Shine is the story of sixteen-year-old Cat, a wise-beyond-her-years North Carolina girl whose gay best friend Patrick now lies in a coma, the victim of a violent hate crime. Nobody wants to believe anyone in the town would do something that heinous, but Cat is convinced Patrick was the target of someone in their community. Unsatisfied with the job local police are doing of investigating, she takes matters into her own hands, talking to people she suspects, as well as those who might know something. As Cat questions those around her (and jeopardizes her own safety doing so), we learn that the town is marred not only by homophobia, but by sexual abuse and drugs.
Shine is brilliantly written, with great pacing and heartbreaking characters you won’t soon forget, but the best part is the heart-pounding climax, when the perpetrator is discovered, and it is the last person you’d suspect. Just by choosing that person to be the villain, Myracle says volumes about the nature of small towns and self-shame.
If Myracle’s name sounds familiar, you may be remembering her early lesbian teen novel Kissing Kate or her other teen books, Bliss and Ttyl. Over the last few years, she has made her name writing young adult literature. Shine, however, is her first crossover work, one that targets adults and mature teens. And it should definitely be read by both audiences—for Shine is an important reminder of how hard life is for gays and lesbians living in small towns. Those of us in big cities tend to forget that there are still some areas where being gay can get you killed. Shine makes us feel empathy for the thousands of Patricks out there who have no Cat fighting for them, and no choice but to suffer until they are old enough to move someplace more understanding.