cover image Shy


Max Porter. Graywolf, $25 (136p) ISBN 978-1-64445-229-5

Porter (Grief Is the Thing with Feathers) dispatches a slender burst of Joycean prose detailing the fragmented psyche of a troubled teenage boy in 1995 England. Expelled from two schools, Shy is poised between the mess he’s made of his past and his uncertain future. The reader meets him as he’s escaping from Last Chance, the institution to which he’s been consigned by his worried mother and archnemesis of a stepfather, with only his techno mixtape for comfort. What ensues is a frantic collage of memories, regrets, dreams, and an inner monologue that emerges piecemeal until Shy surfaces as a pure if disturbed soul caught in desperate circumstances. His lowlife friends have nearly abandoned him and his well-meaning teachers are not to be trusted. Shy may tell himself, “There’s more to life than drum n bass. There’s more to life than getting wasted,” but it will take a drugged-out encounter with his personal demons before he can begin to reckon with what shape that life may take. There’s an arresting quality to the narrative’s frantic breaths of prose poetry and brief, fractured form. As an experiment in character seen from the inside out, it stands as a singular shoutout to lost boys everywhere. (May)