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Pub Date Mar 07 2024 | Archive Date Mar 29 2024

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'An act of humanity and grace.' Daily Telegraph
'Spectacular.' Big Issue
'Virtuoso.' Guardian
'Brilliant . . . exhilarating.' Observer
'A stunning feat . . . a perfect book.' Irish Times
'Intensely vivid, dark and provocative.' Salena Godden
'Contemporary fiction's bard of ugly beauty and exultant despair.' New Yorker
'An act of humanity and grace, heightened by its distinctive form and artistry.' Telegraph

This is the story of a few strange hours in the life of a teenage boy.

He is wandering into the night listening to the voices in his head: his teachers, his parents, the people he has hurt and the people who are trying to love him.

He is feeling a little sorry for himself.

Shy is a novel about imagination, guilt and boyhood. It is about being lost in the dark, and realising you are not alone.



'An act of humanity and grace.' Daily Telegraph
'Spectacular.' Big Issue
'Virtuoso.' Guardian
'Brilliant . . . exhilarating.' ...

Available Editions

EDITION Paperback
ISBN 9780571377305
PRICE £9.99 (GBP)

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Average rating from 29 members

Featured Reviews

'The night is huge and it hurts.'

Another short novel brim full of ideas, associations and glorious prose from the wonderful Max Porter. Here we experience one night in the life of Shy, a troubled teen in a correctional home who wanders out one night and explores the nearby woods and countryside. The text is fractured - different voices and fonts keep the reader on edge (which is why this is best experienced as an actual physical book, the pdf/ebook thing just isn't the same). Over the course of the night we learn more of Shy's background and get to see a little of why he is who he is.

It's a powerful, troubling and moving portrait of a young mind and the world around him. And it's a triumph.

(With thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an ARC of this title.)

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Another beautifully written, deeply empathetic, extremely moving book from Max Porter. Just as powerful and unforgettable as Grief Is the Thing with Feathers and Lanny.

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Conversations, monologues, music and empathy. I’m not surprised I loved this.

As always a short read that’s packed to the brim. If you liked Lanny you’ll like.

I really don’t want to say much about this book and let people discover it’s magic. Although I tend to be left speechless after reading Porter’s writing anyhow.

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Shy is an immersive, visceral story of a few hours in the life of a troubled teenage boy at the end of the twentieth century. Shy struggles with his emotions and understanding his own motivation and actions, leading him to a series of bad decisions and ultimately to being placed in the Last Chance home for troubled teens. His encounters with adults, his peers, music and wildlife during the course of the novel force him to confront his actions and make decisions about his future. What does he want to do? Who does he want to be?

I also borrowed the audiobook from the library and thought that it was excellently produced, really helping the sense of immersion into Shy's mind.

Highly recommended.

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“Adults tease him better, almost a form of kindness. The boys just rip and rip at each other, endless patterns of attack and response, like flirting’s grim twin.”

Shy is one of the teens at the Last Chance School, where staff and teachers are no doubt trying their best with a difficult cohort of students. A news report describes it.

“[The camera pans across the lawn.]
‘An ordinary bunch of teenagers kicking a ball about or some of the most disturbed and violent young offenders in the country? Here at the unconventional Last Chance school, it’s reiterated time and time again: they can be both.’”

It’s one of those books, like Lanny, that is better to read as hard copy or in a PDF format, so you can see the line breaks, the italics, the font size, and the changing spacing. When people shout at him, they REALLY SHOUT in a large typeface that runs across two open pages.

Following Shy’s mental wanderings is something that I just let happen, rather than try to figure out details. He thinks of what’s happening right now and then goes back to a phrase from a past conversation that pops into his head.

I think it’s an excellent rendition of what it feels like living with Shy’s night terrors and the bullying that he tries to escape by listening to heavy music with his earphones on, drowning out the unwanted noise. When he retaliates, it’s by destroying anything within range.

The boys talk to therapists and gradually learn a bit about each other.

“They each carry a private inner register of who is genuinely not OK, who is liable to go psycho, who is hard, who is a pussy, who is actually alright, and friendship seeps into the gaps of these false registers in unexpected ways, just as hatred does, just as terrible loneliness does.”

Shy finds talking really hard.

“He threw his chair back and stormed out of a session with Jenny.
He got as far as the foot of the big staircase and he turned around, back along the corridor, and stormed in again.
Stop pretending you know me! You only know what I tell you.
OK, Shy, said Jenny.
It’s not OK, said Shy.”

We meet him in the middle of the night with a backpack full of flints, headed out across the paddocks around this big heritage-listed building in the country. As he’s walking, old conversations pop into his head along with his own thoughts.

“The other teaching staff and I feel you’re taking up more than your fair share of space at the moment. A lot of our attention. Just dial things down a bit, please.”

The turmoil of his thoughts and his genuine remorse about some (not all) of the things he’s done are touching. I have so much time for the adults who try to help these troubled and troublesome kids navigate adolescence.

Substance abuse doesn’t come into it, and it’s just as well. Shy’s dreams, nightmares, and memories of fights and bullying are more than enough. Music is his escape. In his mind, he describes what he’s hearing, and I’ll share a little.

“He can hear it, precisely, in his head, the way an Amen break washes like a wave, slots inside itself again and again, fits inside his heart, his favourite thing when it drops down to half speed, slouching, swagger, weapons close to its chest, and then it jumps up, exploding crisp and juicy, [much more]
. . .
Obviously he never says any of this to Shaun, or Benny, he just says Hardcore. Nice. Yeah. F**king love this tune.”

I loved this. It’s a short read, and I just let it wash over me. I admit to having a soft spot for boys who are struggling to grow up, whether it's due to mental problems, or poverty and abusive childhoods. Shy joins my group with countless others, including recent additions Lanny, Young Mungo and Shuggie Bain.

I’d love to see inside Max Porter’s mind! Thanks to NetGalley and Faber and Faber for the copy for review from which I’ve quoted.

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This book made me cry buckets and was a wonderful reading experience. I made me think of the troubled boys and girls I met while volunteering.
Max Porter delivers a book that is emotionally charged, poignant, and also a cry for help because boys like Shy are usually left on their own.
A book i hope will be read by a lot of people.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher for this arc, all opinions are mine

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𝚂𝚑𝚢 - 𝙼𝚊𝚡 𝙿𝚘𝚛𝚝𝚎𝚛 (𝟸𝟶𝟸𝟹)

Max Porter's latest novel is a disturbing story of an extremely troubled teenage boy - an intense and dark read, it's short and sharp! Extremely sharp! Porter's writing is so vivid. He is able to convey so much emotion and imagery through his distinct writing style. A true master of contemporary literature.

I particularly loved this scene:

𝙰𝚖𝚊𝚗𝚍𝚊 𝚝𝚊𝚞𝚐𝚑𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚖 𝚊𝚋𝚘𝚞𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝙽𝚘𝚛𝚗𝚜, 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚖𝚢𝚜𝚝𝚒𝚌𝚊𝚕 𝙽𝚘𝚛𝚍𝚒𝚌 𝚜𝚒𝚜𝚝𝚎𝚛𝚜, 𝚜𝚒𝚝𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚔𝚗𝚒𝚝𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚏𝚞𝚝𝚞𝚛𝚎𝚜, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚗𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚝 𝚂𝚑𝚢 𝚠𝚊𝚜 𝚠𝚘𝚔𝚎𝚗 𝚋𝚢 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚠𝚎𝚒𝚐𝚑𝚝 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚖 𝚜𝚊𝚝 𝚊𝚝 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚏𝚘𝚘𝚝 𝚘𝚏 𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚋𝚎𝚍, 𝚝𝚑𝚛𝚎𝚎 𝚊𝚗𝚌𝚒𝚎𝚗𝚝 𝚋𝚒𝚍𝚍𝚒𝚎𝚜, 𝚘𝚍𝚍𝚕𝚢 𝚏𝚊𝚖𝚒𝚕𝚒𝚊𝚛 𝚑𝚢𝚋𝚛𝚒𝚍𝚜 𝚘𝚏 𝙼𝚞𝚖, 𝙽𝚊𝚗𝚊, 𝙰𝚖𝚊𝚗𝚍𝚊, 𝚃𝚑𝚊𝚝𝚌𝚑𝚎𝚛, 𝙼𝚛𝚜 𝙷𝚘𝚘𝚙𝚎𝚛 𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚙𝚕𝚊𝚢𝚜𝚟𝚑𝚘𝚘𝚕 𝚝𝚎𝚊𝚌𝚑𝚎𝚛, 𝙿𝚊𝚝 𝙱𝚞𝚝𝚌𝚑𝚎𝚛, 𝙹𝚎𝚗𝚗𝚢, 𝙼𝚊𝚍𝚐𝚎 𝙱𝚒𝚜𝚑𝚘𝚙, 𝚠𝚘𝚖𝚎𝚗 𝚑𝚎'𝚜 𝚔𝚗𝚘𝚠𝚗 𝚘𝚛 𝚜𝚎𝚎𝚗 𝚘𝚛 𝚒𝚖𝚊𝚐𝚒𝚗𝚎𝚍, 𝚌𝚘𝚕𝚕𝚊𝚐𝚎𝚍 𝚝𝚘𝚐𝚎𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛, 𝚛𝚒𝚜𝚎𝚗 𝚏𝚛𝚘𝚖 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚜𝚖𝚞𝚍𝚐𝚢 𝚖𝚎𝚜𝚜 𝚘𝚏 𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚜𝚞𝚋𝚌𝚘𝚗𝚜𝚌𝚒𝚘𝚞𝚜, 𝚜𝚝𝚊𝚛𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚊𝚝 𝚑𝚒𝚖, 𝚜𝚖𝚒𝚕𝚒𝚗𝚐, 𝚌𝚕𝚌𝚔, 𝚌𝚕𝚌𝚔, 𝚘𝚗𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚖'𝚜 𝚔𝚗𝚒𝚝𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐, 𝚌𝚕𝚌𝚔 𝚌𝚕𝚌𝚔, 𝚏𝚊𝚝𝚎 𝚋𝚎𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚕𝚘𝚘𝚙𝚎𝚍 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚜𝚝𝚛𝚞𝚗𝚐 𝚊𝚜 𝚑𝚎 𝚏𝚊𝚕𝚕𝚜 𝚋𝚊𝚌𝚔 𝚊𝚜𝚕𝚎𝚎𝚙.

5⭐️ Thank you to #netgalley and @faberbooks for the e-arc in return for an honest review.

#contemporaryliterature #literaryfiction #novella #mentalhealth #adolescence #mentalillness #newbooks2023 #maxporter #britishliterature

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Max Porter excels at creating characters who get under your skin, leaving you unable to put down his books as you have to know what is the story's full arc. I devoured Shy in one sitting - 122 pages detailing one night in the life of Shy, a problem child, a juvenile delinquent, a troubled boy, a vandal, sent to Last Chance - a home for "very disturbed young men".
His self-destruction - both in the past and present - makes for a challenging and heart-breaking read, as you want to pull him out of the pages and try and help him. He's repeatedly his own worst enemy, but is at least self-aware, seemingly incapable of resisting the madness when it takes him in its tight grasp.
Shy is a complex protagonist, creating love/hate responses in this particular reader. You veer between wanting to give him a huge hug, to wanting to give him a dry slap.
Written in a stream of consciousness, from Shy's perspective, you really feel like you get inside his head, and through understanding how he ticks, you get a fascinating look inside the head of someone you'd likely cross the street to avoid in the real world.
Unputdownable. And another great book from Max Porter. Can't wait for the next one!

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Shy is a troubled teenager at a young offenders unit and we meet him in the early hours of the morning when he is sneaking out with a rucksack full of rocks. This is set over the course of a few hours but there are glimpses into Shy's past and his time at the unit.

Having read Grief is the Thing With Feathers and Lanny I've come to expect a weird little book from Max Porter and that's exactly what I got. I loved this beyond my expectations! The stream of consciousness style worked so well for me, especially because there is so much humour laced within the pages. Shy is funny! Obviously there is so much sadness contained here too, Shy has been constantly let down by the world and doesn't really know if he wants to keep trying.

The story kind of leads up to this magical crescendo before we (and Shy) are jolted back to reality. It's just so masterfully done and I adored it. Will probably reread! Which is not something I do often.

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so so so good. read it breathlessly in one sitting. man, max porter is so good. so much vulnerability and emotion in such a tiny book. one i’ll definitely be re-reading.

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Max Porter’s magical (in all sense) “Lanny” was one of my favourite books of 2019 (alongside Ali Smith’s “Spring”) and should have gone much further than it did in the Booker Prize.

This his latest novel, while perhaps not quite as distinctive, is still of a standard to put most authors to shame and combines his Lanny-like tendency to allow his poetic prose to spill over the page, and his ability (like in his debut “ A Grief Is A Thing With Feathers” to convey a whole life in just over 100 generously spaced pages.

The book is set around 1995 – Shy is a troubled teenager “Failed 11+. Expelled from two schools. First caution 1992 aged thirteen. First arrest aged 15” who has been moved to Last Chance, an “unconventional” school which aims to rehabilitate “some of the most disturbed and violent young offenders in the country” but which faces an uncertain future as the owner of the old house in which it is based is looking for permission to convert It into “luxury self-contained flats”.

The book is set over a few hours – beginning at 3.13 am, as Shy quietly escapes the house, carrying a rucksack full of rocks (his intentions unclear but as written by an author who is redefining the stream-of-consciousness novel to look at typeface and text placement alongside language – I immediately was drawn, I think not incorrectly, to Virginia Woolf’s fate).

We are in Shy’s head and it is a veritable jumble of different threads: the Jungle music which he loves; his banter-filled interaction with his fellow Last Chance pupils; memories of his early sexual encounters; his memories and impressions of the various incidents which lead to his suspensions, cautions and arrests; dialogue from his sessions with a counsellor Jenny, some drawing on written reflections from his Mum on their relationship; more confrontational interactions with another teacher; excerpts from a promotional video and/or documentary about the school; some two page sections threaded with reproaches from his well-meaning but despairing step-father Iain and so on.

All of this is played out against his journey in a dark in a familiar landscape rendered different almost alien to him at nightime on his way to his seeming destination of a pond.

If there is something which I think might initially disappoint Grief or Lanny fans it will be the absence of nature and magic – but this changes when he encounters two “bloated dead badgers” and returns to the house, lapsing into a dream where his consciousness is merged with that of the badgers and a imagined 1960s previous occupant of his room (Eve), before a conclusion which starts as literally shattering before ending with empathy and kindness.

Ultimately this is a book which fulfills the hugely admirable manifesto Porter shared in a Guardian interview in 2019, firstly to “chafe against the risk-adverse tendency in realist contemporary British fiction” (he mentions Alan Garner as “probably the most important postwar British writer”) and secondly his suggestion that “I don’t think it is impossible to have books that are difficult or confront quite dark things or are uncomfortably honest about sexuality or whatever it is, while at the same time being fundamentally kindhearted or celebratory about the human condition.” )

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