Shyness is the suburb where it is always night, where gangs of orphaned Kidds roam the streets, full of threat and menace, where two people, Wolfboy and Wildgirl meet, both desperate to hide from what confronts them in their lives. The book takes them both through one long night, at the end of which they are both more ready to begin to try and deal with the emotional blackness which has been overwhelming them.
The book would translate well into the sort of sophisticated animation which draws on the world of comic books and computer games played out in dystopian landscapes. The characters are recognisable alternative stereotypes – Wildgirl’s attention-grabbing clothes and smart, snappy dialogue, Wolfboy’s dark good looks and proclivity for howling. The narrative could have stalled creatively here, but it doesn’t. It punches on imaginatively the mutual attraction between the characters to bond them together, first in an exploration of Shyness’s distinctive setting and later into a tense and dangerous raid to retrieve Wolfboy’s brother’s lighter, the only thing of his which Wolfboy possesses following Gram’s suicide.
The night-long journey allows the reader to learn about Wildgirl and Wolfboy as they learn about each other. Each complements the other- Wildgirl’s outgoing and fearless personality is set against Wolfboy’s reluctance to put himself in the spotlight. There is a sexual tension between them which draws the reader in and which is subtly resolved. Both learn from the other and from their environment, which is menacing and pitiful by turn. The reader is left with many questions – about the nature of Shyness and the reason for its predicament – but there are also certainties. The biggest of these is that after their long night’s journey there are ways forward for both protagonists so that they need no longer hide behind their assumed identities-indeed, their real names are revealed-but can take the first tentative steps towards finding their true selves.