Book review by
Kate Pavao, Common Sense Media
Shine Book Poster Image
Moving mystery about gay boy's beating in impoverished town.

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Could open up some discussions about hate crimes, discrimation, meth, and poverty in rural America. See this review's "Talk to Your Kids" section to get ideas for starting conversations.

Positive Messages

Cat hasn't always been a good friend to Patrick, but now that he's in a coma, she wants to solve the hate crime against him, even if that means putting herself in awkward or dangerous situations.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Cat is a brave and smart girl who wants to do what Mama Sweetie advises: "Shake off the darkness and shine again."


At the center of Shine is a violent crime against an openly gay teen boy, which is described in harrowing detail. Cat also recounts a sexual assualt and is threatened with a cow tongue on her pillow when she starts investigating Patrick's beating. Later, there's a shooting that leads to another teen's death.


Teen characters are in relationships. Though not described, there are references to kissing, a teen who got pregnant, and another character who trades sex for drugs.


Lots of rough speech, including "f--k," "bitch," "slut," and hate words such as "fag" and the "N" word.


Some mention of products, such as Monster Energy Drinks, Pringles, and Crystal Light.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teen characters drink alcohol, including at a bar where Cat goes to investigate Patrick's beating. Also, a 10-year-old boy is described as suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome. But the biggest drug discussion is about meth, and there are characters who use it, sell it, and even exchange drugs and sex. Characters who are involved with meth are judged negatively, and the author paints it as destructive force in their lives.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Shine is about a girl trying to solve a crime: An openly gay teen has been severely beaten (leaving him in a coma), and a slur was written on his chest in blood. Characters in the poor mountain community face other difficulties: The protagonist describes being sexually assaulted by an older boy, and when she continues her investigation into the beating, she's threatened with a cow tongue on her pillow. There are also descriptions of the community's intense poverty, where there's also plenty of meth dealing. Expect mature language throughout the book, including hate speech. At least one character is secretly gay.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byhamstergurl09 May 26, 2012

Really Heavy

Typically I'm not a fan of Lauren Myracle, because her books tend to be kind of girly and contain numerous failed attempts at pop culture references. This... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byanabela.vl March 30, 2018

Good book

Some people think this book is really inappropriate but I read this book when I was 10 in 5th grade and it didn't affect me at all.
Teen, 14 years old Written byInfamousVoiceofLogic June 13, 2017

Fine For 13 Year Olds

I question how much attention the CSM reviewer paid while reading this book or how much they comprehended it. I noticed several small inaccuracies in the review... Continue reading

What's the story?

After Cat's entranged best friend, Patrick, is badly beaten and left in a coma, she's determined to find out what happened to him. Was it a hate crime against the openly gay teen? But as she questions potential suspects and other friends and acquaintances, she learns all kinds of secrets about her rural mountain community, including that many of her friends are involved in using and selling meth. She also finds a cow's tongue left on her bed -- a brutal attempt to get her to stop her search.

Is it any good?

The author of SHINE vividly captures the details of Cat's impoverished community. It's there in the dialogue, but also in the cigarette burns on the carpet, the colored-in duct tape on the couch, and the junk food the characters eat, even when suffering from diabetes. Readers might find the cinematic conclusion a bit overdone, but they'll appreciate the mystery's many turns -- and root for the loyal Cat, who wants justice for her brave friend. The details of Patrick's beating, gritty language, and other mature details make this a better fit for older teens who will get the most out of this important story. There's plenty to discuss here about tolerance, poverty in America, drug abuse, and more.

Shine made the 2102 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults list compiled by the the Young Adult Library Services Association (a division of the American Library Association).

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about award-winning books. Shine was mistakenly nominated for a National Book Award, and the author ultimately withdrew from the competition. How important are awards to you? Why do you think they might be important to authors -- and publishers?

  • What is Shine's message about tolerance -- and the fear that many gay kids grow up with? How realistic do you think her book is?

  • What's special about the setting that Myracle creates here? Is it one that we see very often in the media? What details stick out the most for you? Do you have hope for Cat, Patrick, or the other characters in Black Creek?

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