5.30.2013

The Shining Girls, by Lauren Beukes

I received a free copy of this ebook to review from NetGalley, on behalf of the publisher. It will be released 4 June 2013.

The Shining Girls
I was a big fan of Lauren Beukes' Zoo City when it came out, so I leapt at the chance to read and review The Shining Girls. Zoo City was original and unusual and startling. The Shining Girls is all three of those things but, unfortunately, it doesn't have as much depth as that other book. By the time I was done with The Shining Girls, I was glad it was over because I don't know how much more I could have taken.

The Shining Girls begins with a promising premise. Harper Curtis finds a House that can transport him back and forth in time between 1931 and 1993. Curtis is a down on his luck man who really will kill people as soon as look at them. After a particularly bad night, he stumbles into the House and finds a dead man on the floor. Something, possibly the House itself, calls to him. In an upstairs bedroom, Curtis sees names carved into the wall and a random assortment of artifacts from the next sixty years scattered around. He becomes obsessed with completing "circles," loops that fans of time travel novels would call paradoxes. He visits his victims, girls that "shine," when they are young to give them a present and scare them. Then Curtis visits them years later, just as they are starting to make a difference, and kills them with escalating gruesomeness.

Curtis' chapters alternate with chapters narrated by Kirby Mazrachi, the only one of Curtis' victims to survive. Kirby is angry and stubborn and a terrific narrator. She gets a internship at the Chicago Sun-Times and uses her new access to try and find Curtis--though she doesn't know exactly who she's looking for until much later in the book. Kirby goes a long way toward redeeming this book, since Beukes also shows us the murders of many of Curtis' targets.

It took me longer than it should have to finish this book because after a while, The Shining Girls just seems like a cabinet of horrors. Beukes doesn't show us where Curtis' motivation comes from, though we do see him as a young, budding psychopath. As far as the reader is concerned, the mysterious House (maybe) talks to Curtis and sets him on his spiraling path through time. The House is never explained, which I might have gone for if Curtis had been explained more. The best parts of the book, and the parts that the glowing reviews I've read, are Kirby's chapters. The Shining Girls has a terrific premise and I know Beukes has the writing chops to do better than this. I just couldn't handle the mindless violence.

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