Monday, May 9, 2011

A Year in Books: Shine

"Fine, I'll do it." I would speak for Patrick. I'd look straight into the ugliness and find out who hurt him, and when I did, I'd yell it from the mountaintop.

I had an armful of books, headed to the Borders checkout line, when a cover caught my eye. A flower bud on the end of a tree branch, with a country road in the background. I picked up the book, read the inside flap, and put back the other books I’d planned to buy. I needed this book.

SHINE is the story of a girl trying to avenge her former best friend, Patrick. Patrick was found beaten to the brink of death, tied to a fuel dispenser with the gas pump taped into his mouth. The local authorities file it as an anti-gay hate crime committed by some college kids from out of town. Cat, the story’s protagonist, decides that the police aren't doing enough to solve the crime, and she takes it upon herself to discover who beat Patrick so badly that he's in a coma with possible brain damage.

I loved the gritty tone to this story. The characters, from the town’s crystal meth cooker to hyper eleven-year-old Robert, define the town of Black Creek, North Carolina. The townspeople are gossipy, very intolerant of homosexuality, and crystal meth use is known but rarely spoken about. Cat forces herself to quit retracting from the world—she has spent the past three years isolating herself—and talk to everyone in town who might have knowledge of what happened the night Patrick was attacked. Paired with the vivid details of the poverty-stricken backwoods town, I could see the entire story as if it was a movie in front of my eyes.

Lauren Myracle crafts an intriguing mystery that will keep you guessing until the very end, and the climax will have you clutching the book, your eyes flying desperately over the words. Myracle does not sugarcoat anything; the story is blunt and honest, which makes it all the more beautiful. SHINE is an important book about tolerance and the struggle of acceptance that everyone should read.

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