Book Review & Giveaway: Shine

By Lauren Myracle
Amulet Books
Author’s Website
Hardcover | Kindle

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.


SHINE is a small town mystery story that touches on the subjects of justice, hate, the danger in seeking the truth and the socioeconomic divisions that occur within a small population, among other topics. It is at times a very upsetting book, but regardless it is one that should be on the reading list of anyone over the age of 16. (The book says ages 14 and up, but I digress. There is reference to sexual violence and lots of talk about drug use/dealing, as well as some strong language.) This is a book that will have you reeling about the violence in hate and the destructive outcomes of stereotyping. It is also a book that will have you turning the pages, eager to find out if justice will be served in the end.

Plot: 9

Shine starts right off with a printed news article describing the hate crime that occurred to, Patrick, former best friend of 16 year old Cat. The story is told from her point of view, and takes right off from this article into her quest to find out the truth – to find out who committed the horrific crime to her friend that, for reasons yet unknown, she had separated herself from some years ago. I cannot say that I “enjoyed” the plot, per say, due to the subject matter, but I appreciated having the privilege to read a well-thought out story on such an emotional subject matter. Cat’s friend was targeted, presumably, because of his sexual preference. Many in this small town have the mentality that being gay is not “Christian”. People even resort to the line: “he got what he deserved”. It’s disturbing, to say the least. But also is the undercurrent that something just ain’t right in this town, and that is when the story throws in the wrench that dominates much of the story.

The only issue that I have with the plot is that, about mid-way through, the subject of drug use takes over the subject of hate and social division that was so prevalent in the first part of the book. While just as equally disturbing a topic as well as one of the driving forces, I feel that this may have down played what I thought was the story’s strength: the small town hate and class division. It is really my only issue with the book, a minor one, since the topic drug use is a major cause of concern for the youth in our society. One can hopefully learn from this book.

Characters: 10

The characters, every one of them from Cat to Beef, Robert, Jason, Tommy, Cat’s brother, Christian, and just about everyone else that made an appearance (there are quite a few characters) – they all felt very real to me. I felt the pains and joys that each of them was experiencing as I read.  Living in a small town you may think that you know everyone, even those closest to you, but sometimes it turns out that you really don’t.

Cat, who is  somewhat of a recluse living with her own demons at the start of the story, is to be admired for her sudden bravery and adamant determination to seek the truth. Her voice (as well as the voices of all the other characters in the book) was perfect and easy to relate to. Characters said what I thought they should say – did what I believed they would do. Not to say that they were predictable or fit to “small town cliches”, they just seemed to be more like real people rather than characters in a book. It’s almost as if that news article in the beginning was a real news story and the characters were actually in a true crime book and not a work of fiction. All in all, Lauren knows how to bring a voice to each character and make them real.

Setting: 10

Set in a very small town (with a population of about 500) near one of my most favorite places in the U.S. (Asheville, NC) I was able to picture exactly where and what Cat’s world was like. Lauren definitely knows how to describe that Southern small town setting. She uses it to mold and shape each character’s individual personality, motives and economic situation. The kids play down at the local “water hole”,  they ride bikes from house to house, they are dealing with poverty, drugs, unemployment, etc. Then there is Cat’s school, which is located in a larger town where the class lines are much more clear than in her home town. You get to see just what the rest of the country thinks of “her type”. Even a trip to the library in the larger town becomes a place of scorn and judgement. As with the characters, Lauren has a way of “keeping it real”.

Pacing: 9

What helps with the pacing of the book is the manner in which Lauren tells her story. The book is broken down into days – from the first Tuesday that Cat decides to start her quest, straight through to the final Tuesday of the story. All this takes place in the span of a few weeks, and only one week is told in great detail. There are chapters, but the separation of days feels more like the true chapter breaks. Each day takes you to a different location in Cat’s quest. Things get messier and the plot thickens as she gets closer to solving the mystery. It’s actually very easy to rip through this book in one straight sitting, but I recommend that you take it slow so that you can really appreciate the themes of the story. The only thing that weighed down the middle part of the book was the focus on the drugs, as I described above when talking about the plot. Otherwise, I cannot complain, it was easy to get through this story without becoming bored or distracted.

Style: 9

The same can be said about Style that was said above about Pacing. The only other item I would like to add is Lauren’s writing in this book is superb. The voices for the character’s (as described above) showcase her skills as a writer. It’s amazing what a change this book is from Lauren’s typical YA fare. I took a point off for the language, which, which realistic, is something I just don’t like to see much of in YA fiction. My prudish mommy tendencies are showing. And that ending! Talk about suspenseful.

To lay it straight, Shine is not a book for the feeble heart, nor for those who have strong convictions against homosexuality or teen drug use, unless you are open and willing to read a realistic story on those topics for more insight. I appreciate a story that stirs the soul and makes you think about tough topics. As far as that type of story goes, SHINE excels. I hope Lauren continues to write stories such as this.

Grade: 97


About Jenna (Does Books)

Working momma of a little pink princess and reader of all things YA. I'm an artist, writer and avid reader who swears that she's having a hard time letting go of the childish things... Let me read your latest YA book and let's see if it makes the grade!

Posted on February 10, 2012, in Book Review, Four & 1/2 Star and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

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