Max Porter’s novella Shy is a profoundly moving and confronting story of a teenage boy sent to a boarding school for young delinquent boys. Like Porter’s two previous works of fiction, Grief is the Thing with Feathers and Lanny, this new work requires us to piece together a fragmented narrative to understand, in this case, the depths of Shy’s hostility, guilt and vulnerability as he reflects on his experiences of family, sex and therapy.
It’s not an easy read, either emotionally or stylistically, but it’s well worth the effort. Shy is an astute expression of Porter’s empathetic imagination; it asks us to understand rather than merely judge a deeply troubled young man. Read it in one sitting to experience the turmoil and intensity of Shy’s inner life and his arduous struggle for recovery.
Things keep slipping up for Shy. All he wants is sex, spliffs and his own turntables, and for all the red noise in his mind to disappear. But again and again he spirals past his senses and ends up with his head in his hands and carnage around him.
He's been kicked out of two schools, been cautioned, arrested, stabbed his stepdad in the finger and bottled a former Tumble Tots playmate, but it's the taunts and teasing of his new schoolmates that haunt Shy.
At Last Chance - a home for 'very disturbed young men' - he is surrounded by people who want to help him, but his night terrors aren't getting any better.
So tonight he's stepping into it, with the haunted beginnings of a plan .