I knew from the first time I saw the title of this book that I was going to have to consume it, and then I lucked onto an ARC, meaning all I had to do was steal some time from myself. Which, I can be particularly unwatchful when the reading’s good enough. And, here, it is, it was, it would be again. And, like me, I’d guess a lot of you are getting Amazon emails with Lydia Netzer’s Shine Shine Shine at the top of their lists. Deservedly so. There’s a wit here, a lightness of touch, and a continual mulling-over of story that’s compelling. And, rather than excising all my favorite passages, let me just show you how many of those favorite passages there are:
That many stars, for me, it’s very unusual. Usually my endpaper notes are littered with question marks and ellipses (these being the ellipses of dissatisfaction . . .) and just plain old X’s. Here, it’s like I’m trying to draw the night sky Sunny’s looking up into, trying to find her Maxon: it’s all stars.
Too, the good books, you learn from them, don’t you? You see the tricks going on and you try to steal them. And there’s a lot of stuff here to steal. Not just the way Lydia can flip a line the instant it starts to get sentimental, either. More the way she’s keeping the whole scope of the story in mind, with each scene. It’s good stuff, I’m saying.
Also, the good books, you feel like you’re in them. That happened to me pretty hard with The Red Badge of Courage and American Psycho and In Cold Blood. Not always in completely comfortable ways, but there’s definitetely a lot of me thinking, Hey, that’s my thought, you can’t be writing down what’s in my head. I felt like I was in this one, too. Maxon’s thoughts are so, so right and natural to me, even down to his mannerisms. And, conversely, Sunny, she’s just a completely alien entity. I can’t ever even begin to understand her, or why she does what she does. I mean, what’s she doing, it makes sense in her head, of course, and that’s the way it has to be (for a good character), but she subscribes to no logic I can guess at. And please don’t think that’s a criticism. It’s a compliment: ninety-nine percent of the people I encounter are inscrutable to me. And I’m guessing (hoping?) it’s that way with everybody. But I loved reading her parts in this because I knew that, as un-understandable as she was to me, that she was kind of achingly real, too. That if I could just crack into her head, then I would understand people more.
After Shine Shine Shine, I think I do. Understand people more. I mean, not why they do things, that’s always going to be a mystery, but now when I see them doing what they do, I can recognize it, say to myself that, yeah, this is a thing that happens. They’re acting in accordance with other people, people I now know are real, because I’ve read about them. To say it cleaner: it’s not them that’s weird, it’s me. Which I have to think is something everybody does as well: positions themself in their narrative such that they’re the unique one. Shine Shine Shine (Shin3 for the cool kids, and “Shine3” for the smart ones) promotes that, or allows me space to indulge in it, but it also, somehow, through a dynamic I couldn’t quite pin down (I think it’s called ‘art’), left me feeling less alone, too. Also I guess I’m saying that Shine Shine Shine, and Lydia, deserve all the acclaim coming their way. Luck to it, and to her.
Too, one good trick for if a book’s the right kind of sticky in your head, it’s to see if it’s a filter you can’t help but use, now. Shine Shine Shine is for me. I just did a marathon SingStar session (nobody can sing with Freddy Mercury), and every song, I kept wanting to crib down a lyric, as I was pretty sure I could build a whole write-up of this book just from lyrics. Especially “Rocket Man,” okay, but the others, too, the ones that aren’t spacebound. Shine Shine Shine‘s still in my head. And I hope it never leaves.