Lauren Myracle, but I'm glad I finally I dug it out of my TBR pile.
Seventeen-year-old Patrick is beaten and left to die at the gas station where he worked. The horrific crime rocks the small town of Black Creek, North Carolina. People in town and local law enforcement are certain it's a hate crime and it has to be the work of outsiders. Why a hate crime? Patrick is gay. It's easier to believe that outsiders did this rather than admit that someone from Black Creek committed this crime. While it was hard to be himself in such a small town, but Patrick never stopped being himself or denied who he was. Patrick was left to fend for himself after the death of his beloved grandmother, Mama Sweetie; going to school and supporting himself by working at the gas station. He was friends with the local jocks/popular kids in town, Tommy, Christian, and Beef, despite the many times they teased him about his sexuality. Patrick dealt with whatever life handled him with dignity and grace. Now, he's literally in the fight of his life.
Many in town offer their prayers of support for Patrick, but the truth is they would much rather gossip about Patrick than actually try to help him. Except for Cat. As kids, Cat and Patrick used to be best friends. Cat often spent more time with Patrick than her own family. As teens they drifted apart. After a sexual assault, Cat chose to retreat within herself than to seek solace from her best friend. Now that Patrick is in the hospital, Cat is full of guilt and regret. Does she deserve to feel sad after rejecting Patrick for so many years? In some ways she feels responsible for Patrick's attack. Maybe if she hadn't shut him out, Patrick would be OK? Cat is convinced that the only way to alleviate the pain and guilt is to find Patrick's attacker. It won't be easy. There are some, including Cat's brother Christian, who are convinced that Cat should leave well enough alone. Investigating forces everyone to confront their own feelings about Patrick, when they would rather avoid them. Investigating forces Cat to face her own feelings and insecurities, when she would rather avoid them. And more importantly, investigating could be dangerous.
This was very well-paced. Each chapter is an insight to small-town life, small-town "values", and small-town prejudices. It's easier to ignore what's uncomfortable than facing it head on. Cat wants to face everything head on. She's afraid but can't give into fear because she would be letting Patrick down. Patrick's attack is the catalyst for the overall book, but this is really Cat's story and her journey. Although, I do wish we could have heard a little bit more from Patrick's perspective. Everything we know about him comes from other people. It would have been nice to get just a little bit more of Patrick, but overall I thoroughly enjoyed this book.