When her gay best friend is brutally beaten in contemporary Black Creek, N.C., a withdrawn teen tracks his assailant. Different from other kids in their ignorant, poverty-stricken, backwoods community, 16-year-old Cat and 17-year-old Patrick have been "kindred spirits" since childhood. Growing up with a drunken father, a well-meaning aunt and an older brother she no longer trusts, Cat was "full of light and life" until one of her brother's "gay-bashing redneck" friends "messed" with her. For three years, Cat has blinded herself to everyone, including Patrick, convinced her "entire existence meant nothing." But when Patrick's beaten and left for dead at the convenience store where he works, a gasoline nozzle protruding from his mouth, an angry, guilt-ridden Cat knows she must open her eyes and "look straight into the ugliness and find out who hurt him." Cat describes her relentless, determined investigation in the first person, proceeding day by day over a period of two and a half weeks, allowing readers to gradually absorb the complex, twisted relationships, shocking evidence, disturbing memories and gritty atmosphere. Motivated to solve the horrific hate crime, Cat eventually uncovers the truth in a cliffhanging climax in which she confronts fear, discovers that love is stronger than hate and truly "shines." Raw, realistic and compelling. (Fiction. 14 & up) Read full book review >
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