By Dusty Ray
Black Creek, North Carolina is the backdrop for Lauren Myracle’s latest young adult novel, Shine. Black Creek is a sparsely populated town filled with secrets: drug abuse, shattered friendships and lies congeal into a perfect storm of violence.
A young man named Patrick is severely beaten, tied to a gas pump with the gas nozzle shoved into his mouth and left for dead, the words ‘Suck this, faggot’ written across his chest. This apparent hate crime leads Patrick’s childhood friend Cat to come out of her shell; the guilt she feels over severing ties with her friends weighs as heavily on her conscience as Patrick’s beating – it suffocates her like the humid Black Creek air.
Cat decides to investigate the assault, realizing that the shortsighted incompetence of Doyle (the town’s Sheriff) will likely leave the case open-ended and unsolved. She sets out on a crusade of discovery, getting in touch with friends she has lost contact with because of her own insular segregation, as well as ascertaining who she truly is as a person. But Cat’s search for answers only leads to more questions. The dark side of Black Creek is slowly revealed to her through her detective work: Meth is the drug of choice among many of her high-school friends, and the teasing of Patrick for being gay exposes the insecurities of her former inner-circle.
Shine lives up to its title as a novel about revelation; Cat is not only revealing the mystery behind Patrick’s attack, but is also lifting the veil she has created between herself and the friends and family she shares her experience with. Shine is a commentary on the desperation found in a teenager coming of age; on the desperation of young people lost in the throes of meth addiction and the insecurities that come with young sexuality.
Myracle deftly creates a sordid and wholly realistic setting in Shine. From a dank and rusty trailer containing a meth lab to the sluggish, muddy river of the Black Creek’s swimming hole, Myracle populates the reader’s mind with unforgettable scenes and memorable characters with names like Beef, Ridings, and Dupree.
Using Cat (a sixteen-year old narrator) as a way of transmitting the story, the squalid setting gains a certain amount of innocence. Cat’s shamed ignorance of the people surrounding her in Black Creek creates a tension that gives the story its drive and culminates in a heart-rending climax. Myracle’s prose dances across the page with unfettered ease, searing itself into the reader’s mind with a bold consistency.
Through Shine’s overt composition and unrelenting maturity, Myracle is setting a new standard for the possibilities of young adult fiction. Though it may be controversial, the moral scope of Shine radiates through the inherent grittiness of the subject matter, revealing themes of tolerance, acceptance, and self-realization. Cat’s own uncertainty becomes a catalyst for change, and every word she writes holds a significant weight over the story’s savage beauty.
Pick up a copy of Shine: You won’t be able to put it down until its light is extinguished.
Find out more about this book and Lauren Myracle’s other works at laurenmyracle.com.