Exciting and radical, this tale of a troubled teenager explodes on the page

Hidden away at the Last Chance Reformatory School for “very disturbed young men,” Shy does his best to hide. Just him, his mixtapes and his backpack. But that’s not so easy when a bunch of do-gooder teachers are walking him through those hellish behavior maps, or a TV crew is pointing their cameras in his face to make a documentary about the upcoming Last Chance closure.

And now the other children are turning against him too; tease him, steal his things. So Shy takes a break and flees into a haunted night of voices and memories ringing out in a cacophonous chorus: family, friends, girls, drugs. The punk whose face he slashed open with a broken bottle.

Max Porter revels in pop culture nostalgia in Shy.

Max Porter revels in pop culture nostalgia in Shy.

Similar to Max Porter’s earlier books, Mourning is the thing with feathers And lanny, Shy is an interrogation of young masculinity cast through the lens of wildly kaleidoscopic experimentation. On a purely aesthetic level, it explodes like a Catherine wheel on its side. Bold passages here, changed fonts and sizes there, whole sentences run over double pages or even on the back of the sheet.

And yet, for all his joyous stylistic devotion, Shy is much more isolated than its predecessors, containing both time – the whole book takes place over the course of a few hours – and nature. Left alone with his thoughts, Shy is just a teenager trying to make sense of his messed up life. How did he get here? Can he ever really get out? What future does someone have who has left society?



There’s an obvious comparison to Holden Caulfield, but it does Shy a disservice. Porter is not interested in simply creating a portrait of youthful anomie for the new era. He wants us to face our own prejudices and sift through the contents of our collective, too-hard basket. Understand.

As Shy trudges through the English countryside, Porter lets the warring factions of his psyche fight without judgment or stubborn intervention. His memories sparkle and bubble, with long streams of consciousness, mumble rap passages punctuated with staccato outbursts of anger and frustration. Somewhere in the cracks there is also hope.

It’s a radical act of empathy, confusing at first, but once you get the rhythm, exciting and insightful. It’s also a rare instance of accessible experimentation that invites the reader into its world and opens them to the workings of a broken mind. Through Shy, we glimpse an entire social ecosystem that predates today’s mod-cons and hyper-medicalization. His world seems almost anachronistic, without mobile phones, streaming platforms and routine diagnoses.

In fact, Porter revels in pop culture nostalgia. Shy is heavily steeped in ’90s music, the prose often pulsing to a backbeat of drum and bass; a Portishead song of the damned. For the kids of Last Chance, this unironic Ali-G-Patois, for all his posing, cute and funny, is a source of both sanctuary and independence in an otherwise heavily outlaw world. It’s this world—of underfunded and underresourced schools, overzealous law enforcement agencies, and persistent system failures—that Porter takes out his anger for.

Jaclyn Diaz

InternetCloning is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – admin@internetcloning.com. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Related Articles

Back to top button