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Celebrating Canada

July 1 is Canada Day, which is somewhat like what July 4 is to the United States. It marks the uniting of the country, and festivities include picnics, fireworks, and indulging in poutine (I hope). If you haven’t done so in a while, it might be worth checking out a book either set in Canada or reading a book penned by a Canadian. Here are a few suggestions — and really, is there any better way to celebrate Canada Day than with a book (and poutine)?

[All book descriptions come from or are adapted from WorldCat.]

Martha Brooks

Many of the books Brooks has written take place in her home country of Canada, including last year’s Queen of Hearts, a 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults title. It follows Marie Clarie shortly after her first kiss but before her sixteenth birthday in December, 1941, when her younger brother and sister are sent to a tuberculosis sanatorium near their Manitoba farm.

Megan Crewe

Crewe is the Canadian author of Give Up the Ghost, as well as the Fallen World series, which begins with The Way We Fall.

In Give Up the Ghost, sixteen-year-old Cass’s only friends are her dead sister and the school ghosts who feed her gossip that she uses to make students face up to their bad behavior, but when a popular boy asks for her help, she begins to reach out to the living again.

The Way We Fall follows sixteen-year-old old Kaelyn as she challenges her fears, finds a second chance at love, and fights to keep her family and friends safe as a deadly new virus devastates her island community.

Susan Juby

Juby is the Canadian author of the Canadian-set Another Kind of Cowboy (a 2009 Best Books for Young Adults title), as well as a number of other YA titles, including Getting the Girl and Miss Smithers.

In Another Kind of Cowboy, two teenage dressage riders, one a spoiled rich girl and the other a closeted gay sixteen-year-old boy, come to terms with their identities and learn to accept themselves.

CK Kelly Martin

Martin resides in Canada, and some of her books take place within the country, including her 2009 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers title, I Know It’s Over. Other titles by Martin include One Lonely Degree, The Lighter Side of Life and Death, and My Beating Teenage Heart.

In I Know It’s Over, sixteen-year-old Nick is trying to come to terms with his parents’ divorce and experiences exhiliration and despair in his relationship with his girlfriend Sasha, especially when, after instigating a trial separation, she announces that she is pregnant.

Kenneth Oppel

Oppel probably doesn’t need an introduction, but he is the author of the Airborn trilogy, the Victor Frankenstein series, and the 2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults title Half Brother, which takes place in Canada.

In Half Brother, when a renowned Canadian behavioral psychologist pursues his latest research project in 1973 — an experiment to determine whether chimpanzees can acquire advanced language skills — he brings home a baby chimp named Zan and asks his thirteen-year-old son to treat Zan like a little brother.

Courtney Summers

I’ve talked about Courtney Summers before, but she’s another Canadian author worth checking out.

This is Not a Test begins at the end. Barricaded in Cortege High with five other teens while zombies try to get in, Sloane Price observes her fellow captives become more unpredictable and violent as time passes although they each have much more reason to live than she has.

Tim Wynne-Jones

Both Blink & Caution (a 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults title) and The Uninvited (a 2010 Best Books for Young Adults title) are set in Canada, and they’re both written by a Canadian.

Blink & Caution follows two teenagers who are living on the streets of Toronto and barely getting by as they become involved in a complicated criminal plot and make an unexpected connection with each other.

The Uninvited follows Mimi after a disturbing freshman year at New York University. She is happy to get away to her father’s remote Canadian cottage — only to discover a stranger living there who has never heard of her or her father and who is convinced that Mimi is responsible for leaving sinister tokens around the property.

Other books set in Canada

Some of these books have Canadian authors and others do not. But they are all partially — or wholly — set in Canada.

Restoring Harmony by Joelle Anthony: Ten years after the Great Collapse of 2031, sixteen-year-old Molly McClure, with only her fiddle for company, leaves the safety of her family’s island home to travel through a dangerous and desolate wasteland on her way to Oregon to find her grandparents in the hopes of persuading them to return with her to Canada.

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake (a 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults title): For three years, seventeen-year-old Cas Lowood has carried on his father’s work of dispatching the murderous dead, traveling with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat, but everything changes when he meets Anna, a girl unlike any ghost he has faced before.

Above by Leah Bobet: When insane exile Corner and his army of mindless, whispering shadows invade Safe, a secret, underground community of freaks and disabled outcasts, Matthew, traumatized shapeshifter Ariel, and other misfits go to the dangerous place known as Above, where Matthew makes a shocking discovery about the histories entrusted to him. Takes place in a future Toronto.

The Braid by Helen Frost (A 2007 Best Books for Young Adults title): Two Scottish sisters, living on the western island of Barra in the 1850s, relate in alternate voices and linked narrative poems their experiences after their family is forcibly evicted and separated, with one sister accompanying their parents and younger siblings to Cape Breton, Canada, and the other staying behind with other family on the small island of Mingulay.

Money Boy by Paul Yee (a 2012 ALA Stonewall Honoree): Young immigrant Ray Liu is struggling to adjust to North American life. When his father discovers Ray has been cruising gay websites, the teen is kicked out of the family home. He heads to downtown Toronto, where the harsh reality of street life hits him.

Do you have a favorite Canadian YA Lit title or author? If you do, share it in the comments.

— Kelly Jensen, currently reading Through to You by Emily Hainsworth (who is not a Canadian)

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  1. Sarah Debraski Sarah Debraski

    I read Tripping by Heather Waldorf for the reading challenge and LOVED it. It’s about a girl on road trip across Canada with a group of teens. It’s a school run program, so meant to be very educational. Waldorf does a great job of sprinkling in Canadian history and facts, but in such a way that it’s just very interesting and natural. It’s also a great story about the main character and her family and finding herself.

  2. Happy Canada Day! Other Canadian favourites?
    -Graham McNamee’s Acceleration (Beyond coming in Sept.)
    -Catherine Austen’s All Good Children (currently nominated for BFYA and Teen’s Top 10),
    -Polly Horvath (there is a sequel to Everything on a Waffle coming in Sept.!)
    -Martine Leavitt (Keturah and Lord Death, new title in Sept.)
    -Deborah Ellis (Breadwinner trilogy; No Ordinary Day)
    -Sarah Ellis (from Pick Up Stick to That Fatal Night)
    -Sally M. Walker also had a lovely nonfiction title last year about the Halifax explosion called Blizzard of Glass that was chosen for the Notables list.

    Lots of others!

  3. Stacy Dillon Stacy Dillon

    Don’t forget Marthe Jocelyn. Would You is a great YA title!

  4. Plain Kate, by Erin Bow (Arthur A. Levine, 2010) Perfect fantasy with a foundation of folklore and scads of invention.

    Ultraviolet, by R. J. Anderson (Carolrhoda Lab, 2011) Sci-Fi spliced so delicately into contemporary realism.

  5. Karma, a YA novel in verse by Cathy Ostlere – set in Canada and India during the 1984 Sikh uprising – stunning. (my no-spoiler recommendation:

    Pieces of Me, by Charlotte Gingras, translated by SusanOuriou – Mira copes with her mother’s mental illness amid worries of fitting in at high school. (

    Suspense in Gold Rush country – Who Is Frances Rain? by Margaret Buffie (

    And another thumbs-up for Erin Bow & her Plain Kate (

  6. The Book of Time trilogy (The Book of Time, The Gate of Days, The Circle of Gold) involving time travel, greedy villains, and a young teen’s broken heart following his mother’s death – begins, loops back, and ends in today’s Quebec. By Guillaume Prevost of France, translated by William Rodarmor.

  7. Happy Canada Day! Though author Cecil Castellucci lives in Los Angeles, now, she’s Canadian, through and through. I’m especially a fan of PLAIN JANES, BEIGE, and her latest release the innovation graphic novel/prose hybrid she did with Nate Powell, THE YEAR OF THE BEASTS.

  8. Amanda Barnhart Amanda Barnhart

    Nice! Two votes for Plain Kate. It’ll need to be added to my to-read list. Although she’s US born, Lena Croakley lives in Canada. Witchlanders was excellent and a great match for those who like Cinda Williams Chima. There’s also Arthur Slade and his Hunchback Assignments series.

  9. Avery @ Avery's Book Nook Avery @ Avery's Book Nook

    Some of Kelley Armstrong’s books are set in Canada- the most recent being THE GATHERING and THE CALLING. Also, I don’t think that there is anything better than a classic Eric Walters like RUN or RICKY.

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