The whole time I was reading Lauren Myracle’s Shine, I kept thinking this could be the next IMPORTANT book. Important in exposing an ugly underbelly in the same way To Kill A Mockingbird was important in exposing racism.

In the small mountain town of Black Creek, North Carolina, local youth Patrick Truman has been the victim of a horrible hate crime. No one in law enforcement is looking too hard to find his attacker,  so Patrick’s childhood friend, Cat, takes it upon herself to find out who has nearly killed her friend.

The deeper Cat looks, the more she discovers about her town. She always knew they were poor, but she didn’t realize the hold meth and other drugs had taken on Black Creek. As Cat reaches out to her former friends and struggles with her own demons from years gone by, she sees more and more what the cycle of poverty and hopelessness can breed.

This is one of those books that I started reading and just couldn’t stop. I saw Cat’s world. My heart hurt for her, for Patrick, for the others trapped in this town with no real hope for a better life. I even felt sorry for Patrick’s attacker, but for reasons I won’t go into here because that would be a spoiler. But that’s what a great storyteller can do- make you detest a character for their actions, but at the same time understand part of their psyche.

I say this is potentially one of those Important books because of the subject matter it covers. I remember when we read To Kill A Mockingbird in school, my English teacher commented on how the deepest lessons of the book were revealed in  Scout’s innocent childhood perspective.  In many ways, Shine is the same.  The church ladies say what a shame it is that Patrick was attacked, but at the same time, if he just hadn’t acted so “swishy” maybe it wouldn’t have happened. The Sheriff isn’t looking too hard for a suspect. The adults are content to think it was out of town kids passing through, looking for a cheap thrill.  Instead, it is sixteen year old Cat who is challenging her friends,  her community, her family, and herself to find justice for Patrick.

Important, too, because Cat’s community is all too common in reality. Small towns all over are being destroyed by never-ending cycles of illiteracy, poverty, and drugs.  Too many people-regardless of where they live- still harbor prejudices against people who are different in any way.  Books like Shine expose these issues and start a dialog in ways that engage people, force us to look at ourselves and make decisions about the kind of people we are going to be.

I came across Shine after reading about this controversy on Twitter this week. It’s my first Lauren Myracle book, but I’ll definitely be reading more.

Don’t let the fact that Shine is Young Adult Literature stop you. Go. Get Shine now, and happy reading.