Sunday, October 23, 2011

Book Review: Shine by Lauren Myracle

Book: Shine
Author: Lauren Myracle
Published: 2011
Source: ARC from the publisher, via NetGalley

He was left for dead at the gas station where he worked, tied to a pump with a gas nozzle shoved in his mouth and the words, “Suck this, faggot” scrawled on his bare chest. It’s clearly a hate crime, but the local sheriff doesn’t seem that interested in finding the culprits, preferring to blame it on out-of-towners. Cat knows there’s more to it than that, and for the sake of the friendship she once shared with Patrick, she’s going to uncover it.

As she struggles to understand what happened to her one-time friend, Cat starts to come out of the timid shell where she retreated after an unthinkable act years ago, and find the strong girl she was always meant to be.

If anthropologists were to put together a portrait of American culture from literature, they might come away with the idea that the South was a region of small towns with nice folks who all go to church on Sundays, bake casseroles and cobblers regularly, and in general take care of each other. Also, there’s that nasty Civil War thing that nice folks don’t talk about it because it’s all behind us. Shine would knock them for a loop.

Honey, this ain’t Paula Deen’s South. This is a South riddled with poverty, prejudice, drugs, and secrets, all feeding off each other in a messy stew. At the center of it all is a girl who’s learning that, for better or worse, she’s the only one in control of her identity.

Honestly, I’ve had this review half-written since May, and never felt like it captured everything I felt about this book. I’ve decided to call this enough. This one is acquiring some notoriety right now, due to the National Book Award kerfuffle. But I knew when I read it that this book was something special. Whatever happens with the National Book Award, this is a book that’s going to stick around for awhile, both in your head and walking out the door in kids’ hands.

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