by Lauren Myracle
May 1, 2011 | 350 pages | Young Adult
Lauren Myracle is an author who is growing on me, more and more all the time. I wasn't a fan of ttyl, and the other titles in The Internet Girls series, and even though I loved Luv Ya Bunches, Eleven, and Twelve, I skipped Bliss for some reason, meaning the only YA book of hers I'd read up until now was Peace, Love, and Baby Ducks, which I know I enjoyed but admittedly can't remember much about. But thank you, Abrams /Amulet Books for providing me with a digital Advanced Reader's Copy of Shine via NetGalley. Because this is one good book, and I get the feeling it's going to stay with me for a good long while.
Sixteen-year-old Cat lives in Black Creek, North Carolina, a small town filled with a lot of unhappiness, including a rampant meth problem, abusive parents, and something terrible Cat can't bring herself to talk about, which has put up a wall between herself and her friends. On top of that, there has been an anti-gay hate crime in the area, and the victim is Cat's one-time best friend, Patrick. Though Cat and Patrick haven't spoken recently, due to Cat's tortured silence about the terrible thing she suffered, the news that he has been beaten, and left to die with a gasoline nozzle in his mouth, hits her hard. Frustrated that the local sheriff, and the Redneck Posse, the group of guys who last saw Patrick conscious, refuse to thoroughly investigate who might have attacked Patrick, Cat decides to start asking questions herself, in an effort to find out which one of the people she suspects is responsible for possibly killing her best friend.
Dystopian fiction seems to be the most popular today, but in the case of this book, we don't need to look much further than the here and now to be disturbed in that same way. Lauren Myracle does a great job painting a portrait of this insular, depressed world, where pain leads to addiction, and addiction leads to more pain. The linear plot is simple - Cat chooses the people she thinks have the information she needs, and interviews one or two of them each day as she tries to sort out the truth from the lies and connect the dots that will lead to Patrick's attacker. But the characters she encounters, despite being mostly dangerous and stoned, are absolutely fascinating. Particularly interesting is Robert, the eleven-year-old neighbor boy who, according to Cat's grandmother, suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome, who is growing up way too quickly, thanks to the irresponsible actions of the teens and 20-somethings he spends time with.
I had such a clear picture in my mind all the way through the book, of each person and each place Cat visited, and I loved seeing the way each piece of the puzzle slowly turned and clicked into place, until the answer I was waiting for presented itself. I absolutely loved this book. Myracle's writing is beautiful, and I can't think of too many contemporary young adult books like this one. I do think it makes a nice read-alike for something like Thirteen Reasons Why, for the mystery elements, and the concept of taking a journey from ignorance, to the truth. But it's unlike anything else I've read, and that made me love it even more. The pace is a bit slow in the middle, but I didn't get bored. I just let the words wash over me, and allowed the book to guide me where it needed me to go. I suppose some readers might lose interest when the suspense sort of dies down a bit, but the ending has such a wonderful pay-off, I'd advise against putting the book down without finishing it.
Bravo, Lauren Myracle. I'm officially a fan. And kudos to whoever did the cover, as well as the images that separate the "days" of the story. They were perfect, and kept me immersed in the world of Black Creek from beginning to end.
Hosted by Breaking the Spine, Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme where bloggers share books they can’t wait to read. Read my previous Waiting on Wednesday posts here.