Review: Shine

TITLE: Shine
AUTHOR: Lauren Myracle
PUBLICATION: 2011 by Amulet Books
FORMAT: Hardcover


When 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.


The only reason I am aware of this novel is the whole issue involving the National Book Award mix-up. Comparing the two contenders with the similar sounding name, I found myself more interested in reading Shine and luckily my library had a copy.

It’s a relief to pick up a book that one would find in the YA section and not be immediately turned off by an obvious romance. Still Cat’s friendship with Patrick (although strained over the last few years due to an incident that happened the summer she was thirteen) makes her love different than most of the angsty teenagers in novels nowadays. She’s not looking for a boyfriend, she’s looking for the party responsible for the hate crime committed against her friend whom happens to be a boy. And it just so happens that she meets a guy that she can feel safe to like again. It’s mostly a mystery, and I like that about it. It’s not too violently graphic, but it’s not quite cozy because it still puts the issues of sexuality and moral values in a small religious community out there for inspection in a way that might not be entirely comfortable.

Ms. Myracle’s writing style is simple and straight-forward. It wasn’t very hard to get swept away on Cat’s quest for justice and I read a good portion of it over the course of an afternoon. There’s a lot of reflection and flashbacks presented over the course of this novel and sometimes I wondered if it was necessary to reveal all of it. I  guess you could say I’m not much of a fan of doing it that way.

One of my favorite parts of the novel is when Cat realizes what she’s allowed herself to become over the last three years and how she hurt others as she was hurt because she was hurting with no one to turn to.  She understands that she needs to say yes to the world, to shine as Mama Sweetie would have said.  It just seems like such a powerful and moving passage in the novel. There was a religious message that you can truly shine when you realize that God loves you, but it wasn’t portrayed in a very preachy way that would be an automatic turn-off.

But I seriously don’t know what to make of that one chick… what kind of girl would still be with a guy when he admitted to her that he’d went after a thirteen-year-old girl that happened to be one of your friends? I suppose I could accept the idea of redemption if he just didn’t seem like such a jerk up until that time.

Overall I would say this is definitely a book worth taking the time to read. It wasn’t a fantastic book that I would consider for awards, but it was a pleasant reading experience.



One thought on “Review: Shine

  1. I heard about the mix-up with the National Book Award a couple of weeks ago on NPR, and had to really feel sorry for Ms. Myracle. Can you imagine being initially being told that you the recipient of an award, only to have it taken back from you? Horrible! I did hear though that the NBA committee did make a donation to Ms. Myracle’s favorite charity in an effort to apologize for the mess. Your review of her book is very well written and thoughtful.

    By the bye, I just posted a review of Alice Oswald’s book-length poem Memorial which recasts each and every one of the deaths included in Homer’s The Iliad. Personally, I think you would very much enjoy this poem. It is, in my humble opinion, destined to become a classic epic poem–really powerful and poignant. Cheers! Chris

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