This is Shyness

This is Shyness COVERThis is Shyness by Leanne Hall is not for everyone. You have been warned.

However, I was pleasantly surprised reading it because it was very different to anything I’ve ever read before, and I often find that some of the best books I read are that way, so it gained points in that area.

But, to preserve integrity, I’m going to have to be brutally honest. The first few chapters bored me a little. We start off in a wacky alternate/future world, where a terrible and all-encompassing darkness has fallen on the suburb of Shyness in the town of Panwood. It’s a place that’s been abandoned by regular people and is now populated by weird individuals, renegades and creatures of the night. We begin with a girl and a boy meeting in a bar. She tells him that her name is Wildgirl, even though it’s not, and he introduces himself as Wolfboy. Oh, and he howls a lot through the book. Like, literally howls. And it’s a bit weird simply because he does all of this random stuff like that for no reason. Then again, everyone in this book does, but I don’t know. I just would have liked a bit of an explanation to certain things.

It was difficult to get orientated in this book. Some of the place names – Shyness, Panwood, Saturnalia Avenue, Orphanville, Plexus, The Commons – weren’t fully explained, and while being quite detailed and realistic, it was tricky trying to plot out a mental picture of the places they go. I think it would have been a lot better if there was a map or something in the front of the book. Don’t get me wrong; the sparseness worked for the streetscape, outlandish layout of the book, but I just couldn’t work out where anything was.

What brought me back were the characters. I loved Wolfboy – he was honest, compelling and driven, and I couldn’t wait to hear from his point of view. Once I did, I wasn’t disappointed. Unfortunately, the narrative kind of flip-flopped from Wolfboy’s to Wildgirl’s point of view without warning, and it was hard to work out who was speaking (because they pretty much spoke with the same voice).

Wildgirl, on the other hand, was a little annoying at times. We get the sense very quickly that both of them have a dark backstory that drives their actions in the present, but when I heard what hers was, I rolled my eyes about twenty times. Which was unfortunate again, because her character held so much promise. She was like Wolfboy’s more annoying twin sister. Plus they fall in love in the end. And I wanted them to! There were so many tense, Little-Mermaid-esque JUST KISS THE GIRL moments that stitched the story together quite nicely.

I kind of wanted to hear more about the other characters. Guadalupe, the kooky, kebab-cooking, van-driving, fortune-telling psychedelic witch-lady. Ortolan, the mysterious, shady woman from The Raven’s Wing, who dated Wolfboy’s brother. And the Kidds – sugar-crazed out of their brains, led by the Elf, a villain who I really wanted to know more about. There were others, too: the Dreamers and their funky, occult style of drug-induced sleep, Doctor Gregory, the insane psychiatrist that tries to create problems around Shyness just so that he can solve something, and all the creepy, devilish little interactions between the characters backstage. Sadly, however, we only got fed snippets of this awesomeness. I just got the sense that there wasn’t enough substance to fill in a lot of the nooks and crannies of the story.

I have to admit, it kind of felt like the author was writing without any clue where the story was going. I have no problem with people that write like this, but she could have tidied certain plot elements up so much better. The major twists and turns were driven often by pure pride or greed, such as Wildgirl stealing a bankcard and buying all this ridiculous crap with it for no reason, or her ambition to get Wolfboy’s stolen cigarette lighter back from the Kidds. Wildgirl wasn’t making much sense in her stubbornness; I couldn’t get why she was so adamant about putting herself into trouble. I can see her reasoning (spoiler-alert, just kidding, not really – it belonged to his dead brother) but getting the lighter back is the climax of the story. The Kidds steal it from him, Wildgirl gets shocked by the injustice even though he doesn’t really care, and she makes him go on a suicide mission to retrieve it from their suburb. Then, boom, the book ends. It just wasn’t exciting enough for me.

The book had so much potential and because it took place over the time-span of one night, it was slow in some areas and super ramped-up in others. What kind of irked me was that there were all these cool opportunities that the author created, but she didn’t use them. I just wanted more to happen. She didn’t have to confine herself to the span of a single night. I wanted to see what daytime was like, even though the world would still be shrouded in darkness.

Anyway. Enough negativity. The writing was certainly to be commended. Wolfboy and Wildgirl’s stories were well developed and they crackled with energy. I laughed out loud at times, I nearly tore out my hair in frustration at others, and I liked how intertwined with the story that made me. I felt really close to the book. And I know I’ve just rabbited on about how bad it was, but to be honest, it wasn’t really. There were just a few flaws that needed scrubbing up.

It’s a tale of warmth, sweetness and it gives you a cosy, friendly hug. And so I wont give it an obligatory blanket-recommendation, but I would say read it if you’re looking for a book to perk you up a little, make you look at the world one shade brighter and smooth off your rough edges (while you, paradoxically, hope to do exactly that to the book itself).

About Jakob

Jakob is sixteen years old and is a writer, actor, photographer and compulsive reader. He is constantly around books, and he has developed quite an eclectic taste due to his mother being a teacher librarian. Jakob is in Year 11 at Concordia College and he tries to write and read as much as he can in his spare time (which is agonizingly thin). He recently finished writing a full-length novel and is looking to get it published some time soon. He is also a great lover of music, movies and art.

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