Addie's Reviews > Shine

Shine by Lauren Myracle
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May 01, 11

bookshelves: ya-contemporary, ya-standalone
Read from April 26 to 28, 2011

Brief Summary: Shine by Lauren Myracle is a Young Adult novel - kind of different from your typical YA fare in that it’s actually more of a classic “mystery” story. Nope, no sparkly vampires or fallen angels or crazy dystopian governments. Set in modern-day rural America, it’s basically the story of teenaged protagonist Cat trying to discover who perpetrated a hate crime against her one-time friend Patrick.

Grade: B+

Plot: For me, the one downfall of Shine was the plot - I’ll get to all the things I loved later - and there are a couple of things about it I felt I should point out. Of course, this is a non-spoilery review! The novel is pretty much a straight mystery novel - it doesn’t try to disguise that plot-wise. As such I found the structure and overall plot formulaic and not as strong as it might have been if similar issues were handled in a more “dramatic” manner (that is to say, more in the vein of a contemporary YA drama than a YA mystery). The plot is uninventive - I’ll go so far as to say that - to the point where you can actually identify the “steps to writing a mystery story” taught to me by my grade 7 teacher. The detective (Cat) simply travels from place to place down the list of suspects, talking to the various people perhaps connected to the crime and gathering “evidence” (verbal testimony as opposed to physical clues, in this case. Nope - no bloody footprints in this one. At least I can say that about it). Myracle even went so far as to divide the “clues” into chapters. Chapter one - interrogation one. This only drew my attention to the formulaic plot structure. As for the content of the plot, Myracle deals with a lot of sensitive issues and handles them well - hate crimes, small-town stereotypes, sexual abuse, drugs and… well, the list goes on. However, I found this novel borrowed waaay too much from genre stereotypes of mystery. Ah, well. It worked for Arthur Conan Doyle… But he pretty much invented the mystery genre. Also, a note on the ending - really? One of the (only) joys of the mystery novel is that the reader is supposed to be able to solve the mystery along with the detective. Not so with Shine.

Writing Style: So, the plot was a bit of a let-down. I got that over with first because there are just so many other things about this book that I love! It contains some truly beautiful prose! And man, do I love prose… A+ on that. Myracle manages to be really evocative without sounding drippy or preachy (like some other “poetic” YA novels). Two words: telling detail. If you’ve taken a writer’s craft course, you probably know what I mean. It’s the little things that add verisimilitude (that’s… kind of a hard word to type :P ) and Myracle is so good at that, and at giving us enough that we understand what we’re seeing without blocking up our imaginations.

Characters: Another amazing thing about this novel would be the characters. And I love my characters, too… Part of why the formulaic plotting and “genre” feel to the book were so disappointing was that Myracle managed to evoke some really interesting, flawed, detailed and moving characters, all with their own secrets and stories. Why, Lauren, why?!? From Cat to Beef to Robert to Ridings and even creepy meth-lab guy… so many incredibly real feeling characters (I’ll say it again - telling details) and she just jammed them into a formulaic and at times even bland mystery plot! So much could have been done with these characters if she’d freed them from the constrictive structure of the darn. Mystery. Novel. Genre. Stereotype. I was still fascinated by them anyway, though!

Setting: So much of this novel’s character comes from its small-town rural American setting. The rest of the world would probably call Myracle’s characters “hicks” or “white trash” - a stereotype addressed in the novel - but the book manages to give an honest, heartbreaking portrait of small Southern-town life without romanticizing it or having to rely on weary stereotypes. It feels gritty - real - and clicks you right into the mindframe. Some of Myracle’s descriptive prose almost “sparkles”, too - which is nice!

Overall: The plot is what caught me on this one. Not so much what happened, even, but the really dull and formulaic way it played out. Cat’s memories and the flashbacks to her childhood were so interesting! I really wish I could’ve explored this world more freely, without being constricted by the mystery story’s really rigid plot structure. So much interesting backstory here! And some really incredible descriptive prose too.

Mmm… prose.
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04/26/2011 page 140
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