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Shine – Candy Gourlay. Reviewed by Dragonfly (9)

You wanted a story that was solemn but compelling, one that was free from typical fantasy quests, so you gave Shine a read. You believed that great stories do not appear out of nowhere—they are brewed by authors, patiently and thoughtfully, and are conjured with sparks of imagination. These stories captivated you, engaged you, and brought you a new experience that you hadn’t had before.
Rosa, a young girl from the Filipino island Mirasol, is the central character in this story. Mirasol, a place where the rain never stops, reminded you of a tropical enclave. Within the fences of rainwater, Rosa is further trapped in her house, on account of the fact that she suffers from a terrible condition known as the Calm. This disease, as you assured me, stirred fear amongst the superstitious islanders on Mirasol. You feel sorry for the unfortunate girl, who is mute, as she is shunned off by her community and called ‘that vicious, cruel demon’.

So Rosa, rejected and terrorised, chooses to take refuge on the Internet; you could only assume that it was her desperate act to make human contact, ironically through the Internet, and in no time Rosa meets a photographer with the online username Ansel95.

These days being cautious on the Internet is incredibly important, and you remain wary speaking to anyone you have not met in real life. As isolated as Rosa is, it is her only way to reach out, and Ansel95 turns out to be Rosa’s only friend in the world, other than her housekeeper Yaya. You noticed that although Yaya is as superstitious as the others, she is very fond of Rosa, and takes up the role of a mother to the young girl, for Rosa’s mother was killed, after being exposed for having The Calm. Missing her mother with a burning sadness, Rosa determines to light candles every night to attract her mother’s ghost as she comes to believe that ghosts are attracted to the life force of flame.

Will Rosa’s mother ever return? Will Rosa be able to leave her house? Will she be free from the community that rejects her? You eventually found the answers as you read along.

Shine is gripping and memorable because of its unique style of writing, which you soon pointed out—it is told in a duo-narrative format, through the story of Rosa, as well as letters from a woman to her brother-in-law. These letters weave in and out of the story, told in alternate chapters,  and eventually appear in the remaining of the book. It is very interesting to read a story that is told from two points of view; you liked this book so much and have recommended everyone to give it a read. And I did.

Speaking of the writing, the author, Candy Gourlay, has also used a unique writing technique in the second person point of view throughout the story; I found this extremely successful as it pulled the reader into the character, expressing her emotions in a way that was fascinating to follow; it felt as if Rosa was holding my hand, gently leading me, and showing me how she felt in various circumstances. Candy Gourlay proves that, where appropriate, writing in the second person may be more of an interesting way of writing, and I hope many authors use this technique in the future. In this way, Shine allows me to truly experience what it would be like to be an outcast, living in isolation.

Like Candy Gourlay’s first book, Tall Story, I was enthralled after reading Shine, but it is darker and can be more eerie and ominous at times, with unsettling hints about ghosts, and yes, a deranged, vicious woman character as well. Altogether, however, I do highly recommend Shine, suitable for young adults and up, as well as some children, but for obvious reason, not for the faint hearted ones.


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