Shine by Lauren Myracle
Genre: YA, Fiction…um not supernatural or fantasy or any of the things I usually read
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Summary: Patrick is a gay teen living in a hick town and is viciously attacked one night at his job at the Come ‘n Go convenience store. It appears he is the victim of a hate crime, but the police have no leads and their investigation is going nowhere. Cat, Patrick’s best friend growing up, makes it her mission to find out the truth of what happened to him. But to do that, she must overcome her own struggles and find the strength to be happy, to let people in, and to love herself again.
What the… That’s right. Stephanie read a book, bitches! Today we shall take a look at Shine by Lauren Myracle. This post does not contain spoilers (except very slightly at the end, but I tell you first and don’t actually reveal anything.)
I decided to give it a read after the crazy twitter storm over the National Book Award scandal. I’m sure you saw, but basically – Lauren Myracle was told by the NBA peeps that her book was nominated for an award, one of the five YA books of the year up for consideration. Then they announced that it was actually supposed to be the book Chime and someone messed up because it sounds like Shine, but it’s cool because they would just have six books in the running. But THEN they told Lauren she had to withdraw or they were going to kick her out. When they screwed up. What the fuck right? So Lauren is all awesome and withdraws the book, asking the NBA to donate money to the Matthew Shepard Foundation which they did which is awesome. But they still suck. You should probably read Libba Bray’s blog post about it if you haven’t yet: http://libba-bray.livejournal.com/62266.html.
So anyway, everyone on twitter was talking about this, so I figured I would go ahead and read the book. Cassie-wa asked me, “Is it good or is it Lauren Myracle?” It’s a bit of both, but leaning towards good I think. The book begins with a newspaper article, detailing the violent attack on Patrick, his status as an orphan and someone who was different, and the lack of any evidence or leads.
The book is in first person from Cat’s point of view. Cat and Patrick were best friends their whole lives growing up and she was the first person to whom Patrick ever admitted he was gay. Patrick did have other friends in town – “the redneck posse” as Cat calls them – consisting of her brother Christian, the rich bully Tommy, Beef the ex-wrestling champion, and Dupree the total stoner. The town is Black Creek, North Carolina – hardly any people, hardly a town at all except for a few shops and a church. There used to be a paper mill, but it was shut down and the town suffered. Pretty much the first thing impressed upon us is how deeply rooted the fear and distrust of someone being different goes. Homophobia is as natural to these people as breathing. When they say hateful things about Patrick like calling him “fairy” or “faggot” it’s like they hardly even realize what a horrible thing it is to say. Even his friends would torture him on occasion, calling him names, and making fun of him. It was almost nauseating to me how casual everyone was about it – how some even seemed to think Patrick deserved what happened or at least thought it was BOUND to happen to him with him being the way he was.
The police prove useless in finding out the identity of the attacker, deciding it must have been some college boys driving in to the Come ‘n Go to buy beer or someone else from out of town. However, Cat doesn’t believe that’s true. The redneck posse are acting suspicious – stopping conversations abruptly when she approaches and obviously keeping secrets. Her brother Christian even tells her to stay out of it.
You can really feel her frustration, like she’s the only one in the whole town who actually cares and wants to find out what really happened while everyone else is content to ignore it and look the other way. I flew through this book, so eager to find out what happened, hoping she was going to find out. But she’s fighting her own demons too. She continually talks about the terrible thing that happened to her – that caused her to shut everyone out and turn inward. You know pretty much immediately that someone attacked her and eventually we do get all the details.
Basically what we learn from this story overall is that bad things happen and when they do you can either rise above it or fall and fall hard. Cat finds the strength to overcome what happened to her on her search for Patrick’s attacker, but others are not so lucky. There is strength and good in everyone and there is a way to move past these things, but you have to choose it.
Ever so slightly spoilery:
I was a little dissatisfied with the end because while Cat learns the truth…she ends up hiding it because it’s ugly and would affect other people’s lives to know it. But I wonder how she spends the whole book wanting the truth, ignoring people who tell her it doesn’t matter and to stay out of it, even ignoring threats, but then she ends up lying and hiding the truth in the end herself. It’s a little unsettling to me. It kind of reminds me of Harry Potter and people telling him that he should not let anyone tarnish his memories of Dumbledore, even if those memories are based on lies. But Harry wants the truth, even if it hurts. I guess probably because Shine is kind of Jesus–y, we end up with this ending where the truth is hidden. Christians do not value truth above making yourself feel better, so I can understand why Lauren writes this ending and why Cat and the others in the know keep quiet. But to me, it does a disservice to everyone. The town is broken in many ways and the perpetrator’s downfall could happen to someone else just as easily – but instead of taking steps to spread awareness that could maybe help someone else – it’s all swept under the carpet.
I guess maybe Black Creek is just a town you have to escape from or you die. Which is pretty morbid and sad, but that’s kind of what I get from this book. If you are born in a place like that you must get an education and you must get out.
And seriously – DRUGS ARE BAD, MM’KAY??