Penny Drummond aspires to be a journalist. A good one. A Pulitzer prize-winning journalist. In the meantime, she’s honing her journalistic skills on the East Glendale Secondary College Gazette. When she discovers a boy at her school is posting anonymous messages on loveshy.com, Penny believes she has found just the story that will help make her name. Her mission: find him, fix him, feature-article him. Next stop: Pulitzer Prize.
But what will become of her ‘journey of the soul’ article if the love-shy boy is not who she expects? And what happens when Penny finds that her soul might be in need of a little attention as well?
Characters: Penny Drummond is quite the girl; she’s smart, sassy, hyper-independent, opinionated, ambitious, occasionally rude, often insensitive and a tad clueless as to her own emotions. Nick is seemingly the hot, cool guy; incredibly good looking, stylish and attractively allusive. He is however, painfully love-shy and astonishingly ignorant of the world, of the opposite sex and of how to interact socially. These two characters thrown together make for a very interesting duo; thankfully their interactions focus much more on their differing personalities and their working towards understanding one another, rather than simply progressing into a romantic situation. Wilkinson acknowledges the subtleties of making new friends, and also never denies her characters some notable flaws and obstacles to overcome. Neither Penny or Nick are wholly likeable, which makes them, oddly, even more likeable in the end! There are also a variety of side characters who make for fun and complimentary voices; Penny’s dad especially is wonderful, and her relationship with both of her parents is depicted in a very believable and ultimately moving way – again, a welcome inclusion, as so many YA novels often ignore the parents entirely!
Originality: When reading the synopsis of this novel, the plot and overall conclusion seems quite obvious – this thankfully, doesn’t end up being the case. Some aspects of the plot are as expected – there is some romance (or at least some discussion or romance!) between the two leads, but the truly delightful and genuine moments are those that differ from the standard format. There are many instances of complete miscommunication between Penny and Nick, of mistrust and disenchantment, and of utter disappointment and disgust that the two feel toward one another and towards themselves. The novel’s conclusion is, much like Wilkinson’s debut Pink, one of its strongest points, being both realistic and endearingly optimistic. It is Wilkinson’s willingness and ability to veer away from the formulaic that makes me grateful to have her voice and her tastes in young adult fiction.
Plot: The pacing of Love-shy is perhaps one of its greatest technical strengths, as it affords readers adequate time to know both Penny and Nick as individual characters, as opposed to merely meeting them as a potential couple. There is also a substantial amount of time given over to Penny’s interactions with family and friends, which helps to build a more rounded, fleshed-out image of this very three-dimensional protagonist. There are aspects and events of the plot that might be a tad obvious and expected, but overall Wilkinson manages to weave a very believable narrative out of a somewhat extreme situation.
Writing: Wilkinson’s writing style is incredibly witty, vivacious and easy to get through; simple spending time with her words is a pleasure. It is clear that she had a great deal of fun crafting Penny’s narrative voice, especially with the journalistic persona that Penny adopts, and the newspaper content that features intermittently throughout. And while Nick isn’t as fully realised as Penny, his character still seems to be very credibly portrayed and his dialogue and descriptions never suffer from the bias that sometimes shadows female authors and their portrayal of male leads.
Renee’s rating: I am fast becoming an advocate for Lili Wilkinson’s books, if for no other reason than that they are a great deal of fun, and feature a cast of characters that are flawed, genuine and memorable. Would that all boy-girl interactions in YA could develop as those in Love-shy do!