Off the Shelf
Powerful YA fiction: ‘Shine’
By Courtney Terry
Special to The Sun
In 2011, YA author Lauren Myracle was drawn into a bit of a literary scandal. Her book, Shine, had been nominated for the very prestigious National Book Award.
It turned out, however, that someone had mistaken Shine for another book, and Myracle was asked to withdraw her novel from the competition. Needless to say, it was a bit devastating for the author and fans of the book alike. Myracle’s Shine is at times both hauntingly sweet and painful, and well worth any awards bestowed upon it.
Set in a small, tight-knit Southern community, Shine features Cat, a 16-year-old girl who had been shutting herself off from her life following a traumatic experience she must keep secret. She is drawn out of herself after the horrific hate crime that leaves her former (and openly gay) best friend in a coma.
Determined to find answers, Cat launches herself into the darker side of her community, discovering more than she ever wanted to, and releasing dark secrets someone would rather keep hidden. The answers she unearths are shocking in their brutality and honesty.
This book resonates in many ways. The small town from Shine is similar to anyone from a rural community, often painfully so. The underlying issues of poverty, drug abuse and strained family relationships are portrayed realistically, as is the community’s silence in regards to homosexuality and hate crimes. The message of struggling for answers against intolerance is universal, and increasingly relevant in these times of “it gets better” and bullying.
Despite her own personal demons, Cat provides a very real and strong voice—the inner strength that she calls upon in order to help her friend is motivating. She refuses to back down despite threats and her inner sense of morality and justice both torments her and spurs her into action.
Shine is a hauntingly familiar and powerful book. I would recommend it for anyone who likes rooting for unlikely heroes, small town mysteries, and perseverance of the human spirit. As painful as it becomes at times, Lauren Myracle’s book truly does shine in the genre of YA fiction.