Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan’s life. She’s stuck at JFK, late to her father’s second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon to be step-mother that Hadley’s never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport’s cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he’s British, and he’s in seat 18C. Hadley’s in 18A.
Twists of fate and quirks of timing play out in this thoughtful novel about family connections, second chances and first loves. Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver’s story will make you believe that true love finds you when you’re least expecting it.
I really hoped I would love this book. The promise of this book was a sweet, fluffy romance which would make me forget I ever watched Red Eye (that’s about as scary as it gets for me in terms of movies). Unfortunately, I think Red Eye may have been just a tad more compelling, I mean at least I wanted to keep watching, if only to see what the psycho would do next. I really had to make myself read this book, but I’m not sure why, I mean it’s not like I wasn’t enjoying it. I guess what I’m trying to say is I’m quite confused about my feelings for this book, hence the rating. I’m going to talk about the things I didn’t like about the book first, that way we can end on a positive note. So, here goes:
I think one of the main issues was that I never really connected with the characters, particularly Hadley. I just didn’t really have that connection with her, which kind of meant at points throughout the story I found myself asking ‘why do I even care?’.
The ending felt a little rushed and a bit too ‘Disney’. I can take some happily ever after, but this just felt too convenient. Not the romance so much as the family issues. And that’s really all I can say without adding spoilers.
It took me a while to adjust to the third person present narration, but it kind of grew on me.
The flashbacks. I am a fan of flashbacks in books and movies in general…if they are done well. Unfortunately I felt in this book that the anchors weren’t there. I would be reading and all of a sudden I would realise I was in a flashback…and had been for a while. I think they just needed to be anchored a little better and made a little clearer for the reader.
I was a bit disappointed that the love story didn’t stay on the plane a little longer, it was just something I assumed would take up more than half the book.
It really was a cute and fluffy story, but for me it just wasn’t as cute and fluffy as other books I have read lately. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this book. Especially the last half, when I had a chance to read more than a chapter at a time.
Readalong with the gorgeous Jo from Wear the Old Coat. Her review of This Is Shyness can be found here.
A guy who howls. A girl on a mission to forget.
In the suburb of Shyness, where the sun doesn’t rise and the border crackles with a strange energy, Wolfboy meets a stranger at the Diabetic Hotel. She tells him her name is Wildgirl, and she dares him to be her guide through the endless night.
But then they are mugged by the sugar-crazed Kidds. And what plays out is moving, reckless…dangerous. There are things that can only be said in the dark. And one long night is time enough to change your life.
“This night was ours, just you and me..”
This book and I should not have been friends. I don’t like not being told things. I don’t like getting lost. I like plans and order. I am a list maker, not a risk taker. So, I am still at a loss as to how this book and I wound up holding hands and skipping merrily into the realm of five-star books.
There existed between me and this book a chemistry akin to that between Wolfboy and Wildgirl. I have been compelled to read before. I have found in a other characters a soul sister (why hello, Miss Granger) and have had fictional crushes before. This book was different.
Shyness. A single suburb where the sun never rises and Kidds as high as kites on sugar roam the street, tarsiers in tow, where trouble simmers below the surface. A suburb I want to explore with Jo, while wearing jumpsuits. Hall’s poetic and whimsical writing style brought Shyness to life. This phrase is used a lot in reviews, but again Shyness was different. Perhaps it was the fact that it isn’t too far removed from the ‘real’ world. I found it easy to imagine that this might just be the next suburb over.
Similarly the characters were readable and easy to relate to. I felt like I was Wildgirl, roaming the night with a strange and mysterious Wolfboy. A very handsome Wolfboy. It was wonderful to read a book for once without any stalker boyfriends or instant love without meaning. Wildgirl and Wolfboy are flawed characters, they are insecure, they have fears and they have dreams. They are a refreshing change to the stereotypical YA teen.
This is a really short review, mostly because I don’t think you can sum up Shyness. I don’t think Wolfboy and Wildgirl’s story can be told. It has to be experienced. However, I must add a note of caution: this book is not for everyone, but maybe, just maybe, you can embrace the magic and weirdness that is Shyness.
Just a little of the magic:
“The trees outside scrape their twiggy fingers on the glass as if they want to be let in. I look out the window, beyond the reflected room and into the darkness. We float above the buildings around us, sailing on an ocean of black ink. On the very edge of the ocean there’s a family of taller buildings that remind me of Plexus Commons. The buildings are freckled with lit-up windows; a full battery moon rests above them.”
“Whenever I see my home from a distance at night I think it’s so strange that each light represents one family living their life, watching telly or eating dinner or fighting, going about their business. From a distance each light is an insignificant thing, just one star in a whole galaxy.”
“I look down at the frill of trees around Orphanville and the snaking river, and then life my eyes to the velvet sky. The city beneath me could easily be the sky’s reflection: an endless blackness scattered with pinpricks of light.”
“When I used to look from the roof of my building in the Commons, my whole body would tingle as I saw my world from above. Not because of what was directly below me, but what was beyond the edges of my vision. The world. A whole world out there, bigger and better than I could imagine.”
Now, this is the part of the review I know Jo has been eagerly awaiting. The part where I show you who my Wolfboy is. Without further ado:
Aaron Johnson (playing John Lennon in the film Nowhere Boy)
“I realized that kids everywhere go for the same stuff; and seeing as we’d done so well in England, there’s no reason why we couldn’t do it in America too.” – John Lennon
The First U.S. Visit is a unique documentary which follows The Beatles on their first American tour in 1964. Filmed by the pioneering Maysles Brothers, the documentary gives an intimate and innovate insight into the tour in a style which became the benchmark for rock and roll cinematography.
This is an amazing Beatles film, a must-watch for any fan and a personal favourite of mine. It is easy to see how this may have influenced A Hard Day’s Night and shows just how close to real life their first movie was. It includes wonderful ‘making of’ footage, with audio commentary by Albert Maysles, which is well worth watching in addition to the feature.
This has everything. Everything. Screaming fangirls (and guys). Press conferences with stupid questions. Wild shimmying at The Peppermint Lounge. Behind the scenes footage of the Central Park photo shoot (another personal favourite). Too many beehive hairstyles to count. Girls mobbing cars. Paul McCartney being cute and handsome. The Beatles in a train, signing autographs. Paul McCartney being gorgeous…wait, did I already say that? Oh, and a girl who say “Oh Darn!” in such a high-pitched squeal that at one point I think only dogs would be able to hear it.
This is The Beatles on camera, off duty and off guard.
Now in paperback, the New York Times bestselling exposé of the real John Lennon
The time has come when I feel ready to tell the truth about John and me, our years together and the years since his death. There is so much that I have never said, so many incidents I have never spoken of and so many feelings I have never expressed: great love on one hand; pain, torment, and humiliation on the other. Only I know what really happened between us, why we stayed together, why we parted, and the price I have paid for being John’s wife. —From the Introduction
“For ten years I shared my life with a man who was a huge figure in his lifetime, and who has become a legend since his death. Through the years in which The Beatles came together and went on to delight and astound the world, I was with him, sharing the highs and lows of his public and private lives.”
Those are not the words of Yoko Ono, although many would attribute them to her. No, these are the words of Cynthia Lennon, a quiet, well-mannered Liverpool girl who became the wife of one of the most prolific musicians of the 20th Century. Since his tragic and meaningless death at the hands of a crazed fan in 1980 John Lennon has been immortalised through books, movies and documentaries. However, one story has almost been forgotten; that of the love that John and Cynthia shared and the life they lived through years of hardship before hysterical Beatlemania. John is her story. It is an emotional and moving journey through her relationship with the man she loved.
“Dad was an idol to millions who grew up loving his music and his ideals. But to me he wasn’t a musician or a peace icon, he was the father I loved and who let me down in so many ways…I grew up longing for more contact with him, but felt rejected and unimportant in his life.” – Julian Lennon
“John was an extraordinary man. Our relationship has shaped much of my life. I have always loved him and never stopped loving him. That’s why I want to tell the real story of the real John – the infuriating, lovable, sometimes cruel, funny, talented and needy man who made such an impact on the world. John believed in the truth and he would want nothing less.” – Cynthia Lennon
I didn’t just pick these quotes to make you cry…well maybe just a little. These quotes are heartfelt, while not attempting to glorify a man who, to many, is still considered to be a god-like figure. Both these quotes explore some aspect of rejection or anger, highlight the pain John put them through and hinting at his flawed character. The heartbreak that his success brought to his somewhat forgotten family is also reflected in these quotes. Considering these quotes are presented before the book really even begins it is fair to say they are a good indication of the content of the book. I have split this review into categories of various songs – a sort of playlist for my review with each song relating to the particular paragraph.
Shake, Rattle and Roll!
Lennon transports her readers back to the rock ‘n roll age and tells what it was really like to be a teenager in the fifties. Imagine those gorgeous frocks, the rockin’ hair and Elvis strutting his stuff (seriously, play Shake, Rattle and Roll and have a jive!).
The story of both John and Cynthia’s childhood is told to set the scene. The insight into John’s life is perhaps the most interesting, with an exploration of the complex relationship he had with the dominating aunt who raised him, his distant and unreliable mother and his loving uncle. Both John and Cynthia were raised in thoroughly middle-class suburbs of Liverpool. John even attended one of Liverpool’s premier grammar schools; an ironic juxtaposition for the man who would later proclaim himself the ‘working class hero’. Although his childhood had an outward appearance of affluence John was deprived of a truly loving upbringing. This was perhaps the inspiration for the goose-bump inducing songs written during his solo career.
John’s tumultuous teenage years were punctuated by the tragic losses of both his mother and uncle. This ultimately led to him forming profound relationships with both Cynthia and Paul McCartney who experienced similar tragedies in their teen years. Much of John’s later song writing was also influenced by these loses.
Hello Little Girl
The tale of teenage romance includes anecdotes of stern Aunt Mimi’s reaction to John and Cynthia’s relationship, John’s possessiveness and the jealous Beatles fans. Touching stories of Cynthia’s first trip to Hamburg with John and his love letters to Cynthia are also included (what girl wouldn’t have wanted a love letter from a Beatle in the sixties? I know…stupid question).
“It was as though the more certain he was that I was there for him and loved him, the easier he found it to remove his protective armour…[letting] me see the hurt, lost little boy inside.” – Cynthia LennonShe Loves You
As the book progresses, audiences learn more about John and Cynthia’s marriage and the birth of their son Julian. During this time Beatlemania was at its height and audiences are able to really get a sense of what it was like ‘behind the scenes’ for John and Cynthia. The media attention was overwhelming and unforgiving and it is easy to liken the couple to birds in a gilded cage; constantly admired and scrutinised, but never allowed to fly free.
“John didn’t make it to the hospital until three days after his own son was born – the first opportunity he’d had to get away from the tour…He came in like a whirlwind, racing through the doors in his haste to find us. He kissed me, then looked at his son who was in my arms. There were tears in his eyes: ‘Cyn, he’s bloody marvellous! He’s fantastic!’. He sat on the bed and I put the baby in his arms. He held each tiny hand, marvelling at the miniature fingers and a big smile spread over his face. ‘Who’s going to be a famous little rocker like his dad, then?’ he said.”– Cynthia Lennon“I was proud, excited and a little frightened. It was all taking off so quickly…the more successful the boys were, the further away from me John felt. I was getting used to being a mum, but most of the time I felt like a single parent…it was hard not to feel frustrated with being stuck at home. I loved Julian, but I knew that if I hadn’t had him I could have seen much more of John and that was hard…I felt shut off from the life he was living. After years at his side, I was excluded, just as it was all happening.” – Cynthia LennonOh Yoko!
Need I say more? Really? By the time you get to this part of the book you’re probably going to be looking for some kind of vindictive attack on Yoko Ono. Alas, I must disappoint you. Cynthia refrains from nasty and low blows to Yoko and John’s life together. However, there are many surprising incidents to read about.
“The intimacy between them was daunting. I could feel a wall round them that I could not penetrate. In my worst nightmares about Yoko I had not imagined anything like this.” – Cynthia LennonJealous Guy
Ultimately, Cynthia’s book brings John to the level of a flawed human who any average person can relate to. I was left with the impression that, while John was capable of creating beautiful words and philosophies, even he could not live up to them – nobody can. The book takes audiences on a roller coaster ride of emotions as they are confronted with revelations about Cynthia and John’s lives. Reading this could change your attitude towards John or Cynthia. Personally, I felt admiration for Cynthia after learning what she has been through, although there are many who may not believe her, as the book does challenge the perception that John was some kind of demi-god. Regardless, all readers are taken on a poignant journey through John Lennon’s childhood and marriage with Cynthia’s vivid writing bringing the story to life.
This is a brilliant coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of the Cold War and events leading up to the Cuban Missile Crisis. Clem Ackroyd lives with his parents and grandmother in a claustrophobic home too small to accommodate their larger-than-life characters in the bleak Norlfolk countryside. Clem’s life changes irrevocably when he meets Frankie, the daughter of a wealthy farmer, and experiences first love, in all its pain and glory. The story is told in flashback by Clem when he is living and working in New York City as a designer, and moves from the past of his parents and grandmother to his own teenage years. Not only the threat of explosions, but actual ones as well, feature throughout in this latest novel from one of the finest writers working today.
Before I begin I must first quote Clem and ask you to “bear with me while I describe it. Or try to describe it. My hobbling and pigeon-toed prose can’t do it justice, I know that.”
Norfolk, 1962. It’s a hot summer during the Cold War.
Clem, a working-class boy from a council estate, and Frankie, the daughter of a wealthy landowner, are conducting a furtive and high-risk relationship.
Meanwhile, the world’s superpowers are moving towards nuclear confrontation.
With the Cuban Missile Crisis looming, it seems that time is running out for Frankie and Clem. There are things they need to do before the world explodes.
Firstly I need to tell you that, while this is an accurate description of the story, it comes nowhere near close to encompassing the enormous scope of this novel. In fact, this really only sums up Part 2.
So, let me attempt to explain this epic novel.
Basically, it is the story of a boy and a girl. Clem and Frankie. It’s your typical dilemma, he’s poor and she’s rich. They fall in love. The fallout from this “furtive and high-risk relationship” would be catastrophic and their families would be distraught. Your typical Romeo and Juliet. However, what makes Peet’s novel different is that this is only part of the story.
Throughout Part 1 we are introduced to Clem in a roundabout sort of way. We learn of his grandmother, Win’s, sad and lonely childhood and her eventual marriage to a man she doesn’t love. We see Clem’s mother, Ruth, grow to fall in love with Clem’s father, George. All these personal milestones are set against the sweeping backdrop of every major historical event of the 20th Century. Peet effectively illustrates that although these momentous events (World Wars and the like) are only a backdrop in our personal lives. These things which are historical on a world scale do not compare, at the time, to the fact that you just lost your virginity. We all remember where we were when we heard particular event had happened (John Lennon assassinated, 9/11), likewise we remember the first car we bought or moving out of home.
“By the time I was delighted by the belated arrival of my pubic hair, the United States had developed rockets…that could travel eleven thousand kilometres to dump four megatons of explosives onto Russia.”
“Her name was Julie. I was, it seemed, invisible to her, but one day…she said, “Coffee bar or pub?” It was a hot July evening. The day before, an American called Neil Armstrong had stepped – well, sort of hopped backwards – onto the surface of the moon. This was only slightly less amazing than the fact that Julie…had spoken to me.”
“She left me in May 1979, the day after Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister. It was a pretty rough week all round…”
These are just a few examples of the point I am trying to make. Our own little worlds colliding with ‘history’ and traveling in parallel before splitting again. Peet sums it up better than I can possibly hope to:
“I lived through all these times, these great events, without caring very much, concerned with my own agenda rather than the world’s. Most of us do likewise. History is the heavy traffic that prevents us from crossing the road. We’re not especially interested in what it consists of. We wait, more of less patiently, for it to pause so that we can get to the liquor store or the laundromat or the burger bar”
Part 2 focuses on those two weeks in October, 1962, when two men played a dangerous game and held in the palm of their hands the fate of the world. These men, John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev, bought the world to the brink of nuclear warfare and teetered dangerously close to the edge. Most of those words were adapted from my year 11 essay on the Cuban Missile Crisis. So, obviously this element of the book appealed to me. My essay was cynical about Kennedy and EX-COMM’s approach to the crisis, so it was nice to see that Peet’s view was similar. For some, I know this section would get boring. I even got a little bored when there was in-depth passages about the missiles (to me they all have pretty much the same effect – BOOM). However, for the most part Peet detailed these events in an amusing way. Intertwining it with the details of Clem and Frankie’s relationship.
“It’s High Noon, and the Bad Guy in the black hat stands in the middle of the street of the frontier town with a gloved hand poised over his holster and calls out the sheriff, who is the Good Guy and wears a white hat…He is the one who stand between [the people], their desires for peace and prosperity, and the dark anarchy of the Bad Guy, who will abuse their homes and their wives and daughters. And the Good Guy wins, of course. Even though, sometimes, he is mortally wounded in the process.”
“The thing about MAD is that it depends upon powerful people being sane. That nobody sensible would actually want to convert to lifeless ash the hand that traced the lovely curve of Frankie’s breasts and belly in the gathering darkness of a Norfolk barn…Unfortunately, however, weapons of mass destruction tend to attract maniacs…”
And Part 3? Well, I guess you’ll just have to read the book to find out…
While you could by no means cite this book as a reliable source – as Peet says himself “Clem…is an unreliable historian. In concocting his narrative…he has used (and sometimes abused) material…” – it is obvious that Peet has done his research. Although this is the case it is still informative. I was also impressed that a bibliography was included; my former history student self is in the habit of verifying sources and suspecting unsupported claims.
Peet’s writing was exceptional. There were many times when certain passages or sentences reminded me of that marvellous song-writing duo Lennon and McCartney and some of my favourite lines from songs like Eleanor Rigby and Lady Madonna. His writing was lyrical, it flowed easily, making it simple to become completely immersed in Clem and Frankie’s world. Below are some of my favourites:
“The landscape itself seemed to grieve. In the untilled fields, poppies proliferated like a million droplets of blood.”
“Between the stranger and Ruth a silence stretched above Clem’s head like a sheet hung on the washing-line”
“Scraps of talk, sound, would drift like flakes of burnt paper on a spiralling wind”
“I sat there ravished, breathless, gazing at the treasures cast upon the wall. Hands and eyes that were now less than dust had painted things that were packed with life. The gleam in a pewter jug, the glass on a dead bird’s wing, the mellow curve of a clay pipe, the silver glitter on the scales of a fish, the dash of pigment that became winter light on a wine glass”
“Sky-filling curtains of light furled and unfurled around him, phasing through iridescent shades of yellow, green, turquoise, indigo. They snaked away, faded, returned as brilliantly vibrant cliffs dropping into dark nothingness”
The characters and setting of the novel were superb. While some may, understandably, find the thick Norfolk accents annoying while reading, I felt that it really helped me to connect more to the stories and the characters…making them more vivid and real. I loved the fact that, although it was technically a love story, the audience was introduced to so much more. Rather than parents, friends, and even ‘Apocalypse Men’ fading into the background, as happens far to often in YA novels, each of these people was brought to life within the novel and had their own story to tell. Rather than being solely the story of a romance, it was also partly the story of a family and partly the story of a community.
Finally, I have one more little thing to share with you – my favourite chapter title:
You Learn Nothing About Sex From Books, Especially If They’re By D. H. Lawrence
Late on a hot summer night in 1965, Charlie Bucktin, a precocious and bookish boy of thirteen, is startled by an urgent knock on the window of his sleep-out. His visitor is Jasper Jones, an outcast in the regional mining town of Corrigan. Rebellious, mixed-race and solitary, Jasper is a distant figure of danger and intrigue for Charlie. So when Jasper begs for his help, Charlie eagerly steals into the night by his side, terribly afraid but desperate to impress. Jasper takes him to his secret glade in the bush, and it’s here that Charlie bears witness to Jasper’s horrible discovery. With his secret like a brick in his belly, Charlie is pushed and pulled by a town closing in on itself in fear and suspicion as he locks horns with his tempestuous mother; falls nervously in love and battles to keep a lid on his zealous best friend, Jeffrey Lu. And in vainly attempting to restore the parts that have been shaken loose, Charlie learns to discern the truth from the myth, and why white lies creep like a curse. In the simmering summer where everything changes, Charlie learns why the truth of things is so hard to know, and even harder to hold in his heart.
This novel was so complex and delicate, picking away at the prejudices of one small town and charting Charlie’s coming-of-age in a way that reminds me of a flower blooming. At it’s heart this is a story that lingers long after the final page has been read.
Set in a small country town in Western Australia during the 1960’s the story begins with a visit from the mysterious Jasper Jones. The outlaw of the small town, Jasper startles our young protagonist, Charlie, by choosing to share with him a shocking and haunting secret. A secret that will change their lives forever.
“And it happens like that. Like when you first realise that there is no such thing as magic. Or that nothing actually answers your prayers, or even really listens. That cold moment of dismay, where you feet are kicked from under you, where you’re disarmed by a shard of knowing. He’s right. Jasper Jones is right. He’s really in trouble.”
And so begins a quest to put right what has gone wrong, to make sure that Jasper isn’t hanged for a crime he never committed. What also begins is Charlie’s transformation from boy to man. This is the summer where everything changes. Charlie learns the way the world really is; losing his innocence and naivety. He experiences those achingly painful moments of a first love and realises that everyone, even Jasper Jones, is scared sometimes.
“I think he’s probably the most honest person in this town. He has no reason to lie. He has no reputation to protect”
“Sometimes you know they’re lying even before they’ve started speaking. And it seems the older they get the more brazen and desperate folks become, and they lie about things that don’t even matter. Like my dad with his comb-over, or my mum with her russet hair dye…I don’t know. Maybe they just get so used to it they don’t even notice. Maybe it’s like a creeping curse, and the more you do it the easier it gets. What’s amazing is that they think they’re fooling anybody.”
“What kind of world is this? Has it always been this way or has the bottom fallen out of it in the past couple of days? Has it always been so unfair?”
“I watch him walk. Straight-backed, chest full of air. And I see it now, just how counterfeit his confidence is. It’s a noise, a distraction, hot air. It’s batman’s cape, it’s my father’s combover.”
There are so many things that I loved about this book and it really makes me proud to know that it is an Australian book taking the world by storm. I really loved Silvey’s writing, in particular his easy dialogue. It always annoys me when dialogue in books is stiff and I can’t easily imagine people talking that way or am constantly changing it in my head. This book just flowed. I also felt that Charlie’s romance with Eliza was much more realistic than that of the YA books I have previously read. I really empathised so much with Charlie when he tried to talk to Eliza.
“I am nervous. Where is the sharp ballroom wit that I always imagined would punctuate this moment? My wit has abandoned me. Just when I need wit, I am witless.”
“I forbear a shriek of pain and put my hands on my hips. I force a smile and hold up my hand, which must end up looking like some sort of strange, leery wince, like I’ve just swallowed a glass of…urine and I’m recommending it.”
I loved Jasper and Charlie’s discussion about life and the universe, I would love to quote it but the entire two pages were just to superb to break apart.
The only three things that really annoyed me:
1) The cricket. Which to me was just boring. I know, I’m being very un-Australian.
2) The rhyming phrases. They just made it feel a little childish – or maybe that’s just me?
3) The gruesome bits.
Jasper Jones was fantastic, I did enjoy reading it and there were so many messages in it. However, the whole time I remained a little sickened by Laura’s death (among other aspects). I used to love watching Crime Investigation Australia (funnily enough I once watched an episode on Eric Cooke) and Forensic Investigators and I love a good murder mystery, but this book made me feel physically sick at times; something that has never happened to me before. This creeping dread stayed with me long after I closed the book. But, perhaps the fact that I was so repelled is actually a compliment to Silvey’s amazingly vivid writing.
Despite these niggling things, there was so much that was right with this book. So much. And I am just so glad I read it.