I had heard some good reviews of this book on Goodreads and Twitter, so when I got it, I was really excited to read. I enjoyed this book a lot. It's one of those like Speak or Wintergirls that you sort of don't want to read but you really want to. It's not about an easy subject, but you are better after having read the story.
When I teach tragedy to my students, we discuss catharsis and how by experiencing the horrible things along with the character, we learn so much. We go through the events without having really gone through them, and hopefully we are saved from those things in our own lives. Maybe we are. Maybe we aren't, but we definitely experience a lot during our journeys with those characters.
Cat, while written for a very specific place in the mountains of North Carolina, still reminds me a bit of Lia and Melinda. Girls who were "normal" for lack of a better word, friends with everyone, but who withdrew for some reason and became loners.
In Cat's very small town (and I mean small, not just cute small, I mean poor, farming, out in the hills small) of Black Creek, NC, people get along just fine. But a tragedy shakes the town when a young man, Patrick, is brutally attacked and tied to a gas pump, the nozzle taped to his throat and a hateful message scrawled on his chest. It's a hate crime, and people are shaken. Some feel that perhaps Patrick got what he deserved for being different while others, of course, really feel that no one deserves anything like that at all. The cops are "working on it," but Cat knows this really means that they are going to "seem" like they are following leads, eventually just blame it on a truck load of out of town college boys, and let life resume. But Cat knows that isn't the case.
She and Patrick used to be best friends. They got eat other. They had fun. But when Cat got to high school, she dropped all her friends and just stayed in her own world with herself and her books. She misses Patrick, and when this happens, even though she hasn't talked to him in forever, she has to help him. She sets about trying to piece together what happened the night that Patrick got attacked. She feels like she owes it to her friend to solve this crime.
Told from Cat's point of view, this book leads you along her journey of discovery as she figures out just what happened that night. She finds out way more about her town and the people in it than she ever knew. The cast of characters is great, and since you are with Cat, you sort of see everyone as a suspect at first. It has a who dunnit feel to it. But it's an important story. I think it deals with the hate crime well. It's honest about people's feelings. While Cat is understanding and supportive of Patrick's homosexuality, most people in this town are not, and that is a reality that many gay teens face out in the world.
What matters is what kind of person you are and that you view the world in a positive way. Patrick did, and Cat does in a way. I think this book was great. I am a southern girl myself, so I do sometimes cringe a bit when I read southern characters. Sometimes I feel/felt like maybe there were too many colloquialisms crammed into one sentence or paragraph, but then at the same time, it didn't really bother me that much or take away from the flow of the story, so I was ok with it. I think kids will like this book because it is a mystery of sorts, as Cat is solving this crime, but I think the greater messages and meanings about treating people well and the dangers of drugs and hate will resonate with readers as well. I am really glad I got my hands on this one. Not an easy read, but a good one.