At the outset this book seems, while horrific, fairly straightforward: gay teen gets beat up in a backwater town. And while this was the catalyst for everything else, the story quickly becomes bigger and more complicated. Cat discovers, along with the reader, that nothing about the attack is as simple as it appears. Cat, who is dealing with her own trauma that happened years earlier, takes on the case of the attack when no one else will. Her dad is a shut-in, the aunt raising her prefers to brush anything bad or ugly under the rug and forget about it, while her brother let her down the moment she most needed him and she hasn't been able to look at him the same since. The police, stifled by the town's most powerful family, have virtually given up on solving the case, and when Cat starts asking questions the whole town knows it. She's poking her nose in where it doesn't belong.
What Cat does - the choices the makes, the people she seeks out - wouldn't work in other books. On more than one occasion she puts herself in harms way, seeks out danger in order to get closer to the truth of what happened that night, and in any other book I'd be thinking what are you doing? This will not end well! The difference is that here, in Shine, Cat's doing what she has to do. What nobody else will.
This is an extremely dark, disturbing book, but it has to be. There are parts of the story that I really would like to talk about. Shine blew me away with how well and how realistically it handled certain topics, ones that I haven't read in other books. One subject in particular left me stunned by not only how well it was handled, but the fact that it was handled at all. This book goes where others don't, tackles incredibly difficult but all-too-real issues of Black Creek and towns like it. And it does it in a way that left me stunned.
Unfortunately, not all of this book was done so well. The romance aspect, while a small part of the book, seemed out-of-place and very shallow compared with the rest of the story and Cat's trauma in particular seemed to be given the same shallow treatment in the end. Because the book is written with such depth in aspects of setting, characters, themes, and plot, the parts where it falters stand out all the more.