Book Review | This Is Shyness by Leanne Hall

This is Shyness Paige's PagesTITLE: This is Shyness
SERIES: This is Shyness #1
: Leanne Hall
: Text
: August 2, 2010
: Young Adult, Magical Realism
: 272

In the magical realist town of Shyness where the sun never rises, strangers Wolfboy and Wildgirl share a dangerous night of self-discovery and unexpected kinship.  While Shyness is a vivid and interesting setting for this YA adventure story, I struggled to connect to the characters or the sense of stakes.

Wolfboy is a Shyness local.  Wildgirl is on a mission to forget.  When their eyes meet across the room at the Diabetic Hotel, they join forces and decide to see where the night takes them.  As their backstories gradually unravel, their bond deepens, and the adventure heats up.


Setting, Romance & Character Development

This Is Shyness is told from Wolfboy and Wildgirl’s alternating first person points of view.  Both out of love with reality, their meeting is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to escape the mundane and follow the call of the wild.  Acclimatised to Shyness’s endless twilight, Wolfboy has lost the motivation to wander beyond Shyness’s borders.  He warns Wildgirl of the sugar-crazed Kidds who prowl the streets, and the Dreamers who have surrendered to the darkness, believing dreams to be the true reality.

The magical realist setting of This Is Shyness is merely a backdrop for Wolfboy’s and Wildgirl’s character development.  At first, their true selves are hidden – lonely, howling Wolfboy tortured by memories, and Wildgirl overcompensating for her vulnerability with a fierce attitude and party clothes.  As they grow more honest with each other, they start to be more honest with themselves.

There are changes that creep up on you slowly, and then there are sudden changes that rip you apart, so that you don’t know who you are anymore – page 78

Although both protagonists develop substantially over the course of the story, I wasn’t invested in their growth.  I put this down to the fact that neither their false selves (their performances of strength to defend their insecurities), or their true selves are particularly likeable.  They were too defensive and distant for me to connect to intimately.

Fortunately, romance doesn’t “save” Wolfboy or Wildgirl – in some romances, the love interest’s affection redeems the protagonist’s sorry existence.  Rather, Wolfboy and Wildgirl’s chemistry wakes them up from their self-delusions, and empowers them to approach their still very separate lives differently.  Unfortunately, Wolfboy is a clichéd misunderstood hottie, and Wildgirl is the stereotypical rebellious lower-class teen who hides behind clothes and makeup.  Their “origin” stories were a dissatisfying pay-off considering how long we have to wait for the reveal.


Plot & Sequel

The plot in the first half of the book is very slow, but suddenly speeds up at around the 70% point.  Despite this more compelling pacing, I felt disconnected from the action – the consequences weren’t clear enough for me to appreciate the stakes.  However, I did like how the events were driven by the characters’ choices – their internal growth propelled them through the plot.

I howl at the roof like a hotted-up bomb doing donuts, full of screeches.  I howl like an air-raid siren, my arms stretched out wide.  Howls are like songs.  They can’t be summoned; they just happen.  They come from a place that I barely understand.  And then something else climbs to the surface, something black and jagged, something from the deep.  Imagine all your worst feelings surfacing.  Imagine coughing up razor blades.  Imagine not being able to stop the pain from coming out, and not knowing when it’s going to end – page 110

Although This Is Shyness has a sequel, Queen of the Night, I’m not impelled to read more of Wolfboy and Wildgirl’s story.  In fact, I was disappointed to discover there is a sequel because I thought the success of the ending relied on its ambiguity and open-endedness.  Knowing the characters have concrete paths laid out for them undermines the strength of the ending and kills my enchantment.

This Is Shyness makes good use of magical realism and gaps and silences to create mystery and atmosphere.  However, the characters failed to endear me and the plot was strangely paced and lacked a compelling sense of stakes.  Despite Wolfboy and Wildgirl’s interesting chemistry, individually they were shallow.  


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