I was born with the ability to connect with fictional characters on an intense level (which is why I woke up in tears after a dream about Augustus Waters a few nights ago), and every so I often find versions of myself in texts I read. It had never been so major, however, until I read “Love Shy” by Lili Wilkinson and decided that I was, in fact, the main character, Penny.
Take this excerpt, for example:
“I didn’t particularly like team sports. I wasn’t very good at them, and I didn’t like anything I wasn’t good at. Also, I didn’t like having to rely on other people in order to win. Debating was bad enough, but at least I knew that as third speaker, no matter how utterly rubbish my team mates were, I could always bring it home in my closing speech. I especially liked being able to pull us up from whatever quagmire the others had sunk us into and save the day. It was much more satisfying to win from behind than to just win because we were good. I wanted us to win because I was good. And team sports don’t really work that way”
That sounds exactly like something I would say (and probably have said, on numerous occasions). Then mix in the fact she wants nothing more than to be a successful journalist, add two years to her age, and voila, you have me.
Love Shy tells the story of Penny and her quest to discover the identity of the boy she catches posting on a “love shy” forum, seek him out, and write a feature article on him and his condition. Penny dreams of winning a Pulitzer Prize, and she believes that a story like this could catapult her to journalism super-stardom. What she doesn’t account for, however, is what happens after she finds out the mystery poster’s identity, and the fact that maybe her investigation could do more harm than good.
Love Shy examines anxiety disorders amongst teenagers in a way that is easy to relate to and understand. There is still so much stigma around mental illness, but the way Lili Wilkinson portrays it is amazing, and hopefully readers take away the fact that they can affect anyone. There is no ‘type’, and often the people suffering are those you least expect. For teens reading the story, they’re shown that mental illness is not just something suffered by ‘crazies’, there could be kids in their school, their class, dealing with them every day.
Love Shy is a brilliant YA novel about discovering yourself and those around you. There are (thankfully) no supernatural themes in sight, and we’re left with a cute, relatable story about what growing up entails. It should be read (and definitely enjoyed) by everyone aged about 12 and over.
Author: Lili Wilkinson
Published By: Allen&Unwin
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