Friday 2 March 2012

Queen of the Night

Queen of the Night by Leanne Hall (Text Publishing)
ISBN 9781921758645
PB RRP $19.95
Reviewed by Nean McKenzie

The sequel to This is Shyness, winner of the Text young adult prize in 2009, quickly re-introduces the reader to the city where the Darkness has taken over one of its suburbs. Things are not going perfectly with either of the main characters Nia (aka Wild Girl) or Jethro (Wolf Boy). Nia is trying to get on with her life in her normal suburb, where she goes to school, works at a clothing emporium and tries to forget that Wolf Boy hasn’t called. Wolf Boy thinks about Nia as he tries to work out what is happening in Shyness. His friend Paul has joined a sect who wear blue clothes and he suspects Dr Gregory has something to do with it. 

The setting, part recognisable, part fantastical draws the reader in with its strangeness. Words like Tarsiers (furry animals) and Kidds (small vandalistic children who run wild in gangs) are explained for those who didn’t read the first book. There’s a build up to the mysterious Queen of the Night character which is not sustained on meeting her. Even Nia says, ‘She’s not what I expected.’ However the nursery she lives beneath is filled with plants which only live in darkness and have special herbal qualities. This part is beautifully described, suitably dream-like and sets the imagination soaring.

Nia is a feisty girl who doesn’t mind getting into trouble so it makes sense that she would go back to Shyness, pulled back by the excitement and by the unresolved sexual tension between her and Wolf Boy. There’s a mystery to be solved, all in the dark, of what is happening in Shyness. To save Paul one of them needs to enter his dream and Wolf Boy must confront Dr Gregory to find out the truth. Nia and Wolf Boy also need to get together. When they do there is just the line, ‘There is nothing more to say.’ While some may find this slightly disappointing and want more details, it may does make the book more accessible for younger readers.

This is a highly imaginative and evocative story with believable teenage characters and issues the book's readers can relate to, despite inhabiting a such very different world. Suitable for mid secondary school age students, particularly girls. 

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