A debut thriller tells the story of Shame, who survives a savage beating with a scarred, physically stronger body and a new mindset to seek justice for all who are persecuted.
School life for Shame, whose birth name is never revealed, was abominable. Peers’ baseless animosity and relentless torment seem derived from Shame’s androgyny. When Shame embraces the students’ epithet, The Shamed, by spray-painting it on a jacket, the resultant pummeling and mutilation leave the protagonist near death. Awakening from a coma two years later, the now-adult is heavily scarred and, as an unwitting guinea pig in experimental surgery, has most bones fused with a “special metal.” Though asserting an unemotional state, Shame heads to Baltimore to find Cassidy “Cassie” Peterson, an old friend and possible love in rehab at the time of Shame’s attack. Chance sightings of two of Shame’s assailants, however, open the door for retribution and torture. Shame even murders someone to avoid identification, and the trip to see Cassie eventually turns into evasion, especially with feds investigating those tortures. Shame makes a few friends but mostly encounters degenerates, the worst of the bunch turning out to be gangsters who think Shame killed one of their own. Finding Cassie and working up the courage to approach her takes a back seat when the thugs kidnap someone Shame’s just maybe grown to care about. Though Shame’s first-person perspective assumes reader sympathy is a certainty, some may not empathize so easily. The initial murder isn’t justified like the assailants’ comeuppance, and a few good people, by mere association, get the brunt of Shame’s intermingling with violent people. The protagonist, however, is fascinating, metal-infused bones putting Shame on the same level as bigger foes. Similarly, gender in the story is rightly meaningless when it comes to defining a person, even if nearly every male character is repulsive. The plot, at times, hits a standstill, readers essentially waiting as Shame decides when finally to reunite with Cassie. Nevertheless, Shame, who develops an attachment or two, is markedly less cold as the story progresses, while an implication of psychological illness—hearing voices of the dead—opens avenues of story possibilities. The cliffhanger ending is nothing short of electric.
A somber revenge tale, but fronted by a protagonist both absorbing and sublimely complicated.