Monday, May 30, 2011

Shine by Lauren Myracle

 "What I knew was this:  Once upon a time, everything changed.  Now things had to change again.  Someone needed to track down whoever went after Patrick, and that someone was me."

Shine is unequivocally Lauren Myracle's best book to date, and it's a huge leap forward for an author who is already extremely popular, especially among tweens and younger teens. Myracle is largely known for a style that is funny, warm, playful and consistent, a style where happy endings are virtually guaranteed.  Shine is not at all like that.  Instead, it's psychologically and morally probing.  It's suspenseful and deeply absorbing.  It's piercing and compassionate.  It's nuanced and mature and very obviously written from the heart of a true artist. 

Shine takes place in a small Southern town steeped in secrets, tightly-knit loyalties and below-the-surface cruelties. At the centre of the story is Cat, who has retreated into herself since her older brother's friend assaulted her at age 13.  As a child, Cat's best friend was Patrick, but as a teenager she has distanced herself from him entirely, even though "losing Patrick was almost the same as losing myself."  Now Patrick is in a coma after having been beaten to a bloody pulp at the late-night gas station where he works, and for Cat, this is simply too much to bear.  She is consumed with the need to uncover Patrick's attacker, to "look straight into the ugliness and find out who hurt him, and...yell it from the mountaintop."  The assault on Patrick is assumed to be a hate crime, since Patrick is openly gay (in fact, he is the only out person in this community, as far as I could see) and he is found with the words "Suck this, faggot" scrawled in blood across his chest and a gas pump duct-taped into his mouth. 

Cat's unrelenting quest for the truth disturbs many people and places her in increasing danger.  Already intelligent, she becomes almost hyper-observant and soon realizes that even people whom Patrick considered friends may have wished him harm.  What I loved most about Shine was the way that Cat kept digging deeper and deeper and really thinking about the people around her, their histories and relationships and what they might or might not be capable of.   Cat becomes increasingly adept at seeing beneath the surface of people, noticing the aggression and nastiness hiding underneath the friendship.  Through Cat's determination and growing understanding, Myracle shows us the value and the cost of fighting intolerance.

Here's a fan-made video recommended by the author herself:

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