Thursday, January 19, 2012

Shine by Lauren Myracle

Publisher: Amulet Books 
Pages: 376
Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
SummaryWhen 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. 
Against a backdrop of poverty, clannishness, drugs, and intolerance, Myracle has crafted a harrowing coming-of-age tale couched in a deeply intelligent mystery. Smart, fearless, and compassionate, this is an unforgettable work from a beloved author.

I read this book for three reasons. The first was that I became curious about the book when the whole Chime/Shine debacle went down and #isupportSHINE became the battle cry of the young adult community. The second was that my only experience with Lauren Myracle's writing was the ttyl series (which I still have yet to finish, even though it's been like six and a half years) and I was curious about such a serious topic from someone who wrote practically neon colored books. Thirdly, it was picked for January's mini book club book with my sister's work friends, along with The Future of Us.
When her old friend Patrick is nearly beaten to death and the local authorities declare it the work of unfriendly out-of-towners, Cat decides to go after his attacker herself. Cat begins to question the town, this questioning often met with evasive answers and veiled threats. Along with the help of a previously insulting college boy, Cat discovers a huge crystal meth problem within the town, along with a few other secrets, both negative and positive, about her friends and loved ones. Cat must push through violent intimidation and pain in order to uncover the mystery of Patrick's appearance and feel safe again in her town.
This book was just as great as it was promised to be. Cat was a force to be reckoned with. She demonstrated great determination in trying to find Patrick's attacker, never backing down even when met with resistance and outright threats. Cat is the person that other characters should aspire to be--especially because she isn't perfect. The reason she tries so hard to find Patrick is because she had spent so much time hiding from everyone in her life. After the traumatic incident with Tommy, the withdrew into the background of everything, leaving Patrick to fend for himself against the prejudices of the whole town, and she felt guilt for it.
The portrayal of the stagnant, decaying Southern town was chilling. For a second I questioned the time period; the backwoods settings and judgmental attitudes made it seems like the events of this story could have easily happened sixty years ago. The setting made Cat's situation all the more dangerous--when local authority figures insist on ignoring the truth and the townspeople who have known her their whole life become rather unfriendly, Cat is very lucky that she isn't seriously harmed in the process.
I enjoyed the manner in which the story was told--Myracle doesn't just line up Cat's entire backstory and then present events--she toys with the explanation. Cat's past is given in tiny bursts of memory, leading up to the important memory that altered her entire life and her relationships with everyone around her that is revealed close to the end of the story. Myracle doesn't play a simple game, and I respect her for that.
Also, I learned a surprising amount about crystal meth in this book. This includes the actual meaning of the term "chasing the dragon," which my friend and I had been curious about since they used it on Gilmore Girls years ago (we could have just looked it up on the interwebs, but what fun is that?). For anyone interested it means burning the drug and inhaling the fumes. My friend and I have decided that we are going to keep using the phrase the way in which we used to. This means that "chasing the dragon" is a euphemism for someone kind of drifting along without a path in life. May be confusing for those that actually know what it means. Whatever, I digress.
Lauren Myracle took on a serious topic in writing Shine. The mystery of Patrick's attack was well constructed, if not entirely unpredictable. Cat is a strong, emotionally damaged protagonist that throws herself entirely into discovering her former best friend's attacker. Definitely recommended--it's a young adult read that definitely should not be missed.

Rating: 4.5 - extremely good.

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