Friday, July 20, 2018

Book Review: The Shinning Girls by Lauren Beukes

The 'Shining Girls' is an amazing novel about a time traveling mad man of a serial killer and one of his victims who survived and became determined to find the man who had tried to end her life.

Harper is compelled to murder women who he has designated as having the quality of shining. Through time, he finds these shining girls and cruelly plots their murder. He derives joy in murdering these women and extinguishing their shine. He even adds a cruel twist to his murders by interacting with them when they are young girls, since he can time travel.

Harper gains his ability to time travel not through any ingenuity of his own, he happens upon a house with the magical power of time travel. He is alive and living in his present which is in the 1930's, but his house lets him go all the way up to the nineties.

One of his victims, his shining girls, is Kirby an intrepid young woman with a rebellious spirit and a sarcastic wit. She is the one shining girl who survives his brutal attack. She cannot just let the incident fade away into her past. She is the type of person that needs to be proactive, and she needs to find out who tried to murder her in order to continue living her life. She becomes a journalism student and then an intern at a newspaper with the ulterior motive of using journalistic resources and techniques to discover who the murder is. In the process, she becomes good friends with journalist Dan who had reported upon Kirby's case before he had transitioned from crime reporter to sports reporter.

Throughout this novel, we have shifts in perspective, mostly between murderous Harper and courageous Kirby but also sometimes we see the world through Dan's perspective or the perspective of other 'Shining Girls.' Each shining girl is so amazing in her way, and that she is murdered by Harper is so sad. It seems like the thing the shining girls have in common is that they do not let gender constraints confine or define them. They are all independent, intelligent, free-thinking and passionate people. Throughout time, it is these sorts of women who are often unsafe in our world. Women who do not demure to societies expectations of them so often feel the ire of angry people (and usually men) that feel threatened by their independence. For some reason, so many men are threatened by women like this, and Harper represents a stripped down version of the sort of toxic masculinity that gets stoked by women who do not bow their head an embody their oppressive roles the way they are expected to. But Kirby is able to survive and fight back, thus fighting back for all the Shining Girls who did not have the opportunity to do so.

Besides being a well paced mystery thriller with interesting characters, reading about time travel is always mind bending. Just before reading this book I happened to watch this video from Slate that goes into the philosophy of time travel and what would and wouldn't work if time travel were true. The Shining Girls passes the test and does follow the rules of accuracy for time travel! 

I recommend reading this book outside on a hammock with iced watermelon-mint tea while listening to Belle and Sebastian

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