Yay! I finally get to review a South African author! It also happens to be my favourite South African author (and shamefully the only one I’m reading at the moment). Lauren Beukes is giving me so much hope for the South African publishing industry, that one could harness that hope to power my house.
Okay, I must admit that The Shining Girls is my first novel of Beukes that I’ve read. I have always known of Beukes’ work, like Moxyland and Zoo City, but I just never got around to read it. I feel very ashamed of this and I have seen the errors of my ways. I have even met her in person at the book signing and I felt like I was stabbing knives into her beautiful heart by not having read her work yet. Forgive me, Lauren Beukes!
The Shining Girls (referred to as SG from here onwards) pleasantly surprised me. I didn’t really know what to expect with this. Actually, I try to not expect anything with books these days; it helps me to not be disappointed too much. However, because there was kind of a big build-up to read this book, I was expecting some sort of greatness. Luckily, Beukes did not disappoint.
The story of SG is set in Chicago 1931 to 1993, which jumps around quite often. From this, you can already tell that this story has got time-travelling in it. The story centres around two main characters: Harper, a time-travelling serial killer, and Kirby, a “shining” girl that survives an attack from Harper. Kirby tries to piece together who her killer was, but there is just one problem… she can’t. Nothing of her case makes sense. However, the more Kirby searches, the closer she gets to Harper. Harper, on the other hand, isn’t standing still either. He uses his secret house to kill his shining girls, and closes in on Kirby. Time is ticking.
SG grabbed me from the first page. It is really something brilliant. The style that Beukes writes in is punchy, yet elegant. The writing reveals the hearts of the characters beautifully, to the point where you feel like you know them, and then Harper’s brutality punches you into a realm of a different kind of beauty. A sad beauty. Whenever Harper kills one of the shining girls, you feel a real loss.
The time-travelling aspect is handed very well. Even though I had to keep head with where what happens, I enjoyed it. Time-travelling here is handled like an unexplained phenomenon; how it works is not important, only that it does work. That’s the way I like it. A lot of writers tend to over-explain these technical aspects (as in most science fiction), which detracts from the actual story, but luckily this core mechanic in the story helped drive the story forward.
SG somewhat carries the essence of a Young Adult fiction, which made me expect the protagonist being a loud mouth wise child with a thousand witty lines, since almost EVERY YA novel has them in abundance (those little idiots irritate me so…). Although Kirby gives a strong front and does deliver a few witty lines, her character did not irritate me like I thought it would. Kirby was still human and susceptible to her own errors. Also, other characters pick up on her wittiness as a defence mechanism, which made the characters feel real.
Okay, time for the nitpicking train. I’ve only had one problem with the book. No, it’s not the story, and no, I didn’t expect a better ending. The problem here lies with the lazy editor. I found a range of miniature spelling errors and other irritating slip-ups (such as missing punctuation marks) which made me lose reading momentum. I’m not blaming Beukes for this, but I am blaming whoever the editor was. I wish I could magically correct these errors, but alas… However, don’t let this detract you from reading The Shining Girls, because the book is still great regardless of the mistakes.
All-in-all the mistakes were really minute (I probably won’t be able to find them again), and I REALLY enjoyed the book. If Lauren Beukes is reading this, then the only way that this issue can be settled is if I receive an autographed “anything” in the post (fat chance of that happening, but a guy can hope).
Overall, a really great book. Great enthralling story. Great believable characters. Just overall greatness! It is a must read for anyone who enjoys reading. Just be cautious if violence and swearing upsets you severely.
Now I’m going to wait by the post until my “anything” arrives…