Shine (by Lauren Myracle)

21 03 2012

It’s a bit gauche to start off a review about an unfortunate bout of attention a book has gotten as a result of a mix-up… but in Shine’s case, the mix-up was well… embarrassing because a lot was at stake: a National Book Award.  The whole incident however, did show how classy Lauren Myracle was about it all, and truth be told, if it hadn’t been for the extra press as a result of the incident, the cat would probably not have bought and read Shine. The only other Myracle book the cat had read before Shine was ttyl, which for all its intents and purposes was targeted a bit too much at one particular gender and a tad too gimmicky for me to want to read more in that series of books. But anyway, Shine got all this new press, a lot of reviewers the cat respects seemed to like Shine a lot, so what the heck, let’s give Myracle another try.

And yes, one should never judge an author by just one book, because Shine is nothing – *nothing* – like the ttyl-series. It’s a lot less gender-specific, for one, and shows a great deal more the grandeur that Myracle is capable of as an author.

Shine deals with a hate crime in the small village of Black Creek in one of the many Southern states. 17-year-old Patrick, an openly gay boy in a close-knit Southern community, gets beat up in the most brutal of ways and left for dead. Rather than going along with the solution local law enforcement will probably give – out of towners did it – Cat, the former best-friend of Patrick is hell-bent on finding out who committed this heinous crime, as much as a way to deal with her own feelings of guilt for not having been a better friend to Patrick when he really needed it (Patrick was bullied constantly, even by his so-called friends), than as a way to find justice.

Despite the fact that the story is basically a pretty standard whodunit  at first sight, it is Myracle’s sense of setting and atmosphere that makes this book into such a joy to read. The prose in Shine reads like driving through the desolate wilderness that characterizes so many areas in the Bible Belt: her language is lush and atmospheric creating a vibe that you could only get from a writer who is intimately aware of her (Southern) roots. Throughout the story, the reader is confronted with the true tragedy of Southern villages like Black Creek: poverty. In this way, not just Patrick is discriminated against because he was gay, but almost every inhabitant of Black Creek suffers from their socio-economic circumstances, so much so that almost none of them see a way out of their misery. Dropping out of school, alcoholism, crystal meth addictions… poverty is a vicious circle spiraling ever more downwards. It is this bleak landscape that Myracle so aptly and hauntingly describes, and which makes of Shine a novel that should have been nominated for a National Book Award.

Kudos also to Myracle for supporting the Matthew Shepard foundation with this book.

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2 responses

5 10 2012
Amelia Anne Is Dead and Gone (by Kat Rosenfield) « Ringo the Cat's Blog

[…] reminiscent of books like Stephen King’s Misery or Dolores Claiborne and even Lauren Myracle’s Shine, for the same sense of eeriness they evoke! The florid – sometimes even confusing – writing […]

22 12 2012
The 12 of 2012! « Ringo the Cat's Blog

[…] Shine (Lauren Myracle) […]

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