{August 22, 2011}   “Shine” – Lauren Myracle

This post marks the first of my reviews. Over in the Books page, there’s a short list of the books I’m set to cover in the next few days. I am open to suggestions for anything to review; my spectrum of genres is going to be pretty wide since my list of books includes something from almost everywhere. I’ll keep the Books page updated with what’s coming next, but I’m always willing to derail my train for a good read. Books reviewed will be from a variety of years, some from this year, some not yet published (though I only have two), and a lot from years past. I’ve been a little lax with my reading of late.

Here’s the way this will work for now. I’ll introduce you to the book and the author, give you my take on it, my review, and end with a recommendation. I don’t do ratings systems very well; I always find a reason to rate something between the lines and hardly ever give the highest mark. So instead, I’ll have a tier of recommendations, whether I recommend reading it right now, buying it, renting it from the library, passing, and so on. Keep in mind that everything is my opinion and that I am not making money off any of this. I’m doing it for fun and to give me more of a reason to read books. It’s a win-win.

Shine – Lauren Myracle

Myracle is a New York Times bestselling author most famous for her Internet Girls trilogy (ttyl, ttfn, and l8r, g8r), books written entirely in IM from the points of view of three teenaged girls. She’s a current resident of Fort Collins, CO, which is actually how I heard about her in the first place. I worked for an author for about a year my senior year of undergrad, and during a talk about authors, the industry, and making it big, Myracle and a few other local authors were mentioned. Shine was suggested to me as a good book I should read.

The book is hailed as a radical departure from her usual writing. This novel is gritty and heart-breaking, set in Black Creek, North Carolina, a rural, podunk town where it feels that you’ll never get out and make it somewhere else. Shine opens with the news coverage of the brutal beating of Patrick, a sixteen-year-old resident of the town. The sheriff brands the attack a hate crime perpetrated by outsiders against Patrick’s sexual orientation , and that’s the end of it. For him. Patrick’s former best friend, Cat, can’t accept that and embarks on her own quest to who did it and why.

Myracle’s narrator, Cat, is a compelling and understandable character. As she gets farther into the layers of mystery surrounding the attack on Patrick, Cat is faced with dark images from her own past that she must deal with in order to get closer to the truth. Most members of her community are unhelpful, remarking that it’s such a pity that Patrick was attacked but if he hadn’t been what he was…well. Small town prejudice prevents anything from being done in terms of the law, and Cat finds herself running up against a caliber of tight-lippedness one rarely sees. All of it serves to make her more determined to figure out what happened, but some people will do almost anything to keep their secrets from seeing the light of day.

The novel both references and evokes Matthew Shepard, the man brutally beaten and left to die in Laramie, Wyoming, in 1998. His was a name I hadn’t heard until I moved to Fort Collins for college. Shepard died in the Poudre Hospital there, and Colorado State University and the GLBT community there keep his memory alive. His was a tragedy that finally brought light to the discrimination members of the GLBT community felt then and still experience now.

Shine weaves two heart-wrenching stories together, those of Patrick and Cat, and ends with redemption. Myracle’s book isn’t contrived and doesn’t turn the other way. She takes on the difficult issues and writes about them with such power that the reader feels her insides responding. I haven’t met a book in recent memory that has physically grabbed me as much as Shine has. The characters are real and act how you’d expect them to, but not in a predictable manner. Their actions just make sense once you understand their motivations. Prepare for one intense ride: You may let go of the book, but you’ll always feel it. It touches hearts.

My recommendation: Read this book as soon as you can. It’s worth buying so you can have it on your shelf and lend it out to all the people you recommend it to.

(Disclosure: The copy I read was an advance reader’s copy I picked up at the Publishing Institute.)
Amulet Books, May 2011, hardcover, 376 pages, $16.95. Buy the book here.

et cetera