Author: Leanne Hall
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
Publication date: August 2nd 2010
Paperback: 272 pages
A guy who howls. A girl on a mission to forget.
In the suburb of Shyness, where the sun doesn’t rise and the border crackles with a strange energy, Wolfboy meets a stranger at the Diabetic Hotel. She tells him her name is Wildgirl, and she dares him to be her guide through the endless night.
But then they are mugged by the sugar-crazed Kidds. And what plays out is moving, reckless…dangerous. There are things that can only be said in the dark. And one long night is time enough to change your life.
Stand alone or series: First in a potential series? The second book comes out in February
How did I get this book: Carla from The Crooked Shelf lent it to me after I was moaning on Twitter that it wasn’t available on Amazon or Book Depository in the UK, as it is an aussie book.
Why did I read this book: I blame it on the aforementioned Carla and her review for the super awesome Aussie Month of DOOM (because I want to READ ALL THE THINGS!!!!!)
(this book blew my mind away)
At first it seems like it is a night out like any other night out and two teenagers are drinking with friends at the Diabetic Hotel.
She: Wildgirl, from the other side of town, beautiful and dressed to impress, out with her work colleagues to forget her problems at home and at school.
He: Wolfboy, a local, super hot and yet low-key, waiting for this friends to arrive just like he does almost every night, trying to forget how his life sucks.
(they do have proper names but that is a matter to be disclosed a bit later)
They see each other across the room and he walks over to offer to buy her a drink. Because of the proprietary looks she is getting from one of her colleagues, he thinks he has misread the signs and so he howls. She is not concerned about it in the least; they have a drink, and then go out into the night so that he can show her around Shyness.
Shyness: an once-affluent suburban neighbourhood that is now engulfed in darkness where the sun doesn’t rise and it hasn’t done so for the past three years. Those who could afford to leave are long gone, those left behind are doing what they can to survive. Although its borders are clearly demarked there isn’t anything else even remotely clear about Shyness. The darkness has transformed the place and the lives of its people. Some walk around as though they are in a constant state of dreaming. The Kidds roam the place looking for the sugar-induced high they love using their tarsiers companions to sniff out the good stuff and Dr Gregory promises the cure to anything. None of this is news to Wolfboy who is a local boy, someone who has been changed in fundamental ways as well – but all of it is fascinating to Wildgirl who could never have imagined that such wondrous things could exist.
(and it is all fascinating to the reader as well, going around Shyness for the first time, experiencing it alongside Wildgirl)
The two walk around Shyness, exchanging ideas and theories, talking (and not talking) and then something important is stolen from Wolfboy and the two go after the Kidds who stole that precious memory and all of a sudden, the night is dangerous and also all of a sudden, this is a heist book. There are the Kidds, but also, pirates and conspiracies and above all, there are Wolfboy and Wildgirl and the things they don’t want to talk about.
Appearances can be so deceiving and so, that night out is not just like any other night out. And Shyness is not like any other neighbourhood.
Just like this book is not like any other YA book I’ve read of late.
It is hard to describe This is Shyness because parts of it are so surreal, it would be like describing a Dali painting to someone who has never seen one. 1
It is like walking into a dream that belongs to someone else, someone you never met and whose subconscious works in completely different ways than yours.
(I realise perhaps too late that this is not a good enough comparison because this could be said about basically every single book)
It is hard to get one’s bearing on how to even approach this book: is this Urban Fantasy disguised as a Contemporary YA? Or is this Contemporary YA disguised as Urban Fantasy? Who knows! It is both and it is neither and ultimately it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter how one wishes to describe it or how it fits within certain parameters because there are no parameters for this book: it is a wholly unique animal.
It does has some recognisable Contemporary YA trappings though especially concerning the characters and what they are going through – there is nothing especially new about what the two protagonists are going through in the context of this sub-genre (loss, bullying are everyday occurrences after all). The good writers of good Contemporary YA will be the one to pick these familiar trappings and add that special flavour to make these original. As such, it is not really the parts per se that matter so much but how they combine to form the whole.
In This is Shyness this is achieved in the way that Wolfboy and Wildgirl are realistic teenagers with real problems and fucked up lives, only they are placed in this wild scenario where anything can and will happen. I loved them. I loved it. Everything about this novel was completely unpredictable. And even though there are more questions than answers concerning Shyness and why has the darkness fallen (it is the government conspiracy? God? Aliens? Are the dreamers dreaming it all?), I felt that I was more intrigued than frustrated, more engaged in experiencing the world-building than in questioning it – this is the mark of a good book to me.
(although I am MOST relieved that there is a sequel)
This is Shyness is strange, surreal, beautiful and one of the best books I’ve read this year. It blew my mind away and I simply can’t wait for the sequel.
Notable Quotes/ Parts: A few cool quotes:
I howl at the roof like a hotted-up bomb doing donuts, full of screeches. I howl like an air-raid siren, my arms stretched out wide. Howls are like songs. They can’t be summoned; they just happen. They come from a place that I barely understand. And then something else climbs to the surface, something black and jagged, something from the deep. Imagine all your worse feelings surfacing. Imagine coughing up razor blades. Imagine not being able to stop the pain from coming out, and not knowing when it’s going to end.
We’re all here to take care of ourselves, and ourselves only. This is how I look at it: if a gunman rampaged through the flats, I’d barricade Mum and me in our place and forget about anyone else on our floor. If the gunman broke into our flat then I’m not entirely sure I’d take a bullet for Mum, or vice versa. When it comes down to it, we’re all on our own. Once you realise that, life becomes simpler.
Hey,’ Wildgirl says, ‘let me into your backpack. I’ve got a light on my keys that I totally forgot about.’
I turn my back to her and feel her fumbling with the zip of my pack.
It’s a lot lighter now.
‘I’m glad you hung on to your bag. I would have had to kick your ass if you lost all my stuff.’
I probably wouldn’t mind that, although if I were given a choice, I’d opt for another kiss. It’s the first time I’ve been so close to someone since I’ve changed. Kissing felt better than I remembered, but it also felt like it was something I had to be careful about. It never felt that way before.
Rating: 9- Damn Near Perfect
Buy the Book:
Unfortunately, as an aussie book, This is Shyness doesn’t seem to be available in the US or the UK but you can buy it online (free delivery anywhere!) at Fishpondworld.
- The image below is from the excellent movie Midnight in Paris, and this is Salvador Dali having an insight ↩