‘He’s a dickhead, that’s what he is.’
‘What sort? There are many different varieties.’

This is Shyness

This is Shyness by Leanne Hall won the 2009 Text Prize for YA and Children’s Writing. How could it not with lines like that!?

I would have blogged about Shyness in time for its release on 2 August, many weeks ago, but some very malevolent monsters got in the way, and they were in no way pretty, whatsoever. These words could still be sitting somewhere in the nether regions of the network if not for one angry mother and a grasshopper. It’s good to get your emotions out, but I really don’t think the grasshopper had any business handing out advice after the txts he sent me a week ago (altho I’ve since got him back). As much as I’d like to I can’t repeat those txts here because I’ve never encountered an angry grasshopper and now’s not the time to start. While receiving the grasshopper’s wisdom I even got some healthy eating tips which may have been caused by him watching me devour a whole pizza. That night was an interesting occurrence as the grasshopper lives in the vicinity of Shyness and I live on the other side of the universe continent. The pizza banquet may have been due to a glitch in the space time continuum or perhaps modern air travel. As well as pizza there were many skulls at the banquet, but I’m kind of going off topic.

Back to This is Shyness. I’m in LOVE ie. capital letter love :P I have to go to Shyness. I meticulously took note of all the landmarks so I could work out the exact location and feel the “thin layer of static over everything” that makes it hard to “see what’s really going on.” I haven’t quite pinned it down yet. In texting some of the landmarks to my guardian angel (who lived longer in the vicinity of Shyness than the grasshopper) he replied,

u sound lost

That’s why I’m asking, you d#@*!

But you might like to know what you’re getting into before deciding if Shyness is the place for you. Wildgirl is incredulous when Wolfboy tells her the sun never rises in Shyness. When they go to the border on Grey Street, it’s hard to tell if what he says is true cos its night and all. Wildgirl suggests they stay out all night in Shyness, so she can see what happens at sunrise for herself. Shyness is a dangerous place if you don’t know what you’re getting into, but Wolfboy lives there, what could possibly go wrong?

Everything: sugar crazed Kidds bailing the two up for lollies, chocolate, whatever (Wolfboy forgot to ask if Wildgirl was carrying), hours later realizing the Kidds had stolen Wolfboy’s treasured lighter (Wolfboy was lulled into thinking the one behind was off his head on sugar), and Wildgirl deciding the only way to get it back is break into the Kidds’ lair Orphanville, twelve tower blocks of flats, securely fenced and guarded by occupying Kidds. But with a credit card from Future-Bank, a hot pink ukulele and know-how from both sides of the river, they might just make it through the night.

Wildgirl and Wolfboy alternate chapters from their point of view, although not always one each. To ensure my easily confused brain didn’t, chapter numbers have a numeral for Wildgirl’s and the number as a word for Wolfboy, a clever design device. The cover completes W.H. Chong’s mastery of visual decadence (although the book i have in my hand looks a lot better than the pic above). I particularly like the font of the title, trying to escape its bounds on the page, but only on Wildgirl’s half of the cover.

LH went to the School for Metaphors. I repeatedly sit the entrance exam, but sadly “the sky was elephant skin grey” doesn’t cut it. Here’s some of what LH learnt at the illustrious institution:

Graffiti splatters over every available surface.
Would night fall over me gently like a velvety curtain?*
Let me get to the shimmery oasis of adulthood.
There’s a pause so yawning I can’t help but think about what it would be like to lean in and kiss her.
The moon has disappeared behind an armada of clouds.
Heat fuzzes from the old pipes and they creak like snoring babies.
Her movements send doppelganger shadows flashing across the walls.

I don’t even know if this is a metaphor (another reason I can’t pass the exam) but it whispers on my tongue.

Every noise has been sucked from the air and replaced with a tasteful hush.

There are loose threads coming out everywhere at the close of the night in Shyness. They tangle among my fingers and won’t let me go. I realise the night ends when the sun rises (yes it doesn’t rise in Shyness, but they’d hopped the line back to Panwood) so whatever was going on couldn’t be explained as the story was about one night. But I have this nagging feeling someone is planning a sqequel. Oh LH, how could you be lured by that false idol who promises so much, but gives so little?

The Ceiling Wax Guide to Sqequels

  • Readers: I know you’re hungry for more wizards, vampires, werewolves, whatever, but resist. Variety is actually quite fun.
  • Publishers: I know they’re the big cash cow and all, but, but, but…
  • Writers everywhere: Don’t fall for it. It will only end in tears and 10 books with exactly the same words. Alternately take some tips from the masters and read The Last Days by Scott Westerfeld and The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta.** Read them in that order and you’ll get your vampire fix out of the way and never have to write about them. You can read both without even knowing they’re sqequels, therein lies the art to writing a sqequel of divine origin.
  • LH: You sucked me so far into Shyness I haven’t yet found my way out, but please don’t waste your boundless talent on too many of the dastardly things (sqequels I mean, not Shyness itself). Remember all those other magical places that swirl in your thoughts, yearning for freedom.

*Similes are also taught at the School for Metaphors
**No they are not a book and its sequel. Both have a predecessor which you can read before or after.