Title: Shine Shine Shine
Author: Lydia Netzer
Genre: Contemporary fiction, speculative fiction
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Source: Audiobook from the publisher for Audiobook Jukebox‘s reviewer program
Audiobook reader: Joshilyn Jackson
Audiobook length: 10 hours and 53 minutes
First line: Deep in darkness, there was a tiny light.
Amazon blurb: When Maxon met Sunny, he was seven years, four months, and eighteen-days old. Or, he was 2693 rotations of the earth old. Maxon was different. Sunny was different. They were different together.
Now, twenty years later, they are married, and Sunny wants, more than anything, to be “normal.” She’s got the housewife thing down perfectly, but Maxon, a genius engineer, is on a NASA mission to the moon, programming robots for a new colony. Once they were two outcasts who found unlikely love in each other: a wondrous, strange relationship formed from urgent desire for connection. But now they’re parents to an autistic son. And Sunny is pregnant again. And her mother is dying in the hospital. Their marriage is on the brink of imploding, and they’re at each other’s throats with blame and fear. What exactly has gone wrong?
Sunny wishes Maxon would turn the rocket around and come straight-the-hell home.
When an accident in space puts the mission in peril, everything Sunny and Maxon have built hangs in the balance. Dark secrets, long-forgotten murders, and a blond wig all come tumbling to the light. And nothing will ever be the same.…
I really didn’t want to write this review. Once again, I am in the position of not being in love with the same book everyone else is in love with. I have a love-hate relationship with clever, quirky writing. When it is done well, it pulls a reading experience out of the ordinary into the sublime. But if the writing is too quirky, it can yank me out of the book, and then I’m not invested in the story and characters the way I need to be for a book to be truly amazing. Unfortunately, Shine Shine Shine is that kind of book.
Now that I’ve gotten the hard part out of the way (admitting that I didn’t love it), I can tell you that I liked Netzer’s story. In a lot of ways, this is a love story between a robot and an alien. Maxon, with his undiagnosed but prevalent Asperger’s tendencies, is like the robots he builds. He sees the world in formulas and program scripts to be followed. Sunny, born with an extremely rare condition, is like an alien. Their love story is poignant and funny.
I actually found myself wondering if I would have loved the book more if it had actually been a story about a robot and an alien. But instead, these are real people, people who are extremely different from the rest of the world and each other. I think it would be very hard to write a story about people so different and yet still make them characters that are easy to empathize with and relate to. Lottery by Patricia Wood is a book that completely succeeds in this task – the main character is mentally challenged, and completely engaging, and I couldn’t stop reading his story. With Shine Shine Shine, I would find myself thinking, “Boy, these characters are weird!” – and that would pull me out of the book world.
If there is one completely wonderful thing about my experience with this book, it would be the audio narration. I have loved Joshilyn Jackson’s narration on all her own books, and with Shine Shine Shine, she has proved that her reading skills are not dependent on a personal connection to the story. She is a joy to listen to.
Like I said, I am in the minority on this book, so don’t take my word for it. Many bloggers have absolutely loved it, and you might, too. And because the author obviously has talent, I will be curious to see what she does next.