Review Blog

Oct 22 2010

This is Shyness by Leanne Hall

cover image

Text, 2010. ISBN 97819216556521.
(Age 15+) Highly recommended. Winner of the 2009 Text Prize for Young Adult and Children's Writing, Leanne Hall has written a mesmerising tale set in Shyness, a suburb where there is perpetual darkness. When she is out on a mission to forget her life, her mother and her mother's Internet date, Wildgirl meets a strange boy at the Diabetic Hotel. He introduces himself as Wolfboy and together they go out on an adventure exploring Shyness, where the sun doesn't rise and danger prowls the streets. Wolfboy takes Wildgirl to a club, inhabited by people dripping in wealth and glamour as well as a black market shop behind a bowling alley. Walking through a park, they are mugged by a gang called the Kidds, who are sugar-crazed and use tarsiers, monkey like creatures to steal Wildgirl's lighter. Then the adventure hots up as they go on a quest to recover it.
This is a totally original book with a story line that I haven't encountered anywhere before. Telling the story in alternative chapters by Wolfboy and Wildgirl, Hall took me on a roller coaster ride to unexpected and surprising places. Wolfboy and Wildgirl are engaging characters and I was fascinated to learn their stories as the book progressed. Their problems and how they face them are gradually revealed as they get to know each other during one night. Wolfboy is struggling to come to terms with the death of his brother and the child that he left behind and this is revealed early in the book. Wildgirl's problems however take longer to be exposed.
This is not an easy book to write about as the plot, setting and ideas are so unique. It would be a great class text for older students as there are so many ideas to consider in it. Themes of cyberbullying, suicide, grief, greed, and addiction are interwoven in a suspenseful chase through the darkness.
At the end, I was left with many questions and things to think about. Is the Darkness real, or is it darkness of the mind? Does the sun rise or not? Is the book really set in the future?
What more can you ask of a book that it is original, beautifully written, moving and memorable? An amazing debut, This is Shyness is a book that shouldn't be missed and deserves a place on library shelves.
Pat Pledger

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