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O Canada: Canadian YA Authors

2013 March 27
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Canadian flagAsk anyone to name a Canadian author they’re familiar with. You might hear the names Lucy Maud Montgomery or Margaret Atwood. For a country that’s our neighbor and with whom we share ALA Conferences, we don’t know as much about their authors as we should — particularly YA authors. Maybe that’s because not everything published in Canada makes its way here. I realized this when I saw the ten books shortlisted for the Canadian Library Association (CLA) 2013 Young Adult Book Award. There were several I’d never heard of.

The finalists, in alphabetical order by author, are:

  • The Calling by Kelley Armstrong (Random House of Canada Ltd)
    Maya and her friends — all of whom have supernatural powers — have been kidnapped after fleeing from a forest fire they suspect was deliberately set, and after a terrifying helicopter crash they find themselves Photo Mar 24, 11 40 51 AMpursued by evildoers in the Vancouver Island wilderness. (Darkness Rising series, book 2)
  • Bright’s Light by Susan Juby (Harper Collins Canada Ltd)
    Like all the girls at the House of Gear, Bright has a higher purpose: to be, like, awesome. That means Bright’s engineered body must always look perfect. It means she must be appealing at all times. The minders are watching, after all. The minders see everything in this darkly humorous dystopian novel.
  • 40 Things I Want to Tell You by Alice Kuipers (Harper Collins Canada Ltd)
    Amy (a.k.a. Bird) seems to have the perfect life: loving parents, a hot boyfriend, the best friend ever. She even writes an online advice column, full of Top Tips, to help other teens take control of their lives. But after a new guy shows up at school, Bird can’t seem to follow her own wisdom. She’s way out of her comfort zone. All it takes is one mistake, one momentary loss of control, for her entire future to be Photo Mar 24, 11 44 46 AMblown away…
  • My Book of Life by Angel by Martine Leavitt (Harper Collins Canada Ltd)
    16-year-old Angel struggles to free herself from the trap of prostitution in which she is caught.
  • One Good Hustle by Billie Livingston (Random House of Canada Ltd)
    The child of two con artists, sixteen-year-old Sammie Bell always prided herself on knowing the score. But now she finds herself backed into a corner. After a hustle gone dangerously wrong, her mother, Marlene, is sliding into an abyss of alcoholic depression, spending her days fantasizing aloud about death — a goal Sammie is tempted to help her accomplish. Horrified by the appeal of this, Sammie packs a bag and leaves her mother to her own devices.
  • Yesterday by C.K. Kelly Martin (Random House of Canada Ltd)
    After the mysterious death of her father and a sudden move back to her native Canada in 1985, sixteen-year-old Freya feels distant and disoriented until she meets Garren and begins remembering their shared past, despite the efforts of some powerful people to keep them from learning the truth.Photo Mar 24, 11 46 57 AM
  • The Reluctant Journal of Henry K Larsen by Susin Nielsen (Tundra Books)
    After his life is shattered, Henry and his father are forced to resume their lives in a new city where, in spite of Henry’s desire to remain invisible, he befriends some oddball characters at school and in the apartment building.
  • Such Wicked Intent by Kenneth Oppel (Harper Collins Canada Ltd)
    When his grieving father orders the destruction of the Dark Library, Victor retrieves a book in which he finds the promise of not just communicating with the dead, but entering their realm, and soon he, Elizabeth, and Henry are in the spirit world of Chateau Frankenstein, creating and growing a body. (The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein series, book 2)
  • What Happened to Ivy by Kathy Stinson (Second Story Press)
    What if your severely disabled sister were to suddenly die and you suspected that your father had played a role in her death? What if your best friend, a girl you’ve started to like as more than a friend, thinks your dad can do no wrong? Could she be right? What if she’s not? That’s life for fifteen-year-old David Burke after his Photo Mar 24, 11 51 30 AMsister, Ivy, dies in a suspicious drowning.
  • The Last Song by Eva Wiseman (Tundra Books)
    When the tolerant culture of Spain is shattered by the Inquisition, Isabel feels safe because of her Catholic upbringing and father’s position as a respected doctor — until he is arrested for the family’s secret Jewish heritage.

AirbornOf all of these authors, Kenneth Oppel is probably one of the best known to readers in the U.S. He is a 2005 Michael Printz Award honoree for Airborn (also one of the 2005 Top Ten Books for Young Adults and on the 2007 Selected Audiobooks for Teens list). It was also listed as one of the 2006 Popular Paperbacks for Teens under the category Books that Don’t Make You Blush: No Dirty Laundry Here and again in 2011 as a Popular Paperback for Teens in the category of What If … It’s the end of the world as we know it. Oppel’s book Skybreaker was an 2009 Amazing Audiobook for Teens and his book Half-Brother was a 2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults pick.

If you’re a paranormal reader, you’ll probably recognize Kelley Armstrong’s name too. She’s the bestselling author of the Darkest Powers trilogy, which includes The Summoning, The Awakening, and The Reckoning. The Calling is part of her Darkness Rising series and the latest one, called The Rising, is due out in April.

Martine Leavitt’s My Book of Life by Angel was also popular here in the US. It made the 2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults list. Her book The Dollmage was on YALSA’s 2003 Best Books for Young Adults list and Heck, Superhero appears on the 2005 Best Books for Young Adults list too, along with Oppel’s Airborn. Her book Keturah and Lord Death also made the 2009 Popular Paperbacks list under the category Death and Dying.

indexSusan Juby also has some name recognition here. Her book Alice, I Think (2003) was one of YALSA’s Best Books for Young Adults and Selected Audiobooks for Teens in 2004. In it, Alice has been home-schooled since kindergarten when she wore a hobbit costume to school. But now that she’s 15, she’s ready to go to a regular high school where she gives her counselor a breakdown. Hopefully she has nowhere else in her small town to go but up. It was followed by the sequels Miss Smithers (2004) and Alice MacLeod, Realist at Last (2005). Juby was also a 2012 Alex Award nominee for her adult book Home to Woefield: A Novel, which is about a woman who inherits a small farm and envisions that it will be prosperous. Instead the fields don’t produce and she has a houseful of zany tenants. The result? Mayhem. Her paperback book The Girl: A Guide to Private Investigation, Surveillance, and Cookery made the 2011 Popular Paperbacks for Teens list under the category What’s Cooking?

The books by Canadian YA authors that aren’t easy to get here in the US (except used through Amazon) are those by Alice Kuipers and Billie Livingston. Susan Juby’s Bright’s Light isn’t available at all through US online booksellers either. They all sound like great books so I hope that publishers in the US will consider making all of these authors’ works available here. The fact that Susan Juby, C.K. Kelly Martin, Kelley Armstrong, and Kenneth Oppel were all nominated in 2012 for CLA YA Book Awards as well means they’ve consistently written outstanding works of fiction with appeal to young adults between the ages of 13-18. Look for the announcement of the 2013 winner and honor books on April 15. We in the US deserve the chance to read these books too.

— Sharon Rawlins, currently reading an ARC of Dan Well’s Fragments, the sequel to Partials

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12 Responses
  1. Linda W permalink
    March 27, 2013

    Martine Leavitt is a Canadian author whose YA books (Tom Finder; Keturah and Lord Death) are phenomenal.

  2. Linda W permalink
    March 27, 2013

    Sorry. I just noticed Martine on your list!

  3. March 27, 2013

    Thanks so much for giving Canadian Y/A authors this recognition! I didn’t realize our books were hard to find in the US.

  4. Sharon Rawlins permalink
    March 27, 2013

    @Linda. I really like Martine Leavitt too! I’ve read all her books. I’m glad she’s been nominated for this award.

  5. Sharon Rawlins permalink
    March 27, 2013

    @Shelley. Thanks for commenting! I loved your books Sun Signs and Kat’s Fall. Not all Canadian authors are hard to find but some newer authors seem to be. I’m glad that yours are available here.

  6. March 28, 2013

    My books are usually available new through Amazon. I imagine many other Canadian authors’ books are as well. Most Canadian publishers have some kind of distribution into the U.S.

  7. March 28, 2013

    Thanks for this article, Sharon. I’m a dual American/Canadian and grew up knowing very little about the literature of our northern neighbor/neighbour (I’ve even learned to spell differently up here in Toronto!). It’s fabulous that so many Canadian YA writers are crossing the border and I hope the trend continues. Now, if the US publishers would only purchase more Canadian non-fiction titles, too. Then MY books would be known in my native land, not just in Canada. Fingers crossed. And thanks again!

  8. Kendra permalink
    March 28, 2013

    Another site for great Canadian reads is at the Ontario Library Association. Every year they nominate 10 titles in a variety of age categories and then the public gets to select the winner from each group. This is a recreational reading program promoting Canadian literature from picture books to adult interest.

  9. March 29, 2013

    It is so great to have you draw attention to Canadian authors. There really are some great ones out there. One of my favourites is Eric Walters- he writes books that boys love- girls too, but the boys are really drawn to him. You can check out some of my reviews on his books here:

    He also was instrumental in asking 7 Canadian authors to write a book based on the concept of 7 cousins who are given a quest by their grandfather when he passes away. You can see my reviews here on those books:
    and the website is here:!/

    Thanks for drawing attention to our great authors!

  10. April 1, 2013

    I really love this list! Ever since Billie Livingston’s book of short stories, “Greedy Little Eyes”, I’ve been really looking forward to reading her novel!

  11. Karla permalink
    April 2, 2013

    Mariko Tamaki!

  12. Sharon Rawlins permalink
    April 2, 2013

    @Karla. Mariko Tamaki wrote the graphic novel Skim, right? I loved it!
    Thank you, everyone, for all the great suggestions of other Canadian YA authors besides the nominated ones I mentioned in the post. I’ll definitely have to do another post that includes many more Canadian YA authors!

Comments are closed.