Monday, January 31, 2011

Shine: Lauren Myracle

I don't know what drew me to this book. It's about a hate crime against a gay teenager. Stories like this infuriate me, so I usually avoid them. But something about this one caught my interest, and I'm so glad it did. Shine is an incredibly intense story that literally left me breathless. The last twenty pages had my heart racing and my blood pumping.

Cat is a sixteen year old loner in her tiny Southern town of Black Rock. She is one of only three students who passed 11th grade. Poverty and drug abuse are rampant. They aren't quite the hill people of Appalachia, but very nearly. When a hate crime is committed against Cat's childhood friend, Patrick, she breaks out of her comfort zone to track down the attacker. Her first suspects are a group of boys, including her own brother, who taunted Patrick for being gay, but simultaneously offered him protection from others who might have hurt him. Cat interrogates each member of the Redneck Posse but comes up empty handed. While trying to find Patrick's attacker, Cat is forced to face the people she shut out of her life after a disturbing experience when she was just 13. After enlisting the help of several people who knew and loved Patrick, Cat makes a shocking discovery that may risk her life.

Wow. That's the only word to describe this book. It is intense and emotional and dramatic and painful and hopeful. It is about Truth and Justice and Poverty and Drug Abuse and Secrets and Friendship and Family. The characters are dimensional. The story is real. The mystery is intriguing. The ending is...breathless. I have read books by Lauren Myracle, always thinking that she's an average young adult writer: relatable teen characters, modern conflicts, happily-ever-after endings. Shine proves me to be wrong on so many levels. Which isn't to say that the characters in this book aren't relatable or that the conflict isn't modern, because they are. Cat is a very real heroine with very real faults and very admirable strengths, and unfortunately Hate Crimes are a part of daily life for people all over the world. However, this book doesn't have a happily ever after. Because it's a realistic story with a realistic ending, and the reality of Meth abuse is usually death.

A word of warning to my sensitive readers; this book is emotional and intense, at times even painful to read. If you have ever encountered sex abuse, drug abuse, or hate crimes, this book will hit very close to home and could be triggering.

On the other hand, Shine serves as an incredible piece of social criticism art, reminding readers of a forgotten region in America and forcing us to acknowledge that the battle against prejudice is ongoing.

Rating: $$$

ARC received courtesy of Abrams Books. 

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