Yakety Yaks's Reviews > Shine

Shine by Lauren Myracle
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Jun 15, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: reviewed-by-gracie
Read in June, 2012

This book is all kinds of heavy. If you’re not into gritty, real-life stories, I would steer clear of this one. It’s really dark and parts of it feel like the literary equivalent of a punch in the gut. That said, this is an important, chilling, and beautifully written book.
As is the case with all good mysteries, Kat, on her journey to find Patrick’s attacker, finds out more about herself than she anticipates. She finds strength and allies in the most unlikely of places. And above all, she learns that there is more to people than meets the eye.

Honestly, I feel like this book is a little bit of a bait-and-switch. Not maliciously so or anything, really. But most people know Lauren Myracle for her pervious books with text-speak as titles. Basically, invert every image conjured up by a YA text-speak title and that’s this book. It was a bravely close look at a rarely explored facet of American life.

I have really been craving a suspense novel lately. I’m just not the kind of girl that considers “will they hook up?” a very suspenseful premise (which is why I’m, like, the worst romance reader on the planet). Myracle came through with this amazing book! The last 1/4 of the book is so intense that my palms were sweating so much I could hardly hold my Nook. (Really, I wish I was kidding.) The tension, the pacing, the climax—it’s perfect.

Characters:
The book contains all kinds of lush character development.

Cat, of course, is complex and deep. She makes good and bad decisions. She is selfish and selfless. And she is by turns insightful and blinded by her own prejudices. I love how brave she is. No, she didn’t hunt down Patrick’s attacker with a gun (well, that may be up for debate) but she plunged headlong into the investigation even though Godfather-like warnings appeared. No way in heck I’d walk into a known meth cooker’s trailer in the woods to confront him. Brother by my side or no.

Speaking of, Christian is a rich character. He loves Cat and is protective of her, but still treats her like his baby sister. He infuriates her at times and comforts her at others. I know it wouldn’t have fit the story, but I would have loved to see some scenes from his perspective–just cause I liked him so much.

Robert, on the other hand evoked such an interesting emotional response from me. He is a case study of how mistakes, traditions, and prejudices of parents mark their children. Smaller than kids his own age because of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, 11-year-old Robert easily spouts off the anti-gay slurs that he has grown up hearing from people in his community. He has no grasp on social cues or appropriate behavior. I wanted Cat to punch him through most of the last 1/4 of the book. He’s the kind of kid that was born into poverty and ignorance through no fault of his own, but will remain in it by his own choosing. That infuriating, unfortunately little boy was brilliantly written.

Very, very, very small critique.
I have no idea why the book is titled Shine. Oh, sure, there are plenty of metaphorical extrapolations that could take place to validate the title, but of all things, light (and the pretty pink tulip on the cover) isn’t exactly what this story calls to mind. That feels like an imposition of the publisher for the sake of being commercial.

Some of the themes in this book may be too overwhelming for younger readers. Themes of hate crimes, violence, drug use, and sexual assault would have been too much for myself at even 16 (but I was a total weenie.) So when it comes to actually recommending this book, I’m torn. It is gorgeous and heartbreaking and nothing less than a masterpiece, but I don’t know that I can recommend it across the board. But the book truly raises the question “just because it is bad/scary/hurtful should you ignore it?”

The answer is something you can only decide for yourself.

A note about the NBA fiasco:
This book was “mistakenly” nominated for the 2011 National Book Award in the YA category. The National Book Foundation asked Myracle to withdraw her book from the running to correct their mistake. Shady and lame, huh? Of course, she was classy and awesome and did so. I would just like to say that they would have done well to keep this book in the running. It is truly a work of art.

This and other YA book reviews can be found at http://www.yaketyyaks.com/
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