The reality of a tragic world

The Shiny Guys

by Doug MacLeod

Penguin, Australia, 2012

This is the first Doug MacLeod novel I have read and Mr MacLeod is my new hero. I received a copy of The Shiny Guys last Friday at a professional development day hosted by Penguin and started reading it on the train on the way home. When I arrived home all chores were ignored and I devoured the rest.

Set in a mental health institution, The Shiny Guys is an intelligent and sophisticated young adult novel. It explores the complicated issues of teenage angst, depression and mental illness via beautifully crafted characters and a compelling narrative.

Colin Lapsley is fifteen years old. His family has suffered an appalling tragedy and Colin is now a patient in Ward 44, largely due to the so-called ‘shiny guys’: huge cockroach-like red men which terrorise Colin. Whilst undergoing treatment, Colin discovers a portal to a parallel world where the shiny guys actually exist. Colin shares this exciting discovery with fellow patients Mango, his trusted friend, and the newly arrived Anthea, who promisingly sees shadows which Colin senses may be his shiny guys.

The Shiny Guys will make you laugh and cry, but most of all it will break your heart. Colin is the most wonderful protagonist and reading his narrative from the comfort of one’s lounge chair, it is impossible not to feel sadness at the reality of his tragic world. Yet this novel is not a tragedy – far from it. It is a celebration of the spirit of a unique individual and an intelligent examination of the way in which the human psyche deals with grief and suffering.

The Shiny Guys would be an excellent set text for years 9 and 10. It is rich in character and plot, and the references to Kafka will generate excellent discussion and further reading.

Recommended for ages 14+

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Filed under Boys fiction, Reviews, Young adult

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