The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
Mulholland Books, June 2013
368 pages, 4 stars
ABOUT THE BOOK: The Shining Girls is about a time-traveling serial killer. (Let that sink in.) Our killer, Harper, comes upon a house where he sees the names of his future victims scrawled on the wall, as he’s looking at them the landscape outside the window begins to change. He finds himself years in the future where he encounters his first shining girl (i.e. victim). One of his victims survives. Kirby is determined to find out who attacked her, and she seeks the help of Chicago journalist, Dan, who falling in love with her. The narrative alternates between Kirby and the psychopathic mind of Harper spanning 1929-1993.
This novel has a little bit of everything: suspense, romance, feminism, violence. The writing and the juxtaposition of Kirby and Harper’s lives kept me turning pages. This is such an original and well executed idea! I loved it! However, I wasn’t quite sure what the connection between all of the victims was. They are “shining girls,” but it’s never really explained except to say there was a light in their eyes (super vague). A couple of them make sense to me—like the lesbian architect, Kirby, and the female lab worker—because they are the smart, successful women. However, the transsexual performer and the black woman from the 1940s made less sense to me. I think the connection could have been explained a little more.
There were vivid glimpses of Harper’s childhood that didn’t really tell me anything other than he’s always been a psychopath. I liked that Harper began to have some moral struggles towards the middle and end where he sort of wants a wife/family. It was also interesting that he doesn’t enjoy killing some of his victims. Despite this, I don’t think he was that well-rounded of a character as others have claimed, but that works because he’s such a strong antagonist.
All in all it was an awesome read! The writing is very good and has been compared to Margaret Atwood (one of the main reasons I read this!). Also, I love the full circle ending!
ABOUT THE OUTFIT: My dear little victim, it’s 1993 (for now) so don this blood red crop top. The heart shaped opening in the back is big enough to let love in if you’ll allow Dan to kiss you again. But you’re not ready quite yet, so shroud yourself in this sweatshirt. It’s ominous message will keep everyone at arms length, except your attacker.
You can also thank 90s grunge for your distressed jeans. Wrap this scarf around your neck to hide the scars that Harper left behind.
As Dan’s intern you have to cover sports, because he gave up on crime journalism long before he met you. Despite your single-minded determination to unravel your past, you sort of like writing about the Cubs. They are on a losing streak, just like you’ve been the past few years.
These special edition Nikes are spattered with the blood of your victims and this mattifying primer bears your name: Shine Killer.