This Is Shyness by Leanne Hall
Reviewed by Noelle and Maggie: March 26, 2012
Published August 2, 2010 by Text Publishing Company
Goodreads • Buy at Fishpond or Text
Long has paled that sunny sky: Echoes fade and memories die.
--Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass
This Is Shyness starts off like a typical YA story, with an underage girl trying to sneak into a bar with some friends, who then spots a broody, hot guy at the end of the bar. And then he howls. This begins a madcap, all night adventure involving tarsiers and kids hopped up on sugar. Oh, and it takes place in a town where the sun doesn't rise.
Noelle: One definition of surreal is: “marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream.” That about sums up this book perfectly. There’s a dream-like quality to the entire book and it works much like a dream on the reader, lulling you into accepting as fact all of the bizarre and quirky fantastical elements of Shyness without batting an eye. I got swept away by the weirdness, submerged in the surrealism. My acceptance gave my reading experience a Through the Looking Glass feel, whimsical, strange, unsettling but enchanting.
Maggie: It felt like Graffiti Moon + Before Sunrise after Hayao Miyazaki has run it through whatever magic machines they have at Studio Ghibli. It is delightfully odd and surreal, yet grounded in the very real emotions of Wolfboy and Wildgirl. I loved Wolfboy, by the way. I expected the brooding, howling hot guy in black to be a stereotypical alpha male who pulls the tabs off his Foster's with his teeth. Instead, he's the guy who thinks "I'm not sure if I'm looking at her too much or too little" while grasping his beer glass.
Noelle: Oh, Wolfie. And Wildgirl is such an excellent heroine too. Unable to stand up for herself the way she wants to in her everyday reality, Wildgirl is delightfully self-assured and no-nonsense in Shyness. It's almost as if all of the broken rules in Shyness free her to be herself. She's looking for an adventure and she'll get it too. Luckily, the reader gets to go along for the ride.
Maggie: Definitely. And even though it takes place in Wolfboy's world, it requires Wildgirl's "real" world knowledge, like the layout of the housing flats. What I love about that is that it anchored Shyness. Instead of an alternate world, it felt like another, hidden layer of Melbourne -- one that I'd be able to find if I looked hard enough.
Noelle: Yes! I thought the power lied in that much of the world of Shyness was based in reality with just a few masterful tweaks. The small details really made the magic. Okay, the sun never rising might not count as a small detail, but still. The setting might get trippy at times but the truth behind Wolfboy and Wildgirl's emotions is what made it so believable.
Noelle: A fallen suburb where the sun never rises, a boy who howls, a girl who wants to escape if just for one night, shady people, shady places, shady pasts. Um, hell yes. Leanne Hall makes magic. Rating 4/5 stars.
Programming note: The world of Shyness stayed with us long after we were finished reading and ended up inspiring us in many different ways. Which ways you ask? Stick around the blog this week to find out!