SHINE by Lauren Myracle

I picked up an ARC of this YA novel at NCTE last month – not sharing cover art here because I’m not sure it’s final yet, but oh…what a book.

Lauren Myracle’s SHINE opens with a newspaper report about an apparent hate crime — a gay teen is beaten and left to die, and his former best friend, the story’s narrator, takes it upon herself to look for answers and justice when the town sheriff isn’t doing enough.  This is a powerful page-turner that shines a painful light on the hopelessness and bigotry festering in one small town in rural America. From a reader’s point of view, I was hooked on this YA novel from the first page. It’s as compelling a mystery as I’ve ever read, and the last third of the book so had me turning pages so fast my family stopped reading their own books to stare.

From a writer’s perspective, the craft in this book was amazing. The first-person prose was poetic without ever feeling like an inauthentic voice, and the small-town dialect was pitch perfect — it never felt overdone like I’ve seen in some books set in the south. The characters were so real my heart ached for them, and the language was vivid and evocative. I’m gushing…and I’ll stop now. But I really loved this book. There is one thing that bothered me a little about the ending, but it’s on a personal level — not a writer’s craft issue — and that in itself will make great fodder for literature circles and book club discussions.

My ARC is headed up to the high school tomorrow, for one of my former 7th graders, now a freshman, who still visits for book suggestions from time to time.  She’s going to love it.  This one’s probably best for 8th grade and older, though I do think some of my more mature 7th grade readers will appreciate it. Teachers & librarians, read it first (you’ll want to anyway) and decide. Due out from Amulet in April.

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