This is Shyness by Leanne Hall

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This is Shyness by Leanne Hall

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sophie Diamond
Reviewed by Sophie Diamond
Summary: A quietly brilliant and unusual story following the night of two strangers in a town where the sun never shines.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: October 2014
Publisher: Text Publishing
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781921656521

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This is Shyness is an unusual and brilliant story about Wolfboy and Wildgirl, two strangers who meet in a pub in the town of Shyness. The teenagers are drawn together, each adopting a different identity so for the night they can be anyone but themselves.

Wolfboy leads Wildgirl, an outsider, round the darkness of Shyness, a town where the sun hasn't risen in years. Together they encounter stolen credit cards, black markets, sugar-crazed gangs of Kidds and launch a daring rescue mission to retrieve Wolfboy's most treasured possession from the Kidds. This quiet and beautiful story feels like a glimpse into the lives of two people. The characters feel so real that by the end of the book, and the end of their night, you simultaneously feel like you know them very well and hardly know them at all.

Hall is a brilliant talent. The story takes place over one night but the pace never drags, she seamlessly switches perspectives in each chapter and expertly unfurls the mysteries of our characters bit by bit, so as they are getting to know each other, you’re getting to know them too.

I suppose this book could be considered a dystopia to some degree but what’s so original about it, is the rest of the world is running as normal. It’s only in Shyness that the sun’s gone away and the streets have been taken over by sugar-addicted children and monkeys. Although Hall definitely captures the sense of danger in Shyness, the story is quiet, full of thoughts and conversation as well as action. In a world full of loud, action fuelled dystopian novels, this quiet is wonderfully refreshing.

The darkness captures the sense of hopelessness and depression that Wolfboy feels and Wildgirl stepping into the town is akin to her stepping inside his grief and trying to pull him out. For Wildgirl, the darkness means she can hide and settle into a state of anonymity where no one knows about her. The darkness is wonderfully symbolic and makes for a really interesting setting. It’s never really explained but I didn’t mind that at all. The whole book is full of clever little symbolic touches and they add so much to the depth of the story.

The book is uncomfortable at times, which is another fantastic technique by Hall. When one person is opening up to another about something painful, it feels as gut wrenching to the reader as if someone were talking directly to you. She expertly describes the awful sensation of wanting to comfort someone but not knowing the right thing to say. In fact, the things that go unsaid between the characters creates some of the most artful moments of the story.

Despite the complex and dark emotions the characters are experiencing, this story is not at all depressing. It touches your heart in places and the characters’ awkward teenage moments make you smile. I love a book that makes you feel something and Hall’s writing is so raw and honest that you feel everything for these two lost souls.

The story is focussed on the characters so the plot doesn’t really go anywhere. Normally, this would really bother me but with Shyness it was fitting since it’s about two people whose lives don’t make sense to them. Even at the end of the story there are lots of things the reader doesn’t know but we’re not meant to. The whole story is encapsulated inside a single night and when it ends, who knows what comes next? You'll have to catch the sequel (I know I will).

This is a brilliant story. Quirky, imaginative, witty and emotive. Hall is an extraordinary writer and I look forward to reading more of her work.

Thank you so much to the publishers for my review copy.

For a more teen dystopian novels try the excellent Divergent by Veronica Roth

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Buy This is Shyness by Leanne Hall at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy This is Shyness by Leanne Hall at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
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