In 'Shy,' a troubled teenage boy gets a last chance

Person poses with arms crossed next to separate photo of book cover
Max Porter's latest novel, "Shy," details one crazy night in the life of a troubled teenage boy who’s plotted his escape from the Last Chance boarding school.
Portrait by Betty Bhandari; book cover courtesy of Graywolf Press

Shy, the teenage boy at the heart of Max Porter’s latest novel, defies classification.

He is moody and violent, traits which heartbreak his mother and get him sent to the Last Chance boarding school.

He is also sensitive and vulnerable, a boy who seems to be missing a layer of skin to protect himself from the world’s hypocrisy and starkness.

This paradox is at the heart of “Shy” — and in fact, the heart of most teenagers. Porter took pains to not describe Shy’s inner world but to transcribe it. His novel is a collection of jumbled thoughts, inner speak, lyrics and beats from the night Shy attempts to escape the boarding school.

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Like a cut, “Shy” stings and reminds us we are alive.

Don’t miss this week’s Big Books and Bold Ideas, when host Kerri Miller talks with Porter. It’s a conversation that ranges from parenting teenage boys to junglist music, to the importance of literacy and the essentialness of trees.


Use the audio player above to listen to the podcast version of the conversation.

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