Cat has had a miserable three years. Because of a traumatizing event when she was 13, she has basically shut herself off from all her friends, even her best friend Patrick. Now it may be too late to make things right. Patrick has been found at the convenience shore where he works, horribly beaten and in a coma. Worse yet, it looks like the attack is because Patrick is gay, and in the small, backwoods town they live in, being gay is simply unacceptable. Cat knows is attacker is most likely one of the local boys she grew up with, and she is determined to find out who it is and if the attack was truly a matter of homophobia. As she delves into the mystery, she discovers how many of the town are addicted to meth, and that their addiction will drive them to any lengths to get what they need.
I was fortunate to attend on of Lauren Myracle’s sessions at the North Carolina School Library Media Association Conference in November where I got an ARC to Shine. My daughter has read the book twice but I haven’t had a chance to read it until last night. I absolutely fell in love with it.
First, the language and the setting. It’s spot-on. I knew Myracle had the language correct with this sentence: “What with the new Wal-Mart in Asheville, almost all the stores in town went on and closed.” Not an important sentence in the story by any means, but the “went on and closed” is rural NC and it enabled me to settle down and engross myself in the language of my cousins. The setting is a small mountain town and I could see it, feel it, as I read the book. Myracle spent time in the mountains when she was younger and it shows.
I also loved the characters. While it might be argued that the adults are somewhat one-dimensional, they are truly part of the background so that Cat and her contemporaries are allowed to be the story, warts and all. Cat is damaged – that is evident from the beginning – but she is able to overcome her past to find the answers she craves. I do anticipate some criticisms to the character of Robert, an eleven-year-old fetal alcohol victim whose impulsive hyperactivity tends to get him in trouble. To those who don’t think his character is realistic, I would say that I’ve taught several Roberts in my 22 years as a middle school teacher.
There are serious problems in Black Creek – homophobia, meth addiction, alcoholism – and they are not at all trivialized. In fact, one of the many reasons Shine should be a mandatory read is to deter people from trying meth. This is not an easy, pleasant read, but I found myself hiding in my office to finish it this morning.