REVIEW: Down with the Shine by Kate Karyus Quinn

by - 12:15 PM

“We grant wishes. Nobody knows how it started but it’s been going on for generations, at least as far as Pop Pop knew.”

Back of the book blurb:

Lennie always thought her uncles’ “important family legacy” was good old-fashioned bootlegging. Then she takes some of her uncles’ moonshine to Michaela Gordon’s annual house party, and finds out just how wrong she was.
At the party, Lennie has everyone make a wish before drinking the shine—it’s tradition. She toasts to wishes for bat wings, for balls of steel, for the party to go on forever. Lennie even makes a wish of her own: to bring back her best friend, Dylan, who was murdered six months ago.
The next morning gives Lennie a whole new understanding of the phrase be careful what you wish for—or in her case, be careful what wishes you grant. Because all those wishes Lennie raised a jar of shine to last night? They came true. Most of them came out bad. And once granted, a wish can’t be unmade…

A message from the cosmos:

Publication Date: April 26, 2016
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 355
ISBN: 9780062356048

Available for Purchase:

My rating:

I read (Don’t You) Forget About Me by Kate Karyus Quinn when it came out back in 2014 and honestly, that book was so weird and awesome and it really mind-fucked me. I was scared, though, that all of Quinn’s stories were like that because it’s just… intense and while I enjoy getting mind-fucked, sometimes it’s hard to really get into those stories. But, I just knew as soon as I read the premise for Down with the Shine, I had to read it. Also, I have major cover-envy. SO beautiful.

“’Cause that’s how I find out that my battered old suitcase, patched up with duct tape and kept closed only with the help of an older leather belt, now holds the butchered remains of my best friend.”

            The novel starts out with a bang, obviously, if the quote above tells you anything. (This happens in the first seven pages, so I’m not really spoiling anything.) I’m honestly in love with the entire concept of this novel—Quinn’s spin on “be careful what you wish for.” And you should be careful because you could literally ruin everyone’s life. There’s something so atmospheric and wonderful and whimsical about Quinn’s writing. It’s honestly such a journey every chapter. And while this novel has some pretty dark moments, Quinn effortlessly weaves humor into her complicated and extremely fascinating story.

“Then, as we peel ourselves off the ground, they go running in ten different directions, which is pretty impressive, ‘cause my uncles only have five dogs.”

            Most of the humor came from our protagonist, Lennie Cash, daughter of a famous criminal. Lennie was an amazing protagonist. She was sad, complicated, sarcastic, and confused about what she wanted. And these are all traits that she learned to deal with and overcome by the end of the novel. I loved taking this journey with her. I always love characters who aren’t used to standing up for themselves or being the ones in control finally learn how to take control. It’s always exciting and so extremely rewarding.

“I shove the jar at him. ‘To going to hell hand in hand!’”

            What’s YA without a little romance? And what’s romance without some serious obstacles? It’s much sweeter when you have to work for it. And that’s what Smith and Lennie have to do: work. Smith is Dyl’s twin. Dylan is… I mean was Lennie’s best friend, until she got herself chopped up. We learn pretty early in the novel that Smith blames Lennie for Dylan getting murdered. So when Smith shows up to the party where all of this drunken wish-making is taking place, it’s a showdown. And when Lennie’s wish-making goes wrong and Smith literally needs to hold Lennie’s hand, it’s a shit-storm. But what’s better than forcing two people who hate each other, but also kinda like each other, together… literally. For the majority of the novel, they’re holding hands and can’t pull away from each other. Through all the ups and downs, Smith is by Lennie’s side and she finds comfort in it for the most part. Also, the chemistry that is brewing between Lennie and Smith is just incredible. I was captivated from the very beginning.

“Again, I shake my head, since it seems kinder than saying that I’m pretty sure I don’t want to be like her. Maybe once I did. I’d definitely admired her boldness… except now it looks more like recklessness and not giving a shit what happens to anyone except herself.”

            I think Dylan and Lennie’s friendship and how it’s dealt with in Down with the Shine is so important. Their friendship before Dyl was murdered has been alluded to throughout the entire novel and it seems like Dylan was the confident, outspoken, and bold one. And Lennie was the friend that was trying to keep up with Dylan’s shadow. And then Dylan’s murdered and months later, when Lennie drunkenly wishes Dylan to be alive again, it happened. And it’s a miracle! This is exactly what Lennie wanted. Except… not really. Now, Lennie doesn’t feel like Dylan’s the same person. But the thing is, that’s not true. Dylan is the same person, more or less, even though she’s literally rotting on the inside. It’s Lennie who is different. And this is so important for teens to learn. They need to learn about themselves and what they want. And it is completely okay to not want to be friends with someone anymore even though you used to be very close with them. It doesn’t mean you don’t care for them anymore, it’s just self-preservation and that’s never a bad thing. And I love that Quinn added this into her novel. It’s so well-written and I love that Lennie realizes that she deserves better than to be stuck in someone else’s shadow.

“The noise and lights and Cash all recede as the sun finally creeps over the horizon and swallows everything—including me.”

            There’s so much I want to talk about, like Michaela’s party or rather the aftermath of it, Larry, the uncles, but this review is already getting pretty lengthy, and I try to keep them short. I want to talk about the ending to wrap this review up. Honestly, if Quinn had done it any other way, I would’ve hated it. But she pulls the ending off with such grace and in a way that it’s not cheesy or redundant and I absolutely adore it. Endings can make or break a novel for me and this one just… wow. It sealed the deal that Down with the Shine is one of my favorite novels of 2016 so far.

“Grabbing hold of Smith’s shirt, I pull him closer, until it’s more than only our hands pressed together. ‘I’m gonna make all your wishes come true,’ I say, grinning at him. ‘And mine too.’ And then—without the aid of any shine—that’s exactly what I do.”

Happy Reading!
The Cosmic Reader

You May Also Like