Shine is the latest book by Lauren Myracle. It’s the story about 16 year old Cat living in the small poverty stricken town of Black Creek, and before the first chapter even begins, you are plunged into a murder mystery involving a young man named Patrick, a 3rd shift gas store clerk who ends up tied to a gas pump with a gas nozzle down his throat, with the words “Suck this, faggot” scrawled on his chest. Whoa, brutal, I thought. And I read on. With an opening like that, how could I not?
Cat and Patrick used to be best friends until Cat started closing herself off from all her old friends and kept only to herself and her books.
Sounds like someone I know, I thought.
This books tackles so many issues: poverty, class, gender and sexual stereotypes. Cat is surrounded by sadness: her father has given up on life, her mother is gone, her Aunt Tildy, who takes care of her, is a little checked out, and her brother Christian has let her down.
Cat, like her idol Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird, is determined to find out what happened to Patrick, even though the two haven’t been close for almost two years. (And with all the negative role models girls have pushed into their faces every second of the day, what better role model could a 16 year old have? Yes! Thank you, Lauren Myracle!) Cat often puts herself in danger to find out what happened to Patrick, including a visit to the local meth dealer—she has more guts than I do, I would have sooner pulled out my left molar than step a toe into that skeevy trailer and its pervert occupant.
Cat also seems to have the ability to rise above both her upbringing and environment. She’s seen first hand the effects of alcohol and meth, and she is determined not to let it ensnare her the way it seems to have ensnared many of her friends. She also takes action to do what the adults in town aren’t doing, hunting down its sad and down trodden residents to gather information about Patrick’s attack. Cat, as one of the characters notes, is true to her name. She doesn’t sit still, she’s completely driven, which makes for a compelling read.
It did remind me a little of The Laramie Project, the true story play then documentary film about the homophobia fueled murder of Matthew Shepherd. As I was reading, I could see this book playing out as a movie.
I love the thread of To Kill a Mockingbird running through the story, it echoes back through time when Scout ( and Cat certainly spends most of the book scouting herself) learns a terrible lesson about justice and the prejudices of a small town, and Shine is no different.