Welcome to my blog. I often think I was born with a book in my hand. I have always enjoyed reading, but more importantly, talking about books. This blog is partially about reviews, but is really a forum to talk about what I'm reading, and express all of the thoughts and feelings that there simply isn't room for in a professional review. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on your favourite books as you follow my reading journey.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Lauren Myracle's Shine- A Haunting and Unforgettable Mystery

A crime has taken place in sixteen-year-old Cat's small, but tightly-knit Southern community. Her former best friend Patrick is found near death, tied to the pump of the local gas station, with the gass nozzle shoved down his throat and taped to his mouth. The local sherriff blames out-of-towners, but Cat is certain that it was someone in town, and feels she owes it to Patrick to find out who is responsible.

As she investigates, Cat uncovers a web of secrets. Secrets of Meth use, homophobia and worse. Secrets that somebody in the town doesn't want her to know about, and would go to extreme lengths to keep hidden.

Set against a backgdrop of poverty, drugs, hate and clanishness, this is an unforgetable story about love, loss, and finding a way out of the darkness that has consumed her for so long.

When Megan Cox Gurdon published her now famous June 4 article in the Wall Street Journal about the perils of "Dark YA", this novel by bestelling author Lauren Myracle was one of the titles specifically cited for its disturbing content. After reading it, I can vhemently disagree with this position.

Black Creek, North Carolina, is in many ways, a typical southern town. While there is not the wealth and pedigree of some of the more prominent Southern cities, the feel of the south is ever-present in the novel. The community is closely knit, and they stick together. The children have all grown-up together, and everybody knows you by name. Sounds idyllic doesn't it? It's the kind of place where not much happens without somebody knowing about it, and chances are, whatever it is will get back to your mama, so you'd best not try it. On the flip side, Black Creek is also a dying town. Passed over by the railway, few outsiders have a reason to stop, and the residents get by as best they can with what little they have. It is also the kind of town where the KKK might have existed once upon a time, and any visibly different people would not have been easily tolerated.

When Patrick is beaten, everybody feels terrible, but nobody wants to delve too deeply into what really happened. To accept any explanation other than the neat little package that the Sherriff offers means facing the truth about what's really happening, and it's more than anyone can handle. Cat is also no stranger to trauma, and the events that caused her to isolate herself replay in her head as difficult truths about the teens in the town begin to surface.

No doubt about it- the subject matter is dark, and some of the language disturbing. There is no way to sugarcoat homophobic hate crimes, and the author would be doing her readers a great injustice to even attempt it. But what the Ms. Gurdon missed from atop of her soapbox was that beneath the brutality was hope, and the incredibly valuable messages that readers will take away from this book.  Cat learns many things about herself, including that she's tired of needing only herself, and that the world will open itself to her if she starts projecting yes instead of no.

It's really an amazing read. Well-written and thought provoking, and one that might just teach teens something about compassion and tolerance rather than causing them harm.


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