"Shine Your Light On Me" Book Review

Written by Tony Jones

Published by Apex Book Company

Written by Lee Thompson
2017, 126 pages, Fiction
Released on 10th May, 2017


If you fancy a dark slice of small-town American life, look no further than Lee Thompson’s Shine Your Light On Me, a novel littered with challenging characters, many of whom only have their own self-interests at heart. Sixteen-year-old Aiden LeDoux is caught in the middle of an unfolding drama and would love nothing more than to leave town and start a new life elsewhere, preferably where nobody knows him. The story opens in a local bar owned by Aiden’s father, where a sudden and unexplained miracle, or ‘happening’, occurs. After necking a few drinks, Aiden feels strange and a bright light radiates from his eyes and mouth. It is later revealed everybody who was in the bar was instantly healed from all illnesses, including biggies such as cancer. Aiden remembers little of what happened and, more crucially, how he did it.

Considering this is the backbone of the story, the event itself is rather underwhelming and the whole episode is dealt with in a few pages. Word spreads quickly and the locals wonder whether Aiden can now heal anyone of any sickness. People who once ignored him, or never knew him at all, are knocking on his door and, struggling to cope, he finds himself under intense pressure and scrutiny. Although this novella held my attention and I was invested enough to find out where it was heading, the number of unappealing characters limited my enjoyment. Overall, there are too many characters; at various times I found myself getting names confused and having to backtrack. I would have preferred to have read more about the miracle itself, but the story spends more time on the aftereffects it has on the town and mental state of Aiden. What is interesting, however, is the occasional reference to how those who benefitted from the miracle are impacted; for example, a local pastor is converted into a religious zealot.

Aiden is an engaging leading character and although he would not be classified a hero, I am sympathetic to his cause. The overwhelmingly dark tone of the story foreshadows the direction it heads into and the second half picks up considerable pace, moving away from a psychological study to a thriller with a tough climax. I enjoy the ending with the downbeat conclusion ringing true with the rest of the tale in which a supposed miracle causes tragedy and pain for many.

The LeDoux clan is a big one and the various members react differently to the miracle, some seeing Aiden with dollar signs, others with childlike wonder. Predominately through his family connections, the side-stories feature sexual abuse, adultery, and some extreme bullying. Much is crammed into this novella, perhaps too much, and I failed to connect with the muddled characters.

Lurking in the background of the story is the fact that Aiden’s father, Jack, was tortured for having an affair with the wife of the leader of another big family clan. Beating the crap out of him was not enough, they quite literally crucified him on a tree. This incident is referred to on a number of occasions, but some unexplained reason nobody was charged or went to prison.  This seems like a major gap in the plot, however, it does highlight how truly nasty Pine is, who has a prominent role in the second half of the story.

The plot is not only seen from Aiden’s point of view, and on a few occasions the narrative moves to another disturbed teenager, Bobby, who is in the process of planting bombs all over the local school. This thread is a fascinating detour from the Aiden plotline and I wish it had more page time, as Bobby has a lot to say. Eventually the stories merge together near the end.

Ultimately Shine Your Light On Me asks who are the real monsters? As it is certainly not Aiden. The impact of religious fervour and extremism is a theme which runs throughout the story and the effect this has on others is equally important. This novella is a solid read with much to hold the attention, however, some of the issues with plot and characterisation hold it back.


Overall: 3 Star Rating Cover
Buy from Amazon US

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Tony Jones
Staff Reviewer
Such is Tony’s love of books, he has spent well over twenty years working as a school librarian where he is paid to talk to kids about horror. He is a Scotsman in exile who has lived in London for over two decades and credits discovering SE Hinton and Robert Cormier as a 13-year-old for his huge appetite for books. Tony previously spent five years writing The Greatest Scrum That Ever Was, a history book very few people bought. In the past he has written for Horror Novel Reviews and is a regular contributor to The Ginger Nuts of Horror website, often specialising in YA horror.
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