Super Secret Festival of Lit: Young Adult Fiction

It’s Day Two of our Super Secret Festival of Lit mystery title reveals! Our young adult pick is about the first strains of a relationship between a troubled boy and neglected girl: but not in the way you think. Buy any one of our YA picks from now until December 18th and receive a free set of four CanLit holiday cards.Drum roll please…


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250 Hours by Colleen Nelson (Coteau Books)

What It’s About

The unlikely friendship between a troubled Métis boy and abandoned girl forms the backbone of Colleen Nelson’s 250 Hours. The hours in question are the boy’s – Jess’s – ordered community service after being convicted of arson, and his first service stop is at the girl’s – Sara Jean’s – neglected garage. As they sort through Sara Jean’s grandfather’s old files together, their differences – backgrounds, hometowns, experiences – become muted, and within the documents, potentially, are the seeds for new cooperation between their seemingly disparate communities.

Why We Chose It

Award-winning, Winnipeg-based author Colleen Nelson really understands the struggles of kids and how to talk to them, besides: she’s a middle-grade teacher and avid YA reader. This book reflects the lingering tensions between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians in so many communities across the country and unpacks them, providing hope for the future through the lens of its two young protagonists.

Who Would Love This Book

While the book – with its quick moving plot and well-developed main characters – is aimed at young adult readers of any ability, it will especially appeal to readers who are interested in learning more about Canada’ colonial past, even though the novel itself takes place in the present time. University students and adults with interests in Canadian history and mysteries may be hooked as well.

Reviews & Media

“Nelson deftly touches upon issues relevant to Canadian society, such as the lingering damage done by the residential school system, the casual racism experienced by First Nations and Métis on a daily basis, substance abuse, and relationship dynamics.” –Quill & Quire“I suspect that 250 Hours is a truer reflection of life for many who experience blatant discrimination, whether wholesale as evoked by the residential school situations or randomly by ignorant individuals, and for youth limited by the influence of family and peers.” –Helen Kubiw, CanLit for Little Canadians“The story addresses elements of addiction, abandonment, racism, and stereotype, but also gives us pure friendships, warm family relationships, and characters with the fortitude to do what they hope is right, even under duress.” –The Winnipeg Review* * * 

More YA for your young (and young-at-heart) giftee:

Buried Truths by Alice Walsh (Creative Book Publishing)

Fourteen-year-old Zoe has more than one mystery to contend with when she moves in with her estranged father at tiny Port au Choix, Newfoundland. Learn more.

Why We Chose It

This Commended title from the 2013 Canadian Children’s Book Centre Best Books for Kids and Teens is more than just another story about a recently uprooted teenager: Zoe’s readings of her late mother’s journal are interspersed with references to Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and she drops it only to solve the mystery of where the habitation site of the Maritime Archaic Indian is in her new town.

Who Would Love This Book

Readers aged 11-14 who enjoy reading mysteries and history would enjoy this book, as well as budding Shakespeare fans.

Jabber by Marcus Youssef (Talonbooks)

This play’s main character, Fatima, navigates her high school among strong anti-Muslim sentiment and a blossoming relationship with a troubled boy, Jorah. Learn more.

Why We Chose It

Youssef’s play about a young Muslim woman wearing a hijab has never been more prescient, given recent events in our country. Jabber brilliantly touches on how our prejudices shape our interactions – even despite our best efforts – especially in the highly-tuned-to-difference atmosphere that makes up the high school experience.

Who Would Love This Book

Give Jabber to any youth who struggles with their own difference – be it ethnicity, weight, interest, or something else – and give them the tools to better approach the hallways after the holidays are done. It’s also a great play to perform at high schools, so any drama teacher on your list would also do well to receive it.

Leading Lines by Chantel Guertin (ECW Press)

The latest in Chantel Guertin’s Pippa Greene series, Leading Lines follows the eponymous Pippa back from New York, only to see that her rekindled relationship with again-boyfriend Dylan might fizzle before she’s unpacked. Learn more.

Why We Chose It

While on the surface the plot Leading Lines could be the synopsis of any Degrassi episode, Pippa sets herself apart as a heroine with a deep passion – photography – and a totally endearing personality.

Who Would Love This Book

Leading Lines is for the young accomplished woman in your life who doesn’t let that stop her from being a stereotypical girl: even if that means being a fan of the aforementioned Degrassi. Try it on someone who can’t get enough John Green novels.

The Midnight Games by David Neil Lee (Wolsak & Wynn)

Set in Hamilton, Ontario, this book is part H.P. Lovecraftian horror, part His Dark Materials mysticism, part post-apocalyptic thriller. Main character Nate Silva gets more than he bargained for when he goes to investigate the midnight games, a mysterious happening keeping his neighbourhood awake. Learn more.

Why We Chose It

We really couldn’t stay away from this mix of YA and Cthulhu, the tentacled monster of the deep. Haven’t we sold you on Cthulhu alone?

Who Would Love This Book

Give The Midnight Games to the fantasy- or horror-loving youth in your life (though we wouldn’t say no to passing it on to Hunger Games fans, either).* * *We’ll be revealing each of our eight mystery titles over the course of the next several days. Get caught up on our Super Secret Festival of Lit here. Buy any one of these titles from now until December 18th and receive a free set of four CanLit holiday cards.