Review Blog

Sep 11 2013

The shiny guys by Doug Macleod

cover image

Penguin, 2012. ISBN 9780143565307.
The shiny guys is a bold, abrasive and surprisingly funny novel, akin to Ken Kesey's One flew over the cuckoo's nest in terms of subject matter, and worthy of similar praise.
The story concerns a 15-year old boy who has been admitted to an asylum during the 1980s, a time when the treatment of mental health patients was still radical but beginning to be questioned.
From the first page, each word seems hand picked, like a meticulously compiled string of sentences. Despite the strength of the writing, each word has an irresistible urgency and secrecy, as though betraying too much of it to another would be breaking some intimate vow.
Doug Macleod presents teenagers with a genuinely smart, genuinely funny and genuinely hard-hitting piece of collage writing. He combines normal contemporary prose with letters, transcribed conversations and other styles. This format is wildly eclectic and effective, allowing for the disjointed characters and dialogue to be presented in a way that serves rather than stifles their quirks.
The mixed-up writing almost recalls Beat Generation poetry, whimsical and dark, equally edgy and translucent.
The shiny guys is a strong, nostalgic and never accusatory literary nod towards the treacherous mental health system of times gone by, but more importantly the fragile health in question of young people. It poignantly recollects and highlights the institutional damage inflicted on those who are already damaged.
An intelligent read recommended for teenagers looking for something with bite, but enough heart to balance the dark.
Henry Vaughan (Student)

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