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.]
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)