhood with Patrick and his guardian, Mama Sweetie, we learn what kind of person Patrick is.  He is kind and playful, always including Cat even though she’s a few years younger than he is.  They’re best friends for their whole lives, and when Patrick comes out to Cat, it’s one of those situations where she’d always kind of known anyway.

WARNING: HERE BE SPOILERS

Cat hangs out with her older brother’s group of friends when she’s young.  That is, until one day when the leader of the pack sexually assaults her, and nearly rapes her.  No one comes to Cat’s defense.  She knows her brother saw, but he did nothing.  Her aunt can only say, “pretty girls get teased,” which goes a long way in showing how divergence from the path is frowned upon.  Women get raped and it’s no big deal; gay teenagers are almost killed and the police to next to nothing.

This is a story not only of Cat searching for Patrick’s assailant, it’s a story of Cat finding herself after a self-imposed, three-year exile.  Cat finds love and solace in a local college boy, and together they find Patrick’s killer.  And that’s the twistiest part yet.  I know a lot of reviewers knew who the killer was long before Cat did, but I found myself realizing it at the same time as she did, and it was intense.

This story is tough, and there’s a lot of talk about meth and its destructive effects, but also about drinking and cheating and lying.  It’s a story that’s easy to follow and to understand, but it definitely teaches you something along the way.  It’s one of those books that’s hard to review, partially because it’s hard not to give anything away, but also because it left me so speechless at the end.  I definitely recommend this book to anyone, straight or otherwise.