Three years ago, after the event, Cat slowly left the world to hide inside her own shell. She stopped talking to her friends and family, stopped singing and left her outgoing nature behind. Now seventeen, Cat spends most of her time alone, reading her way out of Blackcreek, the tiny town in the Deep South where she has lived her whole life with her alcoholic father and strict aunt. One morning, Cat’ s best friend from before the event, Patrick, is found tied to a gas pump at the convenience store where he worked, beaten into unconsciousness. A gas pump has been duct-taped in his mouth and the words â€œSuck this, Faggotâ€ written on his bare chest in blood.
Patrick is taken to the hospital in a coma and the police, who label this as a hate crime, speculate that it was just a group of college boys passing through town, but Cat knows better. She can’ t help but feel guilty that she wasn’ t there for Patrick, that she hasn’ t even talked to him in years. Cat realizes that to help Patrick, and discover who did this to him, she is going to have to re-enter the world that left her broken and scarred, and face her own demons.
Shine is an intense novel about the challenges of growing up a teenager in a small, conservative town. All teens feel pressure from those around them to fit into the cultural norm, Cat isn’ t pressured to do well in school (she is one of only three students from Blackcreek in her high school) but she is expected to act like a lady, attend church, and respect her elders. Patrick, the only openly gay student at school, is tolerated but often picked on, even by his own friends, and Cat, traumatized by the event in her past, is unable to come out of her shell and help him. Cat’ s character is multifaceted, strong but scared, quiet but learning to speak her mind, and determined to make a difference but afraid of standing out. Lauren Myracle, author of TTYL (a 2005 YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers), does a beautiful job of keeping the reader hooked on both the mystery of Patrick’ s attacker and the event from Cat’ s past that still affects her. Readers will enjoy the lesson Cat learns to open her mind and send a â€œyesâ€ to the world, and good things will follow.
-Kate Pickett, currently reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: the graphic novel by Jane Austen, Seth Grahame-Smith, Tony Lee and Cliff Richards