LET’S start with a quick Google search on a reference right at the beginning of Max Porter’s latest novel. The titular character, Shy, a teenager in a care home called Last Chance, is listening to music on his Walkman; it’s the mid-1990s.

We learn the tape is from the Pandemonium Andromeda Tour, Plymouth. Online we read the tunes listed as happy hardcore, jungle, drum and bass, gabber. Back then this was what you’d hear driving around London in the early hours.

This is Shy’s ecstatic soundtrack: incessant, all a bit manic, the BPM 170 and above. Fast and furious. This sets the tone of the novel.

Randall and Kenny Ken are namechecked: DJs and MCs are Shy’s heroes, he craves decks, wants to run a label, but in reality – he’s in deep doo-doo rather than Deep Trance.

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What’s he done wrong? Turns out a lot: “He’s sprayed, snorted, smoked, sworn, stolen, cut, punched, run, jumped, crashed an Escort, smashed up a shop, trashed a house, broken a nose, stabbed his stepdad’s finger…”

Is Shy a bastard of a boy or one sick wee puppy?

He’s Peter Gabriel’s Rael – an imperial aerosol kid – wired on the black secret techno of A Guy Called Gerald; he’s Tyler, the Creator before Theresa May banned him; he’s Holden Caulfield updated for the 21st century.

In short, he’s not a phony. He means it, maaaaan.

You should know Shy, you maybe went to school with him before he was expelled. That guy up the back of the class who knew that i was the square root of minus one but who wanted to be a butcher. He had a nickname like Toffo or Scoobs. He should have got gazillions of Highers and gone to Uni and done Astrophysics, but he couldn’t sit still. You’ve no idea what happened to him. He could have been you.

Like Shy, like the central character in Philippa Pearce’s classic Tom’s Midnight Garden (namechecked here) he’s quarantined somewhere. He’s out of time.

Shy is estranged from his mum and his stepdad. As with the lad in Steve McQueen’s Education (from the Small Axe series) Shy is labelled as a “retard”. He’s got ADHD or Autism; like Fern Brady he has meltdowns.

The drugs don’t work. Unsurprisingly his mum’s suggestion of St John’s Wort doesn’t help either.

His carers, his friends, his parents, say to him things like “well, young man, I’m appalled” and “look at us when we’re talking to you’ and “why do you want to hurt us?”.

You’re lying to yourself if stuff like this was never said to you as a kid.

His mum, ruefully, notes that Shy “turned away, as people do, perhaps boys especially”. This is very much the case if, as with Shy’s mum, you’re daft enough to throw away his Hot Wheels kit.

Maybe you’ve just forgotten adolescent angst. A time of too much weed, too many horror movies. Porter brings it all back in a stunning performance of empathy.

A key line from Shy is his cry to the world: “Stop pretending you know me”. Ultimately, we don’t, we can’t. And yet somehow there is optimism: friendships “seep into the gaps”.

Shy has insight. He knows he’s transgressed, knows he’s sorry; he seeks forgiveness, redemption. Like his Walkman, he’s always on, never off. But he’s had enough: he’s offski.

Like Virginia Woolf he’s down a mine of sadness. We see him weighed with a bag of rocks heading for water, another Ouse, the sinking ooze of mud.

Porter’s language is mulchy and true: we read about V-plates and being K-fucked. Kendrick’s po-po patter is correctly appropriated.

We might imagine Porter as the Callum Innes of writing: instead of using a brush laden with turpentine on his canvas, Porter excels in using the delete button as he edits. It’s what’s not there, what’s not said, that haunts.

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Porter makes us hear the silences, understand the unsaid. The effect is reminiscent of Michael Ondaatje’s Coming Through Slaughter or William Wharton’s Birdy, and we succumb to a meticulously paced pulse of melancholy.

This is a primal scream of a novel, the yell heard here is as visceral as Beatle John’s when he sang Mother.

After reading Shy you’ll carry that weight a long time.