Does friendship last forever? Cat stopped hanging with her best friends three years before and closed herself off to hide from an incident she can barely allow herself to think about. But when her best friend, Patrick, is assaulted and left for dead because he's gay, Cat sets out to find out who did it.
Cat well knows that crime's easily covered up or just plain ignored in her isolated, clannish and prejudiced North Carolina hometown. Shine, like the best Southern literature, has place as much of a character as the people who live there.
Black Creek, NC is a poor mountain town. Religion and the 3-Ms (moonshine, meth, and marijuana) are key recreation as well as gossip and prejudice.
Weather's hot in summer and, of course, there's a swimming hole.
Cat herself is beautifully done. When we first meet her on the page, she's tightly closed up like a rose blossom and as she starts opening up and reconnecting with her old friends, she begins to bloom.
Facing a past incident that separated her from them changes her outlook on life and allows her to see the changes in others as well. Her character development in just one book makes Shine one of the best coming-of-age books I have ever read.
Additionally, the amateur detective solving a hate crime is just exceptional.
Considering all the violence and suicide aimed at gays, it's time more YA books look the issue of homosexuality squarely in the face and help teens accept all different types of people. I'd strongly recommend Shine for readers of all ages.
Rebecca McFarland Kyle, February 2012