Reviewed by Maggie: April 9, 2012
Published April 1, 2012 by Allen & Unwin
Goodreads • Buy at Fishpond • Book Depository
Reading an author, who all your friends have already read, for the first time is like going on a blind date. You already kind of go in with an impression because you've heard how funny or charming so-and-so is, and "I swear, you'll love him!" There's also some trepidation because what if you don't like this person all your friends love? Maybe it really is you.*
Lili Wilkinson is an author whose name I've heard from many people, mostly due to her book Pink. I always meant to read that book, but it ended up getting lost amongst all my other meant-to-reads. When I saw the premise (and cover) of Love-Shy, I was finally ready for my date with Ms. Wilkinson.
Love-Shy is about Penny Drummond, girl reporter. She's the school superstar and looking for her next challenge, which she will naturally crush of course. In particular, she wants to write a standout article that will set her on her future path to the Pulitzer. She finds her story on a library computer -- namely, on a forum that the previous user hadn't logged out of. The forum is love-shy.com and according to the actual website, it's about,
DATELESSNESS! Romantic inexperience! Extreme difficulty forming romantic relationships!
Penny sets out to discover and conquer -- discover the hapless love-shy and conquer his love-shyness. Hijinks ensue. Vomit is, well, vomited. Pocky sticks are given. iPhones prove once and for all to be a stalker's best friend.
What initially struck me were the names of the students at East Glendale Secondary College. Rory Singh, Con Stingas, Perry Chau, Youssef Saad, Rin Tamaki. Of course, those names are interspersed with names like Amy Butler, Olivia Fischer, and Sarah Parsons, but that's how it should be! It shouldn't be Smith, Jones, Miller and then ASIAN STUDENT Perry Chau. I hate that. Why should the default assumption be white? Why should there only be one minority? If this were a real blind date, this is the point where I'd take things from just drinks to dinner.
Penny. When I first saw Mandee's status update comparing Penny to Bindy Mackenzie, I immediately started convulsing in my chair. Then I remembered Bindy and I made peace after our two week standoff. When I read Penny, instead of my new BFF Bindy, I pictured Paris Geller, namely Season 3 Paris. If your Gilmore Girls memory isn't up to date, a) FOR SHAME! and b) this is the Paris that begins the season rooming with Rory in DC and ends with her giving a very memorable speech about sex and Harvard. What I like about both Penny and Paris is that they are goal-oriented, driven students. They are smart and they know it, so they're pretty cocky, but so what! As Muhammad Ali once said, It ain't bragging if you can back it up! Of course, there's another adage about pride coming before the fall, and does it ever. However, it's about getting up and getting better. I love characters like this, who work hard and have to work harder for your affection because it doesn't come naturally. At this point in the date, I'm ordering dessert.
The boys. This is where Lili Wilkinson really shines. She takes the handsome, brooding, quiet guy, the guy every girl is in love with, and gives him not a genius IQ but SEVERE EMOTIONAL PROBLEMS. Take that, trope! This is such a needed reality check -- for me too! I always project hidden depths onto the brooding loners when more often than not, there are reasons for them being alone. I like how Wilkinson glides between serious and light when addressing these issues.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and the quirky characters.
Verdict: 4/5 stars, and I'm so ready for my second date!
I'd like to give a special thanks to Mandee of VeganYANerds for sharing this book with me. She's not only introduced me to a ton of new Australian YA authors (check out her reviews for the Australian Women Writers Challenge), she's also taught me some slang. You can read her review of Love-Shy here.
*I was once set up with a guy because "He's Asian! And he likes sports! You're Asian! And you like sports!" I later found out his nickname was "Man Boobs" and my woman boobs didn't hold a candle to his. It isn't you.