When I first came across ‘Shine,’ it was described as a story about a girl who tries to find the people responsible for a hate crime against one of her friends. This is a rather simple synopsis for what is a truly complex and intelligent plot. Cat is a 17 year old girl living in a very small, very poor town in North Carolina. Here, everyone knows each other, and it seems to be a close knit community. However, that community keeps it secrets locked up tight. Anything bad is swept under the rug. And when Cat’s former best friend, Patrick, is beaten and left for dead, simply because he’s gay, she realizes maybe all this fear and hiding isn’t a good thing after all. She digs up those secrets, about herself, her family, her friends, and her town, as well as those things about Patrick she didn’t know.
The writing in this book is excellent. I was immediately hooked. Well, actually, I was immediately disturbed, since the very first section of the book is a newspaper clipping describing what happened to Patrick. In detail. It was… decidedly uncomfortable, to say the least. So it wasn’t a pleasant start to the book, but if the author (Lauren Myracle) can make me feel that with a couple of paragraphs, I really wanted to know how the rest of the book would be. And it only took a few pages for me to be completely immersed in this book.
All kinds of prejudices are explored here, and examined. It’s not all about Patrick being gay, although that’s obviously a big part of it. It’s about Cat, too, and how she fits into her community and how her friends and family treat her, and how she plans to fit into the larger world outside her town. The story flows along, the plot is tense and romantic and sad and touching and exciting, all at the same time. And the setting is absolutely beautifully and strikingly described.
This book has its small flaws, and I figured out who did the crime before the end. But the why of it all was a big surprise. I definitely never felt like the book was overly predictable, and the story certainly held my attention the whole time, and more. I think a lot of that had to do with how well the characters are written. Even the minor characters felt very real to me, and I could believe in their motives and their actions, so even when they were terrible, sometimes they made sense. And the main characters, especially Cat, were people I definitely came to care about. It’s just a book that feels really real.