I recently finished SHINE, by Lauren Myracle, and wow, what a great book. If you write contemporary YA, this is a must read.
When her best guy friend falls victim to a vicious hate crime, sixteen-year-old Cat sets out to discover who in her small town did it. Richly atmospheric, this daring mystery mines the secrets of a tightly knit Southern community, and examines the strength of will it takes to go against everyone you know in the name of justice.
Here are some of the valuable writing lessons I learned from this book:
- Open with a newspaper article--I mentioned this is my post about HATE LIST, and I felt the same way with SHINE. Opening with a newspaper article was a great way for the author to bring the reader up to speed on a traumatic event that took place before the book began. This article was packed with powerful details about the victim, the hate crime, and the story world.
- Introduce a coma patient through brief flashbacks--Patrick, the best friend, was in a coma after a horrible beating. But brief flashbacks revealed the close relationship between Cat and Patrick, and also showed how and why their friendship had changed over the years.
- Create a cast of suspects--this story was a mystery, and the author did an amazing job of introducing several likely perpetrators (or Purple Taters, as one character called them). As each character was introduced, the author threaded in possible motives. Tiny clues were dropped about each person, which kept me guessing until the big reveal.
- Refer to a life-changing event early, but unveil late--something big and bad had happened between the main character, Cat, and a local boy named Tommy. Cat referred to it from time to time, as breadcrumbs were dropped along the way. But the author deftly strung the reader along, not revealing the big bad thing until later in the story.
- Create an unlikely love interest--this wasn't your typical love-at-first-sight-can't-live-without-each-other drama. The true love story was about Cat and her good friend, but the "crush" sub plot was tame and unusual, which made me appreciate it even more.
- Dual motive ending--toward the end, Cat not only continued her search for answers about her best friend's beating, but she also worked to prevent a future crime. I held my breath as the stakes rose from chasing clues to saving a life.
- Establish your climax setting early--the climax setting, which I won't reveal here, was mentioned early in the story. The main character had good times there, but the location was also fraught with danger. When the climax took place, I already knew what dangers lurked there. This location didn't appear out of nowhere--it had been established early and mentioned a few times throughout the story.
- Don't shy away from controversial topics--this author bravely wrote about sexuality, drugs, molestation, and hate, but it was obvious she didn't do it for shock value. Each of these topics wove throughout the story in a perfect blend of sadness and hope. It was a natural progression of events, with just the right amount of surprise.
Have you read SHINE yet? If so, what was your opinion? And what writing lessons have you learned lately from a great book?