(Original review posted on my livejournal
account.)Why I Read It:
I had been reading good reviews of it everywhere it seemed. The clincher was the 9-star rating from The Book Smugglers though. So when my mom offered to buy me some books from Fish Pond World (this book is only available in Australia), I added it to my shopping cart!
I want to get something out of the way first: this book is strange. When trying to pen the genre, it's hard: it has many elements of contemporary fiction, but it's got JUST enough of the otherworldly to make it borderline fantasy. I'm glad I knew this stuff before jumping into the book, otherwise I might have been mildly confused (though it's also possible I may have been happily surprised).
Anyway, despite the strangeness of the book, it worked really well for me. Yeah, we have characters who call themselves Wolfboy and Wildgirl (which is not their real names), and Wolfboy literally howls (thus the name), and there are kids who are addicted to sugar like junkies are addicted to crack, and the setting is a part of a city where the sun never rises, but it never felt out of place or contrived to me. This is quite a feat.
I liked the characters of Wolfboy and Wildgirl; they felt real despite the very unreal things going on around them and they both deal with very real problems; Wildgirl is dealing with being bullied and harassed at school and Wolfboy is still reeling from the death of his older brother. Watching them deal and ruminate (there's quite a bit of introspection from both the characters) over their problems while they're experiencing these crazy adventures was refreshing in its unique approach, but there was still enough overlay between the real and the fantastical that the two worked TOGETHER in a sort of harmony
The book is written from alternating points of view between the two protagonists, and Hall did a perfectly fine job of giving them distinct voices. They sounded teenager-y without being overly dramatic or angsty, despite having some stuff to be pretty melodramatic and angsty about.
There's an unsurprising romance that blossoms between Wolfboy and Wildgirl, and it was very sweet and kind of slow-burning. There's an obvious attraction between the two from the get-go but no insta-lurve to be found. I wouldn't say there's anything 'steamy', but there's something incredibly swoony about it for sure.
The story itself is rather odd. Wildgirl, who isn't from Shyness, ends up in a bar there with some friends from work. She meets Wolfboy and she doesn't really believe him when he says that the sun doesn't rise there, so she decides to stay and see for herself. While gallivanting about, which takes up about a third of the novel, they run into the Kidds, who are basically junkies for sugar, and steal something from Wolfboy. The rest of the novel chronicles their retrieval of that item. What's enthralling about the story though is discovering Shyness along with Wildgirl. It's a sort of magical place with strange people, and strange problems, but still oddly grounded in reality (though a kind of hyper-real one). It's really hard to explain; it's kind of like trying to explain what peanut butter tastes like -- it tastes like PEANUT BUTTER; it's not really comparable to anything else. (The reason I'm using this metaphor is because I'm allergic to peanut butter and I've asked people to describe what it tastes like -- no one's been able to do it.)Final Verdict:
This is a genre-bending novel that has a strange combination of urban fantasy and contemporary fiction elements. These elements never felt disparate to them; they worked in an entrancing kind of harmony together and turned into this odd synthesis that worked really well for me. The characters of Wildgirl and Wolfboy are surprisingly real, which stands in stark contrast to the rather magical place they wander for a night (though this place is oddly grounded in reality as well). It's unfortunate that this book is so hard to get a hold of because it really is a breath of fresh air and succeeds in execution as well as in concept. If you CAN get your hands on it though, I highly recommend it.