If you need to catch up, here's an article from the School Library Journal to bring you up to speed.
I'd read an ARC of SHINE from NetGalley back in Februray and loved it. I was so excited to hear that it had been nominated! And then, of course, the debacle began. Needless to say, I have some words for the National Book Award people. And they are not kind. Or family friendly. So I'll just say: this really burns my cookies. But I don't want this to be a negative post, because as hard to read as this book is at times, because it's so intense, this book is a beautiful, positive addition to the YA world, and deserving of all the praise showered upon it. So in honor of the wonderfully classy Lauren Myracle, and this beautiful book, I'm reposting my original review of it.
Make sure you scroll down past the review, because we're also giving away a copy! This is a book that should be on every bookshelf!
Shine by Lauren MyracleHere's the Goodreads Summary: "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. Against a backdrop of poverty, clannishness, drugs, and intolerance, Myracle has crafted a harrowing coming-of-age tale couched in a deeply intelligent mystery. Smart, fearless, and compassionate, this is an unforgettable work from a beloved author."
Intense, right? I have to say, the first thing that drew me to this book was the cover. It's gorgeous! The theme is kept going inside the book, with a repeated haunting black and white photograph of a dilapidated house and some tree branches of the first page of each new chapter. Score one for the design team!
I wondered if this book was going to feel over-the-top on its "hard" issues--I mean, drugs and hate crimes in the same novel?!--and lose the mystery side that it had. But I was totally wrong, and now know that I should never doubt Lauren Myracle again. This book pulls you in so strongly--it's almost a physical sensation of sinking into Cat's world of Black Creek. Even as a lifelong northerner, I could not only see and understand what it felt like to live in a tiny backwoods town in the South, but I could feel it. Myracle does some of the best world-building I've ever seen in this book--tight and as fully-realized as the most intricate fantasy novel!
Myracle did what is so hard for so many writers to do--she wrote a book about hard issues without trying to directly teach readers a lesson or have the plot feel didactic. Even our protagonist, Cat, has moments of seeing things both ways, which adds another level and deeper thought to the two main issues happening in Black Creek: the hate crime committed against Cat's friend Patrick, and the drug use that runs through the town.
As for the mystery, I felt kept in the dark in a good way. I liked the Cat was smart and a little scrappy--she was resourceful and brave, but realistically so. I liked all the twists and turns Myracle put into her plot. There were few things that felt coincidental or set-up just to move the plot along.
This book gave me chills.