Shine by Lauren Myracle

ShineWarning: this book contains Serious Issues. You've also been warned that there aren't any angels, zombies, vampires, demons, or changelings. No one has supernatural superhero powers. It isn't set in the future and there has not been an apocalypse. Still interested? Yes! I loved this. Shine by Lauren Myracle is a realistic, gritty and powerful coming of age story that is raw and emotional but also completely worthwhile.

After Cat's friend Patrick is brutally assaulted, marked with a gay slur, and left for dead at a gas station in their hometown of Black Creek, NC she decides to figure out who could have done something so horrible. The sheriff is investigating, but seems sure that it was outsiders - just someone passing through. At face value, this book is a mystery. Cat sets out to interview people who were with Patrick the night of the attack to establish a timeline and she tries to determine motive. Patrick was friends with many people in town who were also uncomfortable to some degree with his homosexuality.

But really the heart of this book isn't so much figuring out who did it, but how the characters come to terms with the resolution. Cat also has to face her own demons in this process.  I liked that she wasn't a superhero, but a girl who got kind of messed up and is really trying to do the right thing. 

This book isn't a superfast paced mystery. The setting of Black Creek is slowly brought to life as are the characters. Because of this, their language and attitudes felt real. Everyone is struggling with poverty and often the accompanying problems of abuse and violence. To complicate things, Black Creek is also awash in meth which brings a whole different layer of paranoia and distrust. 

This was recently nominated for the Rosie Award and I couldn't put it down.  Consider checking this out if you like realistic fiction.  Amid the violence, the sometimes harsh language and the ugliness of the crumbling town were bright spots of beauty and hope.

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National Book Awards Controversy

ShineThe National Book Award finalists were announced last week and cover fiction, non-fiction, poetry and young adult literature written by an American author. In the original announcement, Lauren Myracle's Shine was mistakenly announced as a finalist for the young adult literature category instead of Chime by Franny Billingsley. The National Book Awards admitted to the mistake right away and made an announcement that Shine would remain on the list due to it's literary strength. But in a new shocking twist this week, The National Book Awards has asked Myracle to withdraw from the shortlist.

Amid all this mess, Shine looks really interesting and I hope it gets the boost from all the publicity anyway. Set in a small apathetic Southern town rife with deep set prejudices, poverty, and betrayals a young gay teen, Patrick, is viciously beaten. Patrick's friend Cat must find the strength to confront her community in the name of justice and find out who is responsible.

While she may be seething inside, Myracle made a classy move after withdrawing her book by asking the National Book Awards to donate $5000 to the Matthew Shepard Foundation.

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