I hope everyone had a happy week, whatever you celebrate (or don't)! I had such a quiet Christmas that I ended up reading quite a bit. It was sort of wonderful. I was going to make this a mini reviews post, but I ended up rambling on about Shine so much that I wanted to split it off. There'll be a few more reviews in a mini review post coming up soon!
Author: Lauren Myracle
Book Depository | Goodreads
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.
This book was absolutely gorgeous. I wasn't so sure of it at first, as the plot reads like something that could go terribly wrong, but it ended up being so much more than that, and I'm so glad I pushed through my initial discomfort to get into it. Shine is a dark, moody portrait of a smart, confused, shuttered girl who begins to emerge from her self-imposed exile. Cat is a great protagonist, and what struck me most about her taking on the mystery, to get it out of the way first, was that she didn't do anything overly brilliant or stupid. She simply asked questions, followed where the answers took her, and found the answer.
While the hate crime against her former best friend Patrick is what propels the story, it's what it does to Cat as she solves the mystery that really made me love the book. Years before, Cat completely severs her connections to everyone, including her best friend; an event in her life leaves her unable to deal with people and she withdraws into herself. (I figured out the event pretty quickly, but that doesn't take away from the reveal when it comes. While it's not as disturbing as some might expect to make Cat react so deeply, it still impacts and traumatizes her in such a way that I understand why she did.) Seeing Cat finally begin to interact with the world she used to belong to is what makes this book so wonderful. It's books like these that remind me why I love reading YA fiction.
Cat isn't the only great character in the book, however. So many YA novels don't develop secondary characters that well, but Shine has an amazing cast of them. Some didn't get as much time as others, some were only around for a single conversation, but in that single scene there's enough in what they say, how they act and what Cat thinks of them that you get a vivid portrait of who they are, the life they've led and where they'll go once the book is through. Her brother, her aunt, the townsfolk and my favorite, a quirky kid named Robert, are all vividly drawn, to the point where I could picture them walking around their little town. Even Patrick, who is in a coma for the novel, is as fully realized a character as Cat is.
The only thing I didn't enjoy about the book was the romance sub-plot. It was good to see Cat have some light in her life and Jason did have some helpful moments, but it felt shoehorned in, as if to fit some sort of YA novel romance quota. But Shine is a great enough book that I can forgive it and recommend it wholeheartedly.