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Book Review

Shine by Lauren Myracle has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

In the rural town of Black Creek, N.C., 16-year-old Cat is horrified when her childhood friend Patrick is brutally beaten and left unconscious. The hospital staff does what they can for him, but they do not know if he will eventually wake up.

Since Patrick is openly gay, authorities believe his beating was a hate crime perpetrated by an out-of-town homophobe. Cat, who was one of only three kids in all of Black Creek to complete her junior year of high school, thinks that someone in her small town has attacked him, and she begins to search for the truth.

Cat first turns her attention to the group of boys that her brother, Christian, hangs out with. She calls them the redneck posse. Tommy Lawson is the rich, good-looking leader. When Cat was 13, Tommy sexually assaulted her. The resulting confusion, anger and bitterness plagues Cat because she doesn't know how to cope with what he did. Then there's Dupree, who's involved in drugs, and Beef, who stands up for the underdog.

Some of the boys in this gang are or have been runners for Wally, a gun-toting meth cooker with a sexual attraction for young girls. Over time, Cat learns that Beef is addicted to meth. He also turns out to be Patrick's secret boyfriend.

Because of Beef's meth habit, Patrick, Christian and Tommy attempted an intervention with Beef at Suicide Rock. But the intervention failed, and Beef, in his rage, attacked Patrick. By the end of the book, Beef is strung out on meth at Suicide Rock, and he falls to his death.

Shortly after, Patrick awakens from his coma. When Cat tells Patrick what happened to Beef, the teens decide to protect Beef's reputation by not telling anyone that he was strung out on meth, and they decide to let authorities believe that a truckload of unknown out-of-towners beat up Patrick.

Christian Beliefs

Mama Sweetie, Patrick's grandmother, raised him from when he was orphaned at 3 until her recent death. Mama Sweetie taught Patrick and Cat that life is precious and that God has a reason for everything, even the things they don't understand. Cat recalls that she, Patrick and Mama Sweetie used to sing hymns and church songs together. When another driver calls Mama Sweetie a fat b--ch, she exemplifies "turn the other cheek" by telling the kids that responding to ugliness with ugliness is not the right way to handle things. She tells the kids that God will always be there to guide them home. If they look for the light of His love, He will help them cast off darkness so they can shine.

Aunt Tildy attends a Bible study. Most of the people in Black Creek attend the Holiness Church of God. Cat believes the church is "as much about gossip as it is about worship." During fellowship time at church, Cat talks to Tommy's grandmother and tells herself that Jesus said to love the sinner, hate the sin. Cat wonders whether Tommy's grandmother hates Patrick.

The on-duty nurse at the hospital tells Cat to pray for Patrick and that his situation is "in the Lord's hands now."

Tommy, three years after assaulting Cat, apologizes to Cat for what he did. His girlfriend, Bailee-Ann, confesses to Cat that both she and Tommy are sinners and that they pray and lift up their sins to Jesus. Tommy tries to atone for his sin of getting Beef hooked on meth by setting up the intervention to get him off meth.

Other Belief Systems


Authority Roles

Patrick's grandmother lovingly looked out for his welfare. Though diabetic, she made poor food choices, which ultimately resulted in her death. Cat's father is an alcoholic and a diabetic, yet routinely pours syrup over his food. Since his wife's death, he has lived in a trailer with a TV and alcohol for company.

Cat's prim and proper Aunt Tildy tries to live a godly life. She is Cat's closest connection to her deceased mother. When Cat has a hard time dealing with what Tommy did to her, Aunt Tildy pretends nothing has happened. Instead of giving Cat a hug and listening, she makes chicken and dumplings. While teen boys are looking on, Aunt Tildy makes insensitive comments about Cat's breasts.

Christian, Cat's older brother, does many things wrong and illegal. However, he does try to protect Cat. When he sees his friend Tommy assaulting Cat, he sets Tommy's motorcycle on fire to try to distract and stop him.

Mr. Lawson, who owns the convenience store where Patrick works, encourages him to sell alcohol to anyone with a valid ID, even though Patrick is underage and by law cannot sell alcohol.

Roy Pierson, Beef's dad, is the high school wrestling coach. He emotionally, verbally and physically abuses his children, referring to his son, for example, as a sack of s---.


The names Jesus and God are regularly used in vain. There are also frequent uses of the f-word and s---, along with many other profanities, such as a--hole, p-ss yellow, fag, faggot, dyke, queers, butt, butt-faced, b--tard, b--ch, crap, c---s-----, d--n, and frickin'. Sexual euphemisms, such as "my lollipop ain't yours to suck" and "drain my willy" are used, and slang references describe male and female genitalia.

Patrick is beaten and then left tied to a gas pump with a gas nozzle jammed down his throat, held in place by duct tape. Cat finds a severed cow tongue with a threatening note under it on her bedroom pillow.


Patrick tells Cat about a time when, as a seventh-grader, he was at Tommy Lawson's house with some other boys, and they viewed Internet pornography. He liked looking at the pictures of boys rather than girls. Patrick is openly homosexual, and he is the object of name-calling and many jokes.

Beef is secretly homosexual; when a wrestling opponent calls him a crotch-sniffing faggot during a match, Beef overreacts, and his opponent retaliates by twisting Beef's foot, which blows out his knee. As a result, Beef loses a wrestling scholarship. Jason, a college kid who was kind to Patrick, answers his dorm room door shirtless, and Cat comments to herself about how well-built he is. He pulls on a shirt.

When Cat was 13, she noticed that her nipples were showing through a dress she was trying on. Aunt Tildy commented on Cat's developing breasts. Cat's brother and his friends were there. Tommy offered to measure her chest for her. Later, Tommy sexually assaulted her.

Jason kisses Cat to help her feel better when she is sad.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Alcohol and drugs: Many of the kids use alcohol, marijuana, Vicodin and meth.

The Day of Dialogue was set up to help Christian kids talk about their beliefs with other kids. If your children would like to begin talking to their friends about their biblical worldview, go to Day of Dialogue.

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

13 and up


Lauren Myracle






Record Label



Amulet Books, an imprint of Abrams


On Video

Year Published





We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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