Thursday, May 24, 2012

Review: Shine by Lauren Myracle

Title: Shine
Author: Lauren Myracle
Publisher: Amulet Books
Release date: April 27th 2011
Pages: 350
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: Bought
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When her best guy friend falls victim to a vicious hate crime, sixteen-year-old Cat sets out to discover who in her small town did it. Richly atmospheric, this daring mystery mines the secrets of a tightly knit Southern community and examines the strength of will it takes to go against everyone you know in the name of justice.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I've read Lauren Myracle's Internet Girls series (ttyl, ttfn and l8r, g8r) and thought they were cute and fun, so I was really excited to read another one of her books. And while Shine is really different from the Internet Girls series - a lot darker and more serious - I really enjoyed it!

What I liked best about Shine is the setting and the atmospheric description of Cat's home town, Black Creek. The desriptions are so vivid the town almost seems like its own character. Life in a small Southern town is described so well I could easily imagine what it's like, and I like how many issues are addressed (poverty, alcoholism, drug abuse, homophobia, etc.) without it ever sounding preachy - Cat's just telling us about her experiences, her day-to-day life, and seeing people destroy their life with meth or whatever is just a normal part of that. That makes it especially heartbreaking to read about - one story that stuck with me is the one of the guy who sells vegetables on the street; his story makes me want to bawl. The portrayal of Cat's life in Black Creek is raw and real.

Then there's Cat, our main character. I wasn't sure what to think of her at first, but she grew on me. In the beginning, she's a little hard to feel for because you don't know why she acts the way she does, but once you find out what happened, it works. I liked reading about her coming-of-age story and how she grows as a character. While I would have liked to know some more about her future - whether she does try to get into college and do something with her life and all of that - I kind of liked not knowing, and just being able to hope that she does get out.

The secondary characters are good. I loved reading about Cat's relationship with Christian, and how that develops over the course of the novel. Her aunt, though, I would have liked to know some more about - I never felt like I really got to know her. The rest of the "redneck crew" has distinct personalities, too, and I liked seeing how there's more than meets the eye to each of them. Jason, the love interest, is sweet, albeit a little bland. I didn't really mind, though - I like how there's a hint of romance without that being the main storyline, so it's okay that Jason isn't the most complex character.

I'm torn on what to make of the mystery storyline. It's not the traditional course of suspect after suspect, and I didn't find it too surprising who ended up being the bad guy. But somehow, I didn't really mind - I liked being there alongside Cat as she found out, even if I already knew, in the back of my head. I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but I found the character of the person who did it to be lacking some depth - I wanted to know more about what made him/her do it.

I'm not sure what to make of the ending. I can't even explain why, since I thought it was the right thing to do, but it just didn't sit right with me.

There were a few things I didn't like, but somehow, all-together, it just works. Shine isn't going on my favorites shelf, but I enjoyed reading it, especially the setting and characters. I recommed it if you're looking for something real, raw and gritty.

Can you think of any books where the setting is what captivated you most?


  1. The cover is really gorgeous that I added it in my tbr list in Goodreads. Haha! I often fell for pretty covers. Even if I didn't fall for the cover, I'd still add it to my tbr list because the story is pretty cool. Mystery rocks!

    I like how Cat grew on you as the story went on. Somehow, I think it helped you feel the story more even if the bad guy was kind of as expected as you said. The story sounds real when you feel the MC. I agree with you that it's better not knowing whether she did enter college or do something with her life. It makes the readers feel the story itself like it is focused on there only. Even in the end, it's a mystery. ;)

    I think I'm gonna love the world-building here. I mean, with what you said, it makes me feel that when I read it, I'll feel like I was there somehow. It sounds pretty real with all the description that I'll imagine.

    There are such books like this one. Even with an expected outcome and an unbelievable ending (I don't know if it's good or bad for this one), you were able to enjoy the book in whole though of course, you didn't like some parts. I guess, that's alright since you picture the book as a whole and not by parts.

    I love the setting of Nicholas Sparks' novels. It's mostly on North Carolina. But seriously, it makes me feel that I was there somehow. The way he introduces each place is so vivid on my mind. I can' think of other novels in which I loved the setting. There was one or two. But I can't remember it. Haha! I'll tell you when I remember. ;)

  2. Is it really awful that I actually preferred the Internet Girls series to Shine? I have to pay respect to Myracle for writing a really terrific story, but... the setting. Books set in the south are an automatic "ugh" for me. Books set in small southern towns brimming with irritating dialect are even worse, for me. I couldn't read the whole thing. I couldn't even read the first 1/4 without putting it down. 

    I really respect her for writing the book, though. 

  3. This has been on my Goodreads TBR list for a while now. The setting and the mystery element, from your review, reminded me of The Little Friend by Donna Tartt which I really enjoyed, so I will have to bump this up the list a little! :)

  4. I can definitely see how that kind of thing could make the book not work for some people - I didn't mind, though, since Cat is really different from the rest of the people living in that town, and speaks, you know, not with a Southern accent. And liking the Internet Girls series better is totally fine - I loved those books too, in a really different way. What I'm impressed about is how Lauren Myracle can write such different books and still have both be really good, at least for me.

  5. This sounds like a great contemporary!

    I love it when small towns or other settings (like Hogwarts) become characters and affect the story. I especially like Southern settings, and another book that creates a wonderful setting that comes alive is Beautiful Creatures/Beautiful Darkness/ Beautiful Chaos (by Garcia and Stohl). It's a Southern Gothic if you like the genre.

    I think the characters sound completely relatable, and I like how the main character's previous trauma affected her. And I love how she sticks up for her friend and actually dissects her own town to help him out. I think in this case the mystery doesn't really need to be much of a mystery (after all, in a small town, people pretty much know what everyone else is like), it's more important for the whole story be about the characters.

    Sounds like a really great story with excellent themes and likable characters. Thanks so much for this review:)

  6. I love that too :) I've heard great things about the Beautiful Creatures series, but I doubt I'll read them - they just don't sound like my kind of books. Thanks, though :)

  7. I'm always a fan of main characters that grow on you so it's good to hear that was the case here. I've had Shine on my to-read list for a long time but I've never bothered to go out and get a copy so thanks for reminding me about it, I definitely want to read it.

  8. :) I love the TTYL series too! This sounds like a decent book! I really enjoyed reading about your feelings that you expressed throughout this wonderful review.
    Cat sounds like a wonderful, growing character! 
    Hopefully there is another book so more of the side characters have a chance to grow. 
    I will definitely check this book out! 

  9. I'm yet to read a novel written by Lauren Myracle but this seems like a good place to start. Everyone raves about her books and I love my mystery novels! Actually now that I think about it - I think I read Rhymes with Witches...*checking on Goodreads* - yes I did! Hahahaha :)

  10. bahaha, I can never remember whether I've read a book/author, either :p That's what Goodreads is for! :)

  11. My teen daughter just finished reading (and really enjoyed!) an eBook called Hear by Jacqueline Abelson. Great plot, interesting characters and a real message of self– empowerment. Here’s the link:


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