Thursday, June 11, 2015

Completed: The Shining Girls


What are we to make of the time-travel trope? Obviously, it speaks to very real desires, perhaps the most human desires of all: to know what will happen and to fix what has happened. I can trace my love of the time-traveling genre pretty much straight back to 1985, Marty McFly, and a time-traveling car. Of course, there was also A Wrinkle in Time, but the thing I remember the most about that book was a giant, creepy brain at the end. [You know, we should reread some our favorite childhood books here, saying what we remember from them, and then read them and see if we were right.]

It's funny, though, although I like time-traveling movies, as a general rule, I don't love time-traveling novels. The only real exception is Long Division. (Although I do remember a bunch of hilarious time-traveling romance novels that I read a long time ago. Memorably, in one book, after deciding to stay in the past with some stud muffin, a woman sends back to the future for tampons and Advil. Lol.) I think the time-travel genre works for me when it's "fun" rather than serious. Obviously,  Long Division wasn't a "fun" time travel book, but it was saying something profoundly interesting to me about race and growing up in America. The only other time-traveling book I have a strong memory of is The Time Traveler's Wife, which is a book I never finished. People loved that book! But it was so meh for me.

One thing that's interesting to me about time-traveling books is that I have a lot of patience for mechanicians of the time-travel plot. I mean, a DeLorean fueled by banana peels or 1.21 jigawatts? GREAT! I mean, obviously none of it makes any sense, so I really don't usually worry too much about that---as long as the story doesn't try to hard to explain it, I'll be fine with it, too.

That brings us to The Shining Girls. Honestly, Kelly, it was fine. It's the story of a serial killer, Harper, and his ability to travel through time by aid of a magical house in Chicago.

**Jazz hands** magical time-traveling house **Jazz hands**

The house is filled with Harper's "treasures" that he steals from one victim and then places them on another one later in time. The house calls to him, showing him his present and his past.  I now have given you as much explanation for how the time-traveling works as the author does. As it turns out, it is possible that there can be too little explanation for me. I mean, at least 1.21 jiggawatts is about power! In this book, the house works, catapulting Harper and a few others through time, but there's never real explanation of how it works. Not even the smallest amount of explanation. I guess it's because Harper himself doesn't care that much, but it's not satisfying.

The other protagonist of the story is Kirby, a girl he attacks and stabs, but she manages to survive. Kirby is determined to figure out who tried to kill her, and she is the one who discovers the secret of the house.

I'm not sure what my problem was with this book. It's serviceable, I guess I'd say. Kirby is an interesting character, and I admired her. She's a fighter and she is determined to figure out what has happened and why. I think the problem with the book is Harper. He's a serial killer, but it's unclear why he does what he does. It's also unclear what brings his victims to his attention. The only explanation we get is that they are "shining" that there is something about the way he sees their aura that draws him to them. But honestly, it's pretty thin.  If the killer isn't creepy and well-formed as a character, it's hard to find the book all that scary. The thing that works the best is that Harper both kills the women, but then goes back and sees them as children, and goes back after to read the reports of what happened in the news. But his motives and reasons for acting, the explanation of his methods, why he limps, who his family was...NOTHING!

I mean, as a book, it was *fine* and I enjoyed reading it, but I think it's going to have about zero staying power.

One last thing: I read this on my Kindle, and that was a little frustrating. As Harper went back and forth in time, I found myself wanting to flip back and put the chapters in order. But the Kindle defies that sort of activity. Meh.

Tl;dr version: If you're looking for a quick read, go for it. It's a solid, but not spectacular read.



  1. 1: I LOVE the idea of re-reading books from our childhood after first describing what we remember here! (I, myself, forgot about the brain... I remember a younger brother and a kindly older woman...?)

    2. I'm a big fan of the time travel book. Big fan.

    Did you ever read 11/22/63? Excellent.

    Bill's uncle's favorite book was Time and Again, and my MIL recommended it a few years back (and she does not like fantasy), so I read it -- it was pretty great.

    A couple of good YA/Teen ones (and therefore more "fun," I would say) I've read in the past couple of years are When You Reach Me and Man in the Empty Suit. (Every year on his birthday, the guy goes to the same place and has a birthday party with all of his past and future selves -- heh. I don't remember how it ends. I do remember thinking that he wasn't going to be able to stick the landing... can't remember if he did or not. Not really important, as the rest was fun.)

    I loved The Time Traveler's Wife. That book made me cry and cry and cry.

    I feel like there are a few more -- these are just the ones that sprang to mind when I read your post.

    Disclaimer on all of these: Like you, I have a high tolerance for the ridiculousness of these books. I never ever, ever try to poke holes in the time travel theory. Never think, "But wait... if he was there, then what about..." Nope nope nope. I just shut that down and buy in. Some of these have been criticized for not sticking to their own "internal rules" or whatever but... screw it. I'm just in it for the ride.

    Which means... I am totally interested in this book! :)

    Also, the Thursday Next novels are pretty great -- have you read any of those? Literary characters come to life! I guess she is in more of an alternate reality than actually time traveling, though... hrm. But it feels like Time Travel-y because she goes and interacts with historical characters. Those are fun books.

  2. Other books I remember we both really liked as kids:

    1) A Wrinkle in Time (obviously)
    2) The Chronicles of Narnia
    3) Don't Care High --- which we have both reread, right?
    4) House of Stairs -- again, we've reread that one, I think.

    What else? OMG. This could be hilarious.

  3. The Chronicles of Narnia are still favorites of mine. I don't think I would mis-remember anything about them (but I could be wrong!)

    Don't Care High -- yes, we re-read that, but it's probably been over a decade now. Same for Wrinkle in Time. And yes, I re-read (and possibly re-blocked out) House of Stairs just a couple of years ago. That book is nutso. Given the fact that I can't remember what I read in February, I'd probably mis-remember all of these all over again. Ha.

    What else?

    Judy Blume, right? The one I remember being particularly partial to was Tiger Eyes (although I cannot remember it now! Something about moving to a desert?!) I also read Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret? at a *very* young age... 6 or 7.


    That V.C. Andrews junk. Oh, Flowers in the Attic. You were the worst!

    I also remember this book, but I think we've talked about it before -- it's not familiar to you, right? It was called Just Like Always. Here's the cover. I loved that book.

    I just had to google "80s YA with a dolphin on the cover" to find Island of the Blue Dolphins. I remember nothing of that book except I think it was sad.

    I just googled 80s YA and definitely found some blasts from the past -- this shit looks like junk and I remember *nothing* about them. Deadly Sleep, Stranger with My Face. Quite a few of these beauties..

    Earlier than that... Bunnicula! And, oddly, The Pearl by Steinbeck. (I read that when I was under 8. It scared me.)

    From HS... The Great Gatsby, The Scarlet Letter, Wuthering Heights, and The Crucible. (I read GG on my own, but the others were assigned books that I remember liking. As an adult, I can't really see it!)

    And IT by Stephen King. I loved that book.

    I've read a lot of trash, Jennifer. A lot.

  4. I don't think there is anything wrong with that. Probably because I STILL enjoy reading trashy books of all kinds.

    Hmmm. If we reread The Scarlet Letter again, let's make sure we also watch Easy A.

    Other books: A Summer To Die (remember that one?), The Princess Routine, The Ghosts of Departure Point. Hah! What else?

    This could be fun.

  5. Oh, yeah -- I still read trash. Absolutely! It's just funny to looks at this list and realize it. Heh.

    I like a pairing of The Scarlet Letter and Easy A. Ha!

    I never read A Summer to Die (just looked it up -- nothing) and The Princess Routine did not sound familiar, but looking at the cover and reading the synopsis, I DO remember that.

    But I squealed out loud at The Ghosts of Departure Point. I LOVED that book! I re-read that thing so many times!

    I'm struggling to remember more -- we read SO much then! It's funny how few are standing out. Guess we've also read a lot SINCE then. Heh. I remember all the Ramona books when I was much younger -- did you read those?

    As I mentioned in my Roald Dahl post, James and the Giant Peach was a big favorite of mine.

    I also read all of the Cheerleaders series, which was sort of like SVH -- did you read those?

    Oh! Oh! I just remembered one! The Great Gilly Hopkins! Here's a funny story about covers -- I had to google that because all I could remember was "Gilly". I went to the Wikipedia entry and found this image for the cover. I said, "Wait... that's not the book..." Reading the synopsis, it is. But this was the cover on mine. Very different -- interesting to see the rebranding happen for a new wave of YA readers. In fact, here's one from 1981 and from 1996. Interesting that she's blonde and looks way younger in all of the other versions -- I loved that girl on the front of mine. Wonder if I would have read it with any of these other covers. (The power of the book cover!)

    Oh, and while looking for covers -- I found out that they are making a movie out of that book that is coming out this year. Funny I just thought of it!

    Bill recently mentioned The Outsiders. I've never read it -- he said he thought I would enjoy it. Did you read it? Was it a "boys' book?" (Just because Bill read it and I don't really remember it even being on the radar...) Others that I feel like everyone read but I somehow missed: The Phantom Tollbooth, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Bridge to Terabithia. Did you read those?

  6. I can't believe you've never read The Outsiders! Still a classic. Darius read it at school last year.

    A Summer to Die is a book I read over and over again. I am convinced you must have read this book.

    Of the others, I've read them all---although some as a teacher. I have not read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I remember starting it and thinking it was super boring. Never finished it.

    I remember how much you loved James and the Giant Peach.

    I also remember some more of the trashy teenage romances we read. There was one called Saturday Night by Caroline B Cooney. Perhaps it was a series? They are all going out to the prom or some such thing. I just googled it on Amazon. The actual book cover is *Exactly* what I remembered. Lol.

    We should talk more about this. This is a fun idea.