Down With The Shine, as the title suggests, is a playful romp through a loosely defined urban fantasy setting. Mostly taking place during the night of a high school party, I was greatly reminded of 1990s teen flicks such as Can’t Hardly Wait. Because this is a Kate Karyus Quinn book, there are darker edges amidst her beautiful writing. But the more ethereal prose of (Don’t You) Forget About me, Quinn’s previous YA book, is eschewed in favor of snark and exuberance. Shine goes to some interesting places and certainly it is a fun book through to the end.
Story: Lennie is the school outcast – the scary chick with a murderer father who abandoned her to her truly odd family. Which is all very well but Lennie is still reeling from her best friend’s brutal death – and the hatred of the twin brother who blames her for his sister’s death. When Lennie decides to steal some of her Uncle’s moonshine and crash the popular crowd party, she thinks this is her time to make a mark. But what her uncles failed to tell her is that the family has a bit of a special gift – through a little ritual with moonshine, they can grant wishes. And Lennie will end up granting a LOT of wishes that night.
The granted wishes were imaginative and it was interesting to see how Quinn would play with the words and turn them into interesting results. All the same, so many felt a bit too obvious or a bit too forced – there wasn’t an organic balance in how the wishes manifested. So although those wishes were definitely the highlight, I couldn’t help but have wished for more (or less, in some cases). Author Quinn kept the edge in some of the wishes, allowed for humor in others, and some were just plain weird.
Because this pretty much takes place around 24 hours, we have the party and its aftermath as Lennie desperately rushes around trying to find a solution (other than, have someone wish it undone). The solution to the problem was unique but at the same time not wholly satisfying in its organic simplicity. It seems a lot of the sturm und drang could have been resolved around the 25% mark easily with one wish. But then again, Lennie has to learn more about her crush Blake, how her best friend died, and also the startling truth about both her detached mother and missing father.
I appreciated that Quinn resisted making Lennie a mopey, self pitying mess. She was feisty enough (think Faith from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and held her own against an increasingly devolving situation. But the urban fantasy was scarcely defined; readers must take it at face value that there are ‘odd’ things in the world and they won’t be explored. I always hope to see a ‘Sanderson’ definition of the rules and lore but Quinn stayed focused on the YA aspect of the novel rather than the urban fantasy.
The dialogue is witty and this is a very easy and engrossing read. The action starts early and doesn’t let up as Lennie and Blake have to figure out how to fix the mess that the wishes has put them into (everyone at the party knows it is Lennie’s fault). People will die, be changed into Cheetos, or otherwise face sometimes dire and sometimes comical situations. It makes for a very engrossing story. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.