Shy, by Max Porter
Stream-of-consciousness thoughts from inside a teenage boy’s head.
Why I Picked This Book
The arrival of new releases at the library typically coincides with extensive waitlists, but fate smiled upon me this time.
Where I'm At, and My Opinion
As I delved into the depths of Shy, I found myself encountering a curious amalgamation, reminiscent of A Clockwork Orange and The Catcher in the Rye. Yet, this tale demanded patience to acclimate to its peculiar rhythm, for it unraveled through the introspective musings of a sixteen-year-old protagonist.
(Yes, I’m going to do this throughout the whole article. I’m in a mood.)
This narrative, you see, resides within the contours of a teenager's intricate mind, oscillating between present contemplations, fragments of recollections, and disjointed conversations stripped of context. It seems the young protagonist battles an inner duality, perhaps suggestive of bipolarity, as even his stepfather implores him to cease the mercurial transformations likened to "Jekyll and Hyde." His psyche wavers betwixt confident, even exhilarating bursts of violence—echoing my earlier comparison to Burgess—and profound, despondent remorse, all the while aware and fearful of the absence of control.
It becomes evident that Shy lacks a traditional plot, save for any potential revelations awaiting us in the concluding pages. And yet, this peculiarity does not impede the reader's immersion within the story. Rather, we become entrenched within the tumultuous existence of this young soul, experiencing his life in real time. The temporal setting eludes definition, with allusions to disparate years such as 1993, 1994, 1997, and 2005. Such references may serve as memories or projections of an uncertain future, tantalizingly blurring the boundaries of reality. It's an exhilarating, albeit bewildering, journey—one that may not resonate with every reader.
As I sought non-spoiler reviews, I discovered occasional categorizations of this book as sci-fi/fantasy. I confess, this label left a bitter taste in my mouth. True, the protagonist engages in conversations with a girl, seemingly from a bygone era, whose ethereal presence remains invisible to others. Yet, let us be clear: she is not a ghost in the literal sense. Rather, she embodies a figment of the young boy's imagination, a manifestation birthed from the fertile recesses of his mind, providing solace and companionship amidst his tribulations.
Though Shy may not cater to every literary palate, I found solace within its pages, a connection to its essence. Its appeal, I believe, lies in its potential resonance with those who have navigated the treacherous waters of mental health, adolescence, or the disconcerting conjunction of both. The tumultuous landscape of one's own thoughts often remains a confounding enigma, leaving us incapable of articulating our innermost experiences. Well-intentioned souls surround us, offering their aid—unless, of course, they perceive us as deliberately self-destructive—yet the words elude us, cloaked in the ineffable nature of our struggles.
I hope you’re doing well today.
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Sounds a little like "Wolf in a White Van" by John Darnielle (founder of musical group ' The Mountain Goats'). Both a favourite novel and band.