Boy With a Problem by Chris Benjamin

How does a teenager deal with grief? Where do you turn in the aftermath of tragedy? What can ease the shame of a dark secret? Who can help when things feel helpless? In sparse but emotive prose, Chris Benjamin’s collection of short stories, Boy With a Problem, explores these different kinds of difficult. In a mere 150 pages, the pieces move through grief, abuse, lust, oppression, resignation, shame, family tension, and more.…

Annaka by Andre Fenton

Andre Fenton’s second novel Annaka is a whirlwind. The narrative follows 16-year-old Annaka Brooks as she returns home to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia for her Grampy’s funeral. Though much of her adolescence has been tarnished by feelings of loneliness and difference, her homecoming provides opportunities to rebuild connections with family and friends and to figure out key secrets from her past. Clay, her childhood imaginary friend, poses a particularly interesting reunion.…

The Talking Drum by Lisa Braxton

Lisa Braxton’s debut novel, The Talking Drum, explores various power structures at work in urban America in the 1970s. The novel follows three intertwined sets of characters: Sydney and Malachi Stallworth, Della Tolliver and her boyfriend Kwamé Rodriguez, and Omar and Natalie Bassari. In different ways, the overarching impacts of racism and gentrification weigh on each character, and the changes occurring in their respective communities of Liberty Hill and Petite Africa form the backdrop for a study of class issues, racial tensions, sexism, and community resilience.  

Place is central to the novel.…

Cod Collapse: The Rise and Fall of Newfoundland’s Saltwater Cowboys by Jenn Thornhill Verma

Jenn Thornhill Verma’s Cod Collapse: The Rise and Fall of Newfoundland’s Saltwater Cowboys is a tricky text to categorize. Part memoir, part historical overview, and part reckoning, Cod Collapse traces the development and decline of the ground fishing industry in Newfoundland and Labrador. Centred on what is commonly known as the ‘cod moratorium’ of 1992, Thornhill Verma uses her personal and familial connections to Newfoundland to contextualize the ripple effects of the closure. …

Messenger 93 by Barbara Radecki

Barbara Radecki’s sophomore novel, Messenger 93, opens with a flutter of information. A mind-bending conversation with a crow kicks off the absorbing thriller, and cryptic messages, hidden clues, and uncertain instructions become the norm in M, the narrator’s, life. M feels compelled to investigate the disappearance of a girl named Krista, and her movements over the seven days that structure each chapter offer insight into her life and closest relationships.…

Swimmers in Winter by Faye Guenther

Faye Guenther’s first collection of short fiction, Swimmers in Winter*, is described as a “trifecta of diptychs.” Any of the six pieces can stand well on their own, or can work in their pairs to flesh out the characters, the timeframe, and the realities of life for queer women in their communities. Offering an exploration of desire that spans the past, present, and future, the collection’s structure and organization is as interesting to contemplate as the stories themselves.…

Broken Symmetry by Rosalie Osmond

Rosalie Osmond’s second novel, Broken Symmetry, centres on the Wentzell family. The events unfold from 1943 to 1959 and mostly occur in their shared family home in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. When the novel opens, sisters Emma and Virtue are married to two brothers, Nathan and Obadiah. The men own a small barbershop together which sits next to the shared house. The hundred-year-old home was originally designed by a sea captain “centred on the eternal rather than temporal reward.”…

All I Ask by Eva Crocker

There are novels that feel alive. There is no other way to describe it, because words like ‘fresh’ or ‘current’ are not enough. These novels are more than just a compelling plot or strong writing. They do more than tap into current events or debates. These novels offer access to something made animate on the page, and speak from a perspective that feels somehow deeply familiar and entirely unknown; Eva Crocker’s All I Ask is one such novel.…

Lay Figures by Mark Blagrave

The literary figure of the flâneur is a symbol of urban observation. Made popular in the 19th century, the flâneur is a man of leisure who wanders through the city and watches as he walks. He attempts to understand life in the city and the feelings of alienation that can come from such a life. He is often an artistic figure who attempts to portray the dynamism of modern life through a direct engagement with his environment.…

Some People’s Children by Bridget Canning

Some People’s Children* is Bridget Canning’s second novel, and effectively debunks the myth of the ‘sophomore slump.’ The novel follows Imogene Tubbs as she navigates the difficulties of life as a teenage girl living in rural Newfoundland.

Imogene has been raised by her Nan and has a complicated and at times tense relationship with her mother, Maggie. She has never met her father, and his identity forms the central mystery that drives the plot.…

No Girls Allowed by Natalie Corbett Sampson

No Girls Allowed, by Natalie Corbett Sampson, follows ten-year-old Tina Marie Forbes and her family as they fight for her right to play hockey. The Forbes family moves from Toronto to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, and are excited to get settled in the town. Early on, Tina reflects, “all you need to do to make friends is play sports. Join a team and there’s a bunch of them ready to meet .…