Patrick's house was a ghost. Dust coated the windows, the petunias in the flower boxes bowed their heads, and spiderwebs clotted the eaves of the porch. Once I might have marveled at the webs - how delicate they were, how intricate - but today I saw ghastly silk ropes. Nooses for sawflies and katydids and anything guileless enough to be ensnared.
"When Patrick Truman is found beaten, bound, and left for dead, sixteen-year-old loner Cat is determined to discover the truth of what happened to her former best friend. The local sheriff blames out-of-towners, but Cat is sure someone in their small, tightly knit Southern community is guilty of the crime. Patrick is gay, and for years he has been teased and bullied by people claiming to be his friends, people Cat calls "the redneck posse." She plans to start her hunt for the culprit with them. But there are two problems. Cat's brother is a member of the posse, and so is the boy who assaulted Cat years ago, forcing her into the self-imposed exile from which she must now emerge...for Patrick and for herself. Against a backdrop of poverty, clannishness, and intolerance, Myracle has crafted a searing coming-of-age story, couched in a compelling page-turner of a mystery."
At first, I wasn't sure if I was going to like Shine, because of a multitude of things including its bad font. Shallow, I know, but as I mentioned in my review of The Apothecary, sometimes it really makes a difference. In this case, though, I got used to it and was able to enjoy this moving and disturbing read. There were so many sad things in this book: the homophobia of the small town, the venomous sweetness of the townspeople, and most particularly the way Cat has drawn in on herself, dropping all of her friends, including Patrick. I enjoyed the portrayal of the town Cat lives in, although I can't help but wonder if towns like the ones portrayed in books as varied as Shine and Beautiful Creatures actually exist. After all, they seem kind of cliched. Still, Lauren Myracle was born in North Carolina, so I suppose she would know. It's also just sad that places like this probably still exist, although I did love the way Myracle wrote the book in terms of diction, with the ungrammatical phrases and everything (although Cat is more educated and speaks grammatically).
Shine is also really suspenseful, a "compelling page-turner of a mystery" as well as being a "searing coming-of-age story" (a pretty accurate description). Many parts of the book are also really gripping, in terms of plot and characterization. Speaking of which, the characters are also pretty compelling, particularly Cat's brother Christian and his buddy "Beef". Both of them have huge problems, yet they genuinely seem to care about Cat in their own ways. And she knows her brother enough to believe that he has nothing to do with the crime. The others of the "redneck posse" she's not so sure about. Especially Tommy, who she despises, and for good reason.
Sometimes the world in these books feels so alien to me, and I'm very lucky in that respect. Myracle's characters are poor and seemingly helpless. Myracle's portrayal of Gwennie, Beef's younger sister, was particularly striking in that respect. She used to confide in Cat about her problems and her father's mistreatment of her until Cat retreated into her self-enforced solitude. Now, Cat is forced to come out of the hole she's dug for herself and interact with the people who have hurt her and the people who she's hurt, like Gwennie, like Patrick. She really does hurt him, and I couldn't understand her actions a whole lot, but I do know that the whole episode with the bright orange pants was written so insightfully. It was quite sad, the beginning of the end, if you will.
There was a lot of discussion of Cat's emotions, of her feelings of inadequacy and short-coming. The scene in the library was also really well done. Cat pushes down her anger and retaliates towards the jerk who insulted her. Shine was just basically composed of moments that rang true, like the incident with the pants, like the scene in the library. That's what made it a really great book, and a super absorbing read. It was hard for me to put down. There is religion in the novel, but it's not too prevalent or that annoying; it's just part of the book and who Cat is. And the title comes from Mama Sweetie, saying that people can cast off their darkness and shine again. It was a beautiful line, if a bit cliched..
There were so many great scenes in Shine, and overall, I really enjoyed the way it was told and Myracle's lovely writing. I'm glad I finally got to read it, and it's certainly worth it.