Candy Gourlay

Rosa suffers from a rare condition that renders her mute. She lives on the strange island of Mirasol where the rain never seems to stop.

In the gloom of the island, its superstitious population are haunted by all sorts of fears . . . they shun people who suffer from Rosa's condition, believing them to be monsters. So Rosa must live hidden away in an isolated house with its back to the rest of the world, with only the internet for a social life.

But Rosa has no desire to leave Mirasol. This is where her mother died and every night she lights a candle on the windowsill. The islanders believe this is the way to summon ghosts, and Rosa wants her mother back.

One day she is befriended by a boy online who calls himself Ansel95 - and she quickly realizes that this is one friendship that can take place in the real world. Can she really trust him? What does he want from her?

And then Mother turns up at the front door.

"Gourlay has created something very special here... Shine is about reinvention and the faces we present to the world all wrapped up in an exciting and perfectly paced story with a disturbing and dramatic climax." Philip Ardagh Guardian

"An irresistibly exotic story of family, friendship, ghosts and legends. A sparkling jewel of a story." Booktrust

"Has you laughing and crying at the same time. You despair at people's prejudice. But then there are people who make you believe in humanity again. I can't tell you what style Shine is written in. You just don't notice. It just feels perfect." Bookwitch
Amelia, from Wren Academy Barnet

Most Girls of thirteen just want to be normal. Either that or they want to be noticed. But Rosa is not normal. And that is why she needs to hide herself away.

Rosa suffers from a rare illness known as ‘The Calm.’ Despite this, most people probably would try to treat her as normal - as an equal. This would be the reaction of most, but not all. 

Under the sad gaze of Mount Banawa, hides the small island of the fearful Mirasol, where Rosa has lived her whole life. Though there could not have been a more dangerous place for her to call home. For Mirasol’s fear and superstition surrounding it is only matched by its hate and repulsion for ‘The Calm’. Forced to spend her days in hiding, Rosa devotes all her time to the internet where she discovers the eccentric photographer, Ansel195. Rosa feels that she has finally found a friend. Ansel195 becomes much more than just a screen name, as one day while scrolling through his pictures she noticed, to her horror, a picture of her own house. Not long after a message from Ansel195 appears on her screen.

‘You live on Mirasol, don’t you.’

Having an online friend who already seems to know you is strange enough, but when the ghost of Rosa’s dead mother appears along with letters, Rosa starts to think that Yaya’s stories of the supernatural weren’t so daft after all.

Shine is a very moving book. It really makes you connect with the hardship and fear forced upon Rosa as she suffers through all this discrimination. Even though it is fiction, its message of awareness is clear. People can always be separated, but it is our job to bring people together, to show that everyone is equal, and to make people see that “different is good”.

Amira, from Wren Academy Barnet

Shine revolves around 13-year-old Rosa, a girl who has a rare disorder nicknamed the ‘Calm’ that renders her mute. The story is set on a remote island called Mirasol, where Rosa is forced to hide away due to old superstitions surrounding her condition. Rosa’s mother (who suffered from the same condition) died when Rosa was very young, and the story alternates from Rosa’s perspective to letters written by Rosa’s mother to someone named Kat. I really enjoyed the different points of view and liked the depth they gave to the story. One of my favourite aspects of the book was the ghost stories told by Yaya (Rosa’s nanny) and how they were cleverly linked to the main plot, and I also loved the messages between Rosa and ‘Ansel95’ (a friend Rosa meets online). 

Although Shine is not the type of thing I would usually pick out to read, I ended up really enjoying the slightly creepy tone of the book and the beautiful imagery throughout; it is a novel that I would definitely recommend.

Amit, from Jewish Community Secondary School

Shine is a breathtaking story and a pleasure to read. The cliff-hangers that made me read on were intriguing. It was exciting and I would have never thought such a story can be told. I can’t wait to explore more books like these!

I could really feel the emotions Rosa, the main character felt and considered myself lucky knowing about her horrible disease! Her tragic illness, ‘the calm’, made people suggest she is a MONSTER! Therefore she is trapped at home, hidden away from the world. She wants to be set free, tempted than ever to meet someone mysterious along the way.

Hoping to meet again, she lights candles for her mother’s spirit and embarks on frightening adventures, getting a step closer to the outer world.  Ansel95 (Danny from her virtual world) makes plans to meet Rosa. As I picked up on clues, I thought to myself ‘Imagine if he also had the calm.’

Andrea, from Wren Academy Barnet

This book is a story of a young girl who is mute; in the novel it is referred to as The Calm. After the death of her mum, Rosa's dad decides that it is best for her or their family not to be exposed or public in any way. Rosa hates this. Yaya (her carer) says she shouldn't go on the internet but that is the only place where Rosa can talk to people as if she were a normal girl. she soon makes friends with a boy named Danny and he happened to live in the same town: Mirasol. Her dad knows Danny but she doesn't know that; when he turns up at her house, she gets a fright as he is in danger. Meanwhile Rosa discovers that her mum had an identical twin who once also was a lover of her dad. When she also turns up at her door she nearly kills her. Why? How does this all link up? Does Rosa ever get to go outside to socialise with real people? 

This book is extremely thoughtful and I recommend it. it may appeal to girls slightly more yet that shouldn't prevent you from  reading it if you are a boy. Its a good read anyway!!!

I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars

Aran, from Jewish Community Secondary School

Rosa, the main character of Shine, suffers from The Calm. Not only does this mean that she has marks on her neck and is mute, but on her home island, Mirasol, it means that she is a “monster”.

Mirasol is an island full of very superstitious inhabitants. They believe that when the rain finally stops, monsters come out - this was how Kara (Rosa’s mother - also victim to The Calm) ended her story. Skip forward a few years and you’ll find an older Rosa who lays out candles every night to try summon Kara’s ghost. Her life is rather routine, every day is the same, nothing ever really happens with her 300+ online “friends”. That is until she meets Ansel95 or Danny and decides that maybe a real friendship is possible.

I liked this book because it was very interesting and the whole story flowed well, meaning that there were few particularly boring sections - a vital aspect of the book which made it a lot better. However, as the book went on, I think the plot didn’t change enough and that most of what happened did so in fairly similar ways until near the end, when a completely unexpected arrival was made by a completely unexpected person. This is what made it my favourite part of the book.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this novel by Candy Gourlay even if there were minor improvements to be made in the plot. I thought it flowed very well and had a nice storyline, but there was too little change for me. I would recommend it to anyone aged 10 or above as I think that is an appropriate audience for this book.

Bea, from Wren Academy Barnet

On the tiny island of Mirasol, Rosa is about as much of an outsider as possible. The people of Mirasol are superstitious and filled with hatred for Rosa's rare disease called 'The Calm'. Because of her exclusion from society, Rosa's only chance to experience human interaction is the internet. And that's where things begin to become complex.

Mysterious incident upon mysterious incident take place throughout the book. First, Rosa's online friends Ansel95 turns out to be from Mirasol - but is he really what he seems? Then, her supposedly dead mother turns up on her doorstep - is she what she seems? With every twist and turn, the plot line of this story begins to come together. 

Above all else, the theme of this book I see as most poignant is Rosa's quiet (in this case literally) defiance of the box society has put her in. Being ostracised from the community has only made her stronger and more determined to find other ways to interact with the rest of humanity.

There is one clear message of this book: separation and hatred don't work. 

Ben, from University College School London

Thirteen-year-old Rosa lives on a small island in the Philipines, in a peaceful village called Mirasol. Well, peaceful…

The people of Mirasol only have one enemy and they will stop at nothing to destroy it: the Calm. The only sounds Rosa can make are animal grunts, and every time she leaves her house she has to cover terrible marks on her neck. The marks of the Calm.

Rosa is home-schooled and has no social life, so she spends most of her free time on the Internet and social networks. There she meets Ansel95, and as their friendship blossoms, Rosa discovers that she's not the only one with something to hide.

Candy Gourlay's style of writing is different, modern and sometimes challenging but very enjoyable to read.. My favourite sections were the ones narrated by Rosa's dead mother, because they were written as though she was talking to someone, using the subjects 'you' and ‘I'.

The plot-line was excellent, and by reading Rosa and her mum's story everything slowly added up together, like a jigsaw puzzle.

Charlie, from University College School London

Shine by Candy Gourlay is a book about a girl named Rosa.  She is a teenager with a disease called ‘the calm’.  The book is mainly about how Rosa meets a boy on the internet whose name is Ansel95.  The calm makes Rosa unable to talk so she is extremely nervous about actually meeting him.  However, it turns out that he also has the calm and they get on well.  The other part of the story starts towards the end of the book.  Rosa’s mother is dead and Rosa’s aunt comes to the island where they live.  The island is called ‘Mirasol’.  Rosa’s aunt starts tormenting Rosa as she and Rosa’s mother had a very bad relationship.  

The characters of the book are quite believable as the main character, Rosa is a teenager.  When she meets Ansel95 95 or Danny as he is known she cares very much about her appearance.  Similarly she is very cautious when meeting friends online.  Rosa’s father is an odd character because the book portrays him to be a slightly stupid, care obsessed dad.  You get this image when reading because Rosa repeatedly complains about how her dad doesn’t know that she is safe on line.  However, Rosa’s dad is a doctor and you would expect him to be sensible and wise.  Another character that appears often is Yaya, Rosa’s helper.  Yaya seems to be an old paranoid lady who is repeatedly scolding Rosa for going on her laptop too much.  Yaya’s character is believable but not a particularly necessary part of the story.

In conclusion, the book is good.  I recommend it to anybody.  It has a very slow start but once it does start it is a quite a page turner.  The story is well crafted and has many twists although some of them are a little too predictable.  It has two different stories running through it.  One is a first person story and the other is a third person story so I quite liked that aspect of the book as it is not something I have seen in any book I have read so far.

Charlotte, from Jewish Community Secondary School

I really enjoyed reading this book, and did so in under a week.  

Shine is a ghostly, dramatic, gripping tale of superstition and secrets. The story is divided between Rosa (a longing thirteen-year-old girl who lost her mother when she was just five and who suffers from ‘The Calm’, a monstrous birth defect that has left her scarred and unable to speak the human language) and another character who I shall not name for fear of ruining the story. The people of Mirasol believe that when the rain stops, the monsters will come out of hiding and kill them. The monsters with ‘The Calm’...

Will Rosa discover the family secrets?  Will Rosa make friends?  Will Rosa find out the real reason for the security camera?  Find out when you read this eerie tale that I thoroughly recommend.

Charlotte, from Wren Academy Barnet

This book turned something I vaguely knew into something that has become a permanent realisation for me – there is not really any person who is not normal. The mystical island of Mirasol is a perfect setting because it is the mix of reality and fiction that means you can do whatever you want with the story and still have it relevant to the reader.  The overprotective father, the absence of a mother and the child who wants to just have a bit of freedom is a regular cast for this type of book but somehow each story is different, this one particularly so. It really touched my heart.

Dana, from Jewish Community Secondary School

This is a story full of ghosts. But if you are scared of ghosts it doesn't matter. This book is frightening. But if you don’t like scary books it doesn't matter. This is a novel full of “monsters”.  But if you don’t like “monsters” it doesn't matter either.  But, that is what the main character is, from her point of view.

Rosa is a girl, who is pretty normal apart from one thing that sets her apart from anyone else. She has the Calm. The Calm is an illness preventing people from speaking, forcing them to use sign language. The way to recognise this condition is by seeing marks and disfigurements on the victim’s throat. Rosa lives with her father and nanny Yaya, after her mother, who was also a victim of the Calm, died mysteriously. This meant that Rosa was not allowed out of the house, due to safety reasons, so she ended up on her laptop every single day. Soon, she discovered a friend on the Internet, her only means of a social life, and she began to get more interested in her new friendship. After what felt like a long time, she decided to meet up with her new “friend”. But, the feeling of disappointment overwhelmed Rosa, when her “new companion” didn't show up. The night of that incident, the doorbell rang of her house, an unknown thing to her, and things got a bit mysterious. Soon after, stranger things started to happen, like her experiencing hallucinations, but the final blow was when someone unexpected turned up on the doorstep… 

I liked this book because it drew me in, and was packed with suspense. It was unlike other books, as it had a completely individual storyline and ideas. I felt this book had a unique charm to it, making the reader really feel for different characters. This novel would be suitable for anybody above the age of nine. It would be placed in the reality genre, and I would rate it four stars out of five

Daniel, from University College School London

Shine is a multi-genre book, with parts of the story being horror, ghost and romance. The book follows a girl called Rosa who has a medical condition called The Calm, this illness means that she is unable to speak. What doesn’t help is that the town they live in Mirasol hates people with The Calm and everyone inside the town thinks people with The Calm are monsters. Rosa lives with her Jon, her Dad, and Yaya, who saved Rosa’s life when she was younger and has lived with the family ever since. Rosa’s mother Kara is dead, she died from a mysterious ‘accident’. Rosa tries to find out more about her mother’s death. Rosa also makes a friend online even though she knows Yaya would disapprove, but she sees that this boy online is different, and that he isn’t just another random person behind a screen. They become friends and agree to meet, but on that night Danny (the boy) doesn’t show up. Rosa sees something else, her mother’s ghost - she is frightened and runs away, cowardly, back into her house, scared and worried.

The book starts off a bit slow but picks up the pace quickly, after Rosa sees her mother, everything gets more interesting, every chapter hooks you and makes you want to read more. Every so often there is a cliff hanger which makes you never want to put the book down. If a book is able to make you not want to put it down you know it is good, and that’s how I felt. The story-telling was good and all characters were interesting and the book went into the past of most characters. What was more impressive was that every few chapters the story would change perspective from Rosa to her dead mother in the past so you always knew what happened in the past and when something happened in the present you would understand and admire the way the book was written. There were also a couple of moments were the book tricked your brain, which I thought was a nice feature. At some stages I stopped reading for a minute and had to think about everything that was happening, but I liked that as well. The book made the reader think and did it well.

The book overall was fun and interesting to read, I love the way Gourlay quickly changed genres but you still knew what was going on and the genre change made sense. Another thumbs up is the way the book went from past to present and present to past, this helped you understand everything and overall made for a better read. I didn’t spot any major mistakes so for this book I give 9/10. I would definitely recommend reading this book.

Debbie, from Wren Academy Barnet

This book is structured differently from other books I have read. In each chapter, the views of two characters would alternatively change, Rosa and her mother Kara. At first it was quite confusing but it helped to hook the reader because the opinions of a situation were different. However, it wasn’t the book that made me go “this is really good”. When I finished reading it, I thought it was quite abrupt, because there could be more added to it, or the story line could be tweaked a bit at the end. The story line was common, but how it was written wasn’t as predictable, which managed to make me want to read on. What I like about this is the presence of the ‘Calm’. This made me have sympathy towards the characters more and I loved how the ‘Calm’ has helped to bond Rosa and Danny. The ending was different from other books .The ending wasn’t as predictable so it made the story interesting.  I recommend it for younger people because it is an easy and has a dash of each genre, romance, horror, comedy, etc..

Emily, from Jewish Community Secondary School

Shine is a powerful book about Rosa, a young girl who lives on Mirasol, an island with a very superstitious community at its centre, and rain that never stops falling. Because of Rosa's 'condition', the people of Mirasol see her as a monster, so she is hidden away at home with her father and companion Yaya. Through Internet forums, Rosa notices someone called Ansel95, who has taken pictures of Mirasol and, to Rosa's dismay, her own house. By becoming his friend, Rosa breaks not only her father’s rules but her own. 

The book is narrated by Rosa with occasional letters addressed to someone called Kat, and Rosa's texts with Ansel95. At first, I struggled with understanding what the letters were, because there was no explanation as to their purpose. But once I understood, they became a compelling addition to the story. 

Shine is a very charming and powerful book, with drama and atmosphere, making it a very enjoyable read.

Emma, from Jewish Community Secondary School

Shine is full of unexpected happenings that force you to keep on reading. I loved this book because there was never a second where I was bored; it was unputdownable the whole way through.

Shine is set on an island called Mirasol where the rain never stops. A girl called Rosa lives with her father and Yaya, her nanny.  Rosa is a victim of the “Calm”, a disease she was born with and inherited from her mother who died when Rosa was little.  Due to the disease, Rosa has horrible marks on her neck and she can’t speak. The islanders think Rosa is a monster because of a myth about a girl who suffered from the “Calm”. To keep her safe, Rosa is not allowed to leave her house. The book is about an online friend she makes and where this leads her.

Shine is an amazing read and is different to any other book I have read before. 

Ethan, from Jewish Community Secondary School

Shine, by Candy Gourlay, is set on the island of ‘Mirasol’ where it always rains.  Shine tells the story of a 13-year-old girl, Rosa, her mother Kara and her mother’s twin sister, Kat. Rosa suffers from a condition called ‘the Calm’ which disables her speech. It also shows as a burning skin mark as if a noose of rope had been tied around her neck.  

The highly superstitious community of Mirasol believes in a legend of a monster in the disguise of a drowned girl with punctured marks around her neck. According to the legend two fishermen, a father and his son had pulled the dead girl out of the calm sea just for her to come back to life whilst sucking the life out of the fishermen’s boy.  

It seems that Rosa believes that because of her affliction she is not allowed to leave her house by the sea where she lives with father, a doctor, and her carer Yaya. 

Rosa’s mother had apparently died in a car accident when Rosa was young. She too had suffered from ‘the Calm’. Since her mother’s death Rosa had lit a candle at her window every night, hoping that her mother’s ghost may find her. 

Rosa’s life is overshadowed both by the loss of her mother and her social isolation. However, she is full of curiosity about the outside world as well as her own past.

In her loneliness Rosa seeks company online and eventually meets ‘Ansel95’, a boy from the island who apparently likes photography. They become online friends and Rosa gradually reveals her secrets to him online. The boy’s real name is Danny. After several weeks of curious online exchanges they decide to meet in real life. A plan is hatched to meet that night on the beach just in front of Rosa’s home. 

As Rosa is waiting for Danny on the beach she discerns a hazy figure coming towards her from the distance. At first Rosa believes this to be Danny; however, as the figure comes into better view she thinks she is seeing her mother’s ghost.  But how life-like, resembling her mother as if she were real! How can this be? Is her mother not dead? Rosa had always believed that she would embrace her mother’s ghost; however, instead she rushes back to her house. 

‘The Calm’ silences those who are afflicted by it. But not only Rosa is silenced by the Calm, so is her past. It is shrouded in lies about her parents and what really happened to her mother. From the moment of seeing the figure on the beach the story unfolds in an unexpected manner. Rosa finally learns the true story about her parents and how her mother had actually met her death. Whilst the truth is shocking, it also liberates her.

This is a story about seizing life that has been taken away. Rosa accepts her condition but no longer allows this to prevent her from living her life. She accepts that the mark around her neck is part of who she is; however, she rejects the villagers’ superstitious belief that baring a mark makes her a monster. 

Shine conveys a sinister atmosphere and it sometimes resembles a ghost story.  Like Apple and Rain by Sarah Crossman this is book about a girl’s search for her mother’s love. In both stories the protagonist does not find what she has been looking for. However, instead an unexpected truth is revealed that causes a change of perspective. Shine is gripping but by no means an easy read. The plot is complex and has many layers. Whilst the story plot in itself is full of twists and turns, the book is also full of symbolism and can be understood on different levels. This is a wonderful book for readers who look for depth and food for thought long after finishing the last page.

Fred, from University College School London

Shine is about a girl called Rosa who has an illness known as the Calm. The Calm causes her to be unable to talk. On the island they live on, Mirasol, anyone with the calm is known as a monster. This causes Rosa’s dad and Yaya to look after her and to make sure no one knows she has the Calm. Yaya home teaches her. Rosa’s mum also had the Calm but she died. Rosa and her mum were close because they both knew what it was like to live with the Calm.

The plot of Shine is about Rosa’s life and how one illness can change the way she lives her life. She spends all her life inside either studying or on her computer. One day she notices photos of the mountain on Mirasol and really likes them. She finds the photographer and starts to chat with him online. She was warned not to talk to strangers but she can’t help it. She finds out his name is Danny and tells him her name. They decided to meet up but things do not run smoothly.

I did not enjoy this book not because it was bad but it is not my favourite genre. I enjoy action packed thrillers, however I thought it was very well written and at times I found myself unable to put the book down. I would rate this a 7/10 because it is well written and entertaining, however, I found parts of it a bit boring.

Hannah, from Wren Academy Barnet

Shine is a fiction book written by Candy Gourlay, that switches between two stories - Rosa’s and her mother’s. It is about the struggles of a young girl called Rosa with a disease known as ‘The Calm’. Not only does this leave her mute, and with red marks on her neck; in her dangerous hometown of Mirasol it makes her a monster. Because of this her father forces her to stay cooped up indoors, where she turns to the internet for friends. Online, Rosa can be the normal girl she can only dream of otherwise, and it is here that she meets her first real friend – Danny. 

Not only is Rosa keeping secrets from her father - a doctor for the calm -, he is keeping some too. Little does Rosa know, her father also knows Danny! He is one of her father’s patients. So when Danny turns up at the door, battered and bruised, Rosa gets a fright. However, she gets a little more than a fright when her late mother’s ghost comes knocking! But is it really Mother?  Rosa doesn’t think she should be worried anymore when the mystery woman explains that she is really her mother’s twin sister, however she should be. Especially when suddenly her visitor lunges at her …

I think this book was quite good but not amazing. At first I found it a bit confusing, especially when it switched narratives. However, it was moving and made you think about the hardship of the characters. For this I would rate this book 6/10.

Harleigh, from Wren Academy Barnet

I liked Shine because I felt sorry for Rosa as she was mute and where she lived people thought she was a monster. I also liked this book because it shows that even people who are different are still people. In the last few chapters I felt very sorry for her as she found out many things about her mother that she never knew and that the people online can be the same as you. I enjoyed how the book ended as I like happy endings.

Jacob, from Jewish Community Secondary School

Shine is a book about a girl with a disease nick-named ‘The Calm’. ‘The Calm’ looks like a rope mark around your neck and as the book describes it, it is ‘angry, puckered’. This girl’s name is Rosa and she lives on the island of this is a place where ‘The Calm’ is a dangerous thing to have as they believe that ‘The Calm’ is a sign of a monster. As Rosa has ‘The Calm’ she needs to constantly stay indoors for fear of the inhabitants of catching her. One day, though, while on social media she finds a photographer who takes photos seemingly from her window. How is this possible? Does he/she know about ‘The Calm’? This book is about trust and always holds the element of surprise.

I would give this book 4 and ½ stars for ingenuity, writing, structure and an intriguing storyline all the way through. Shine is a book probably aimed at 11-14 year olds and includes 11-14 year old language and context.

Jamie, from Jewish Community Secondary School

Shine is about a girl with an extremely rare illness that prevents her from speaking. It is a very interesting book and it was involving and made me want to read to the end.

Rosa is a girl who suffers from a rare illness that prevents her to speak. She lives with her dad and women called Yaya who saved Rosa’s life when she was being chased by people wanting to kill her because of her illness. Her mum died years ago and also had the strange illness.

The only way for Rosa to make herself feel better about her mum is going online and live chatting with people which she is not allowed to do in case people find out about her condition the other way is trying to find her mums spirit . The day Yaya found her it was the first time she saw her mother’s “spirit”. One day Rosa is chatting a bit too much with a stranger and reveals her mutism but the boy she is chatting to has something to hide as well.....

This book made me feel sorry for her because she couldn’t socialise and make friends also the fact that her mother died is extremely upsetting. I thought she was very brave because she was coping well and made a new friend and that her dad and Yaya were very supportive.

The characters had depth and they seemed very real which made me want to read on. Rosa was a kind person that wanted to find out more about the world and her life. Yaya was kind, caring and imaginative she was always there for Rosa and she told the best stories she could be a bit crazy about ghosts and other things but that adds to her personality.

The book took time to get into and at some points could be boring because of too much detail. But the book was very involving because of the interesting language and the fictional illness.

I would rate this book 4/5 stars because I feel like it would have benefited from another family member like a sister or brother and they could have part in the book talking about what Rosa is like and what is like to live with her in their point of view.

Jessica, from Jewish Community Secondary School

Shine is a great book with tonnes of surprises!

Set on an island of superstition, Rosa has no life in the “real world.” As Rosa is a sufferer of the rare illness, The Calm, Rosa is not allowed to leave the house or she will be in great danger from the people around her. Rosa is fed up of rules, “you can’t do this”, “you can’t do that” so Rosa realises that if she can’t make REAL friends she will make virtual friends over social media. She has been warned before that this can lead to a disaster and therefore is too scared to let her father know about her new friend AND how she was going to meet up with him at 9:00 that night.

Do you think he is just an ordinary friend? Read the book to find out!!!! This book started off a bit boring but you have to stick with it and it gets really exciting! I would definitely recommend this book to somebody that likes exciting books set in real life. This book is quite a quick read because you can’t put it down. 

Joanna, from Jewish Community Secondary School

Shine is about a 13-year-old girl called Rosa who lives on the strange island of Mirasol. But she is different… she has the calm after her mother who mysteriously died. Even though she can’t talk she has a place where her voice can be heard! The internet where she met Ansel95 who also has a secret…  

I enjoyed Shine though I still can’t work out why it’s called Shine! The story changed from present day to Rosa’s mother’s story so many answers were answered and questions I wanted to ask but it all came clear in the end! I thought it finished quite abruptly I wanted to know more. Every time a part finished I wanted to know more! I read it mostly during form time and every time my form tutor said time to pack up I moaned!

A lot of people had mixed feelings about the book but I really enjoyed I like getting confused because everything was explained and I liked trying to answer the mysteries.

I would highly recommend it!

Joe, from University College School London

Shine is a gripping and emotional book by Candy Gourlay. It is about a girl called Rosa. Rosa lives on the island of Mirasol, where it always rains. Rosa has what the locals call "the Calm". "It's got a proper medical name, of course; something long, unpronounceable, forgettable. It's incurable …" It means that she cannot speak, and that, just like the terrifying girl of the fable, she has "hideous" welt-like scars around her neck and is, therefore, shunned by most of the superstitious islanders. But, despite what she may say or think, she is not the true monster; something her father, a doctor, and Yaya (who has lived with them since Rosa’s mother, died, who also had the calm) keep trying to tell her. Rosa lights candles around the house to try to attract her mother's ghost. Apparently ghosts are attracted to candle flames.

There is also the sub story of Rosa’s mother’s ghost telling a much more personal story of her and her twin sister’s life. Which is intertwined in so many ways and has an unimaginable twist at the end. The book is full of loads of twists and turns throughout.

My favourite part is the story of Rosa’s mum because it is very emotional and it is a lot more fast paced then the main story. My least favourite part is all the computer conversations - they were really pointless and clichéd, which I didn’t enjoy very much.

I would recommend this book to anyone age 10 or over because it is a very good book and more people should read it.

Joshua, from University College School London

The novel is original and  I can honestly say that I’ve never read anything quite like it before. It’s also very difficult to categorise. I would broadly describe it as magic and ghosts in the teens or childrens category (although I don’t doubt that adults will also enjoy it), but it is so much more. Touching upon subjects from ghosts, friendship, loneliness through to family and disability.

The protagonist, Rosa, is a thirteen-year-old living on the (fictitious) Filipino island of Mirasol. Mirasol is defined by two things: the extreme superstition of its inhabitants, and the fact that it almost never stops raining there. (Ironically, the word ‘mirasol’ is Filipino for sunflower.) Rosa is afflicted by a mysterious disease known as the Calm, a condition that renders her mute and gives her welt-like scars around the neck, ‘ugly thickenings the texture of rope.’ The Calm is something that the islanders are particularly fearful of, meaning Rosa can’t go into public without a scarf around her neck lest she be attacked as a monster. She does all her socialising on the internet, and this is where she meets Ansel95, her first true friend.

Rosa’s narrative is interspersed with chapters told from her dead mother Kara’s perspective. These are addressed to Kat, the twin sister Rosa doesn’t even know Kara had, and as they go on we see that there is a lot Rosa doesn’t know about her family. We also see how much she misses her mother, from whom she inherited the Calm, who died suddenly and was cremated without a funeral. Rosa misses her so much, in fact, that for the past few years she has been desperately trying to bring back her mother’s ghost. Following a myth she once heard about ghosts being attracted to the ‘life force’ of a flame, she lights candles in the evenings and waits for a mother who may never appear.

The characters are portrayed well, and none better than Yaya, the housekeeper. By far my favourite, Yaya is a Mirasol native and one of the few who isn’t afraid of the Calm: although that’s not to say she isn’t just as superstitious as the rest. Far from it, Yaya is terrified of ghosts but loves nothing more than telling stories about them to Rosa. Yet Yaya is also a mother figure to the girl, providing the comfort and affection she seldom gets from anyone else. I found Mirasol very easy to imagine and Candy Gourlay’s descriptions give the reader a real sense of the island’s atmosphere.

For all these good traits, there were a couple of things about Shine that I wasn’t quite so keen on. A few events in the story felt a little melodramatic and ever so slightly unbelievable. It also seemed to lack that unidentifiable quality that makes me truly fall in love with a novel, although I know that’s just personal. Overall, the book was a treat: an original, beautifully written and very enjoyable one.

Katarina, from St James Catholic High School

Oh my goodness! I cannot believe that Candy Gourlay made such a wonderful book in Shine

When I first received this book, I thought that maybe it is a bit too old for me, but when I got into it I was like “Wow! This is such a lovely, suspenseful and an aspirational book”.

It is also heart-breaking the way that the main character, Rosa, has a wonderful flashback about her mum.

I would recommend this book to adolescents aged 11-16.

Lovely job Candy, keep it up!

Lara, from Jewish Community Secondary School

Shine is about a girl named Rosa with a lifelong disease called The Calm. This leaves her mute with strange marks around her neck. Apart from this she is perfectly normal, but living on the superstitious island of Mirasol everyone with The Calm is a ‘monster’ and if anyone finds her she would be killed. But Rosa is bored of being a hidden girl. She is determined not to let The Calm stop her showing her true self. Rosa wants to be free. 

Shine is an exceptional book with an interesting concept. I think Rosa is a well crafted, strong and inspirational character. I also loved how Shine related to a jigsaw puzzle. You know what the full picture is but you’re not sure what the pieces look like. I’m not sure Shine is the kind of book I would pick for myself but I really enjoyed it nonetheless.

At the beginning I found the Kat/Kara chapters quite confusing because the only thing to tell them apart from the Rosa chapters was the font and although I eventually got the hang of it, it would have been easier if they had a subtitle to say who it was. Also I thought that the last few chapters were very melodramatic and unrealistic.

In conclusion although Shine is unrealistic it is still a great book and I would recommend it to anyone aged 9-12.

Lauren, from Jewish Community Secondary School

Thirteen-year-old Rosa lives on a small island in the Philippines, in a peaceful village called Mirasol. The people of Mirasol only have one enemy and they will stop at nothing to destroy it: the Calm. The only sounds Rosa can make are animal grunts, and every time she leaves her house she has to cover terrible marks on her neck - The marks of the Calm.

Rosa is home-schooled and has no social life, so she spends most of her free time on the Internet and social networks. There she meets Ansel95, and as their friendship blossoms, Rosa discovers that she's not the only one with something to hide.

I thought Shine was a gripping and mysterious book. Its page-turning and I loved it. My favourite character is YaYa because she is funny, kind and loving. What I loved most about this book is how you are always uncovering new mysteries, and keep turning the page. 

What I didn't like as much about the book is that it randomly jumps to Rosa’s mother each chapter, and in the beginning I didn't understand it at all.  I don't really have a least favourite character. 

I’d recommend this book to ages 9+

Lucy, from Jewish Community Secondary School

I am Rosa. I have the Calm. The long, burning chain mark came swooping upon me and smothered me before I was even born, rendering me mute. I didn’t ask for it but I was special. And special like this on the island of Mirasol was not a good thing.

This book was unlike any other I have read. I just couldn’t stop turning the pages! I really enjoyed how different and unusual it was and I genuinely loved all of the characters. It was like I was inside the book, watching everything from above. However, I do feel that there was one thing that could have been explained a little better. Running through the book are diary entries written by Rosa’s dead mother and her still living sister. By the end of the book I understood why they were there but at the beginning it was a little confusing. But this is only a tiny fault in a book which otherwise is very well written.

To sum up, I believe if someone wants a change from the usual, or just wants to try something new, then this is the book for them. I rate it four out of five.

Mona, from Wren Academy Barnet

“Monsters are in the eye of the beholder.”

Rosa lives on the island of Mirasol, where it constantly rains. When her mother died, every night she lights a candle on the window sill for her spirit to appear. While having to deal with a great loss Rosa also suffers from a rare incurable medical condition that renders her mute. 

Rosa is hidden away in an isolated house with only the internet for a social life however during that time she befriends a boy online who calls himself Ansel95. Could this be the first sign of human contact?

When her mother turns up at the front door she was left astonished. Who could she trust?

Shine is mysterious and dramatic book. It holds different emotions that grip the reader into reading further.

Oliver, from University College School London

The main story within Shine is set in the modern day on an island called Mirasol where it always rains. Always. Not like in the UK where it often rains but where the rain has stopped twice in the entire history of the island. To add to the bleakness of this soggy island the community is very, very superstitious believing that anyone with a certain deformity is the son or daughter of the devil himself. The deformity in question is known as the Calm and it renders the victim mute and with distinctive scars and pucker marks around their lower neck. The main protagonist is a young teen aged girl called Rosa who has the Calm and is forced to hide away inside for fear of being spotted and brutally assaulted or killed by the local superstitious community. She escapes her nightmarish world online where she makes ‘friends’. Moreover, one of her online friends also lives on Mirasol and he turns out to be a true friend with the same secret to hide. The Calm. Rosa spends her days alone with her nanny, who used to have a problem which was ‘fixed’ courtesy of Rosa’s father. She home schools Rosa in the day and prays for Rosa’s late mother when it gets dark.

The sub story is about Rosa’s mother, who has the Calm, and her twin sister Kat, who doesn’t, whose jealousy will tear their lives apart. They too lived on Mirasol so Rosa’s mother had to hide at home while perfectly formed Kat went to school and had a life, for this reason their parents gave Rosa’s mother a little extra doing what she wanted and getting her small gifts all the time. When they were older Kat moved to London while Rosa’s mother stayed with their parents. When their parents died in a tragic accident Rosa’s mother joined Kat in London. Kat had been dating a man named John who was a specialist in the Calm and it had been going well until he met Rosa’s mother who he fell madly in love with and so the hate and jealousy began. John would later become Rosa’s father. 

There are four main characters in ‘Shine’ The first is Rosa who I have already said a bit about. She just wants to be normal or at least accepted and the only way that will happen is if she moves away from Mirasol to a more socially developed country where she would be seen as something other than a curse from hell. Unfortunately, John won’t move away as he feels that his patients would struggle without him. So as a compromise he lets Rosa online where no one knows who she is. Rosa has no apparent hobbies and is lonely with no real life friends or any siblings. 

Then there is John Rosa’s living father who knows the ins and outs of the Calm as one of the leading world specialists in it but he struggles to look after Rosa as he wants to move to London for Rosa’s sake but feels he can’t because of his patients. John used to date Kat but then met Rosa’s future mother and met up with her in secret hiding his feelings for her from Kat and everyone else. After getting married the two of them moved to Mirasol where he would be a highly valued doctor and could really make a difference, in comparison to London where he was one of many, many medics in the field of the Calm. Once they had moved the two of them realised that Rosa was “on the way” before realising she too had the Calm and would have to grow up surrounded by the superstitious community of Mirasol. By which point it was too late to return to London as well as being financially impossible for the family.   

The next character is Danny known as ANSL95 online, he lives on Mirasol and just like Rosa has the Calm, he is a photographer and unlike Rosa goes outside risking being discovered. Danny gets beaten all the time by vicious gangs of other boys who see it as their duty to rid the world of victims of the Calm. The final main character is Kat a psychotic twin sister of Rosa’s mother who breaks down at the thought of her sister being John’s preference over her. When she reads an article about John’s research she travels over to Mirasol to torment him with love letters before she arrives at his door and attempts to kill the one remaining thing of her sister. 

Shine is the sad story of a girl who just wants a life and battles through hell to get it. It is probably not worth the read for anyone under ten as it is about family issues not action scenes.

Rachel, from Jewish Community Secondary School

Rosa is home-schooled and has no social life but then she meets Ansel95 over social media and finds out that she is not the only one with something to hide from the world. Rosa has “The Calm” which takes away speech from her and the only sound she can make is a grunt. Whenever Rosa goes out she has to cover her neck with a scarf because of the nasty marks on her neck.

When I first started reading Shine I didn’t understand why there were two parts to the story but then I realized that on part was Rosa speaking and the other part was her dead mother speaking. Shine isn’t the type of book I would go for but I enjoyed it. I really enjoyed reading the messages from Rosa to Ansel95 and found them really interesting. 

I think this is a great book and I would recommend teenagers to read it.

Raluca, from Copthall School, Barnet

Thirteen-year-old Rosa has a medical condition, which she calls The Calm. She can't speak, and when she wants to, she can only makes strange kind-of animal grunts. Rosa is home-schooled and has no social life, so she spends most of her free time on the Internet and social networks. There she meets Ansel95, and as their friendship blossoms, Rosa discovers that she's not the only one with something to hide. She is surprised to find that Ansel95 is not all that he seems. The book shows the two sides of the story, her mother’s point of view, and Rosa's point of view. At first, you don't understand why there are two sides of the story, but then, in a flash, you understand it really well. The plot-line was excellent, and by reading Rosa and her mum's story everything slowly adds up together, like a jigsaw puzzle. It’s a really sad book - but there is a happy ending. Stars: 4/5

Saad, from Queen Elizabeth's Boys School, Barnet

A remote island where it never stops raining, a grim disease called the Calm, and a young girl’s burning desire to be normal, but most of all, to find the ghost of her mother; that is the spectacle of a story told to us in the words of Rosa. 

Shine centres around a teenager who suffers from a terrible ailment which confines her to only being able to make grunting sounds, and causes her to live in fear of revealing the terrible scars on her neck. The unusual island of Mirasol, overlooked by the hazy mountain known as Banawa, is no place for a person with the Calm. The harsh and conservative views of its citizens dictate that if you have the Calm, you are a monster. But one thing keeps her attached to Mirasol: her mother’s ghost. To the distaste of her carer, Yaya, and her father, who is a doctor of The Calm, Rosa lights a candle every night, so that the ghost can find and meet her.

Nothing, though, seems to quench her thirst for social contact. Sure, she has lots of friends on her computer, but they were nothing more than components of her friend’s list, nothing more than names on a screen. But everything changes when she meets Ansel95. He seems... different, somehow. Someone she could actually be friends with. But should she really meet him? Would it be dangerous? Questions no teenager should need to ask seem to haunt Rosa. And something else haunts her too; the ghost of her mother, when it turns up at the front door.

Shine is a book that I found to be unique from any other book I have ever read. It ignites a vast array of emotions in the reader, and does it in a way which is so subtle, yet has so much impact, that it would be difficult for me to find any other book like it. The character of Rosa, and her sentiments, are portrayed by Gourlay in such a way, that these feelings grow inside the reader. Hence, the reader is sometimes shaking with nervous apprehension, or burning with rage, perhaps shrinking in the loneliness of isolation, at times frowning in curiosity, or occasionally tearing up with raw grief. It is this rollercoaster of emotions, the unforeseeable next turn that the story might take, which makes this book so distinctive and special. 

Never, even for a moment, did I want to put the book down; the defiant urge to find what joy, or horror, or mystery the next page would bring, was more than enough to want to delve deeper into Shine.

Sam, from Jewish Community Secondary School

We all have a dream, whether it`s to become famous or become rich, but for Rosa she would like to meet her dead mother. On the small island of Mirasol, she has a disease known as “The Calm”, a rare illness disabling her ability to speak. Thus meaning she cannot leave her house making social media her only connection to the outside. Whilst online she comes across a user called “Ansel95” who takes pictures of places around her area. This makes Rosa suspicious; she needs to find out more. Soon they become internet friends and it turns out that “Ansel95” also has something to hide.

I really enjoyed this book and found it really gripping and intriguing. It goes through many twists and turns throughout the novel.

This book was a real page-turner and made me want to find out what happened next. From beginning to end everything fit together and made sense. I would definitely recommend it to a friend.

Thomas, from University College School London

Shine is about a young girl called Rosa and her mother Kara. Both of these characters have an illness called ‘the calm’. This means that they are both mute and they also have a recognisable mark on their necks. They live on the island of Mirasol where people believe that those with ‘the calm’ are dangerous monsters. This means that they are supposed to hide away at home. At the time that the story is set Kara has actually died so the main characters are Rosa, John her father who is a specialist in ‘the calm’, Yaya the woman who looks after Rosa and Ansel95 who is her virtual friend who she gets to know during the course of the book.

The main characters in this book are Rosa, John, Kara her dead mother, Kat her mother’s twin sister who does not have ‘the calm’, Yaya the person who looks after Rosa with her father and Ansel95 later to be known as Danny. As most of the book is written from Rosa’s point view it’s difficult to determine my favourite character as all of the characters are viewed as Rosa thinks of them.

The novel is a complicated, twisting tale about the lives of these main characters. The author keeps the reader guessing all the time about what is happening and why. For instance, it is not until a fair way into the book that you realise that Kara is actually Rosa’s mother. Also, in the scene in the market place in which Kara dies, Rosa feels sure she saw her mother alive afterwards. For the reader, this is confusing until you find out later in the novel that it is in fact Kara’s twin sister Kat who Rosa has seen.

There are four main settings in this novel; Rosa’s house in Mirasol, the Promenade, the market and Banawa, which is a big cliff face which Rosa can see from her bedroom window. Ansel95 also takes photographs of Banawa. Out of these locations the one that I can imagine the most is the market. This is because one of the key scenes of the novel, the one in which Kara dies, happens in the market and the descriptions are phenomenal. 

Language is actually an important part of this novel. The main character is unable to even talk and yet the language used to show what she is signing is very descriptive. One example of this is in the scene in which Rosa meets Danny in the hospital at the end of the novel. The phrase used is; ‘She threw the signs at Danny like darts being thrown at a dart board.’ I found that such an imaginative use of language and it really stuck in my mind.

Another thing I liked about the language was the use of speech bubbles when Ansel95 and Rosa, also known as Stroppyweather, were talking. The reason I liked this was because it was like text speech so it made it feel realistic.

Flashbacks were also used in certain chapters of the story to keep the tension up and also to explain a piece of the story that would relate to the upcoming chapter. The flashbacks were written as letters addressed from one of the twins to the other. I think this was a clever device as you only found out information as you needed it.

I think the themes were; fear, love, hatred, anger, delusion, difference, guilt, rivalry and anxiety. It’s hard to determine which of these was the most important as the story had many different aspects to it throughout. 

In summary, I really enjoyed this book because it held my attention much more than previous novels I’ve read and the tension remained throughout. In fact the story turned every time I turned the page! I give this book four and a half stars out of five!

Thomas, from University College School London

Shine, written by Candy Gourlay, is about a thirteen-year-old girl called Rosa who has an illness called the Calm, and a life of secrecy with her dad as her mother has died.

Rosa has a terrible disease called the Calm which her now dead mother also had. It resembles a rope burn around her neck and renders her mute, because she lives on a small island Mirasol where there are many evil and scary myths about the Calm she has to hide in secrecy. Luckily for her though Rosa’s father is a specialist in the Calm and she has a loving babysitter called Yaya. Since Rosa has no social life her father bought her a computer which she uses a lot going on social media and chatting to virtual friends. One day she notices an amazing picture of the mountain on Mirasol she eventually finds out who took the picture is someone named Ansel95. They start to chat online and find out nothing but each other’s names. They eventually agree to meet up and when Ansel95 doesn’t show up Rosa starts to suspect he has something to hide.

Rosa would have been an average teen if it wasn’t for the Calm, she can’t speak, and craves an online social life since the Calm has denied her an offline one and because of that she spends most of her time in her room on her computer. Her father or “Doc” as Yaya calls him loves Rosa very much and helps as much as he can to make Rosa’s life normal and make sure she is safe but sometimes he can go a bit overboard. Yaya, Rosa’s babysitter, was hired when she saved Rosa’s life, she is extremely superstitious and a great storyteller. She is also very paranoid but only really wants to keep everyone safe. Lastly there is Kara, Rosa’s mum, who also had the Calm. We find out a bit about her in a backstory spaced throughout the book.

Overall I enjoyed this book even though later it becomes very strange. I would recommend this book to more confident readers because a lot happens in a short period of time in certain places and some of the themes are more aimed at adults.