An awful lot of great YA speculative fiction writers live north of the US border, but you might not have even realized who they are. Books published by Canadian authors tend to take one of two journeys to success: either they’re celebrated locally, gathering media mentions and award nominations, with few people outside the country taking note, or, if they do take off internationally, the author’s nationality is relegated to a brief line in their bio, and most readers assume they’re American. Even as a Canadian myself, I’m frequently surprised to find out this author or that one is a fellow Canuck.
While we do share a lot with our neighbors to the south, Canadians have a distinct perspective within our varied voices. So today I’d like to take note of some of those voices–and appreciate them! Maybe you’ll come away with books to check out that you hadn’t noticed before, or maybe you’ll simply learn something new about books you’ve already enjoyed.
As a starting point, I’m sticking to a dozen titles by current authors, in a range of genres all the way from historical-ish fantasy to alternate present day to dystopian futures. Books that are set in Canada as well as being written by a Canadian are marked with an asterisk if you want extra Canadian content, but those set elsewhere are equally compelling. And there’s so much awesome YA speculative fiction written by Canadian ladies out there that I couldn’t fit in, so feel free to share your recommendations in the comments!
Ultraviolet* by R.J. Anderson
Publisher: Carolrhoda Lab
Release date: June 2 2011
Sixteen-year-old Alison has been sectioned in a mental institute for teens, having murdered the most perfect and popular girl at school. But the case is a mystery: no body has been found, and Alison’s condition is proving difficult to diagnose. Alison herself can’t explain what happened: one minute she was fighting with Tori—the next she disintegrated. Into nothing. But that’s impossible. Right?
An Inheritance of Ashes by Leah Bobet
Release date: October 6 2015
The strange war down south—with its rumors of gods and monsters—is over. And while sixteen-year-old Hallie and her sister wait to see who will return from the distant battlefield, they struggle to maintain their family farm. When Hallie hires a veteran to help them, the war comes home in ways no one could have imagined, and soon Hallie is taking dangerous risks—and keeping desperate secrets. But even as she slowly learns more about the war and the men who fought it, ugly truths about Hallie’s own family are emerging. And while monsters and armies are converging on the small farm, the greatest threat to her home may be Hallie herself.
The Scorpion Rules* by Erin Bow
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Release date: September 22 2015
Greta is a Duchess and a Crown Princess. She is also a Child of Peace, a hostage held by the de facto ruler of the world, the great Artificial Intelligence, Talis. This is how the game is played: if you want to rule, you must give one of your children as a hostage. Start a war and your hostage dies. The system has worked for centuries. Parents don’t want to see their children murdered. Greta will be free if she can make it to her eighteenth birthday. Until then she is prepared to die with dignity, if necessary. But everything changes when Elian arrives at the Precepture. He’s a hostage from a new American alliance, and he defies the machines that control every part of their lives—and is severely punished for it. His rebellion opens Greta’s eyes to the brutality of the rules they live under, and to the subtle resistance of her companions. And Greta discovers her own quiet power. Then Elian’s country declares war on Greta’s and invades the prefecture, taking the hostages hostage. Now the great Talis is furious, and coming himself to deliver punishment. Which surely means that Greta and Elian will be killed…unless Greta can think of a way to break all the rules.
Half World* by Hiromi Goto
Release date: January 30 2009
Melanie Tamaki is human—but her parents aren’t. They are from Half World, a Limbo between our world and the afterlife, and her father is still there. When her mother disappears, Melanie must follow her to Half World—and neither of them may return alive.
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Publisher: Random House
Release date: July 10 2012
In the kingdom of Goredd, dragons and humans live and work side by side – while below the surface, tensions and hostility simmer. The newest member of the royal court, a uniquely gifted musician named Seraphina, holds a deep secret of her own. One that she guards with all of her being. When a member of the royal family is brutally murdered, Seraphina is drawn into the investigation alongside the dangerously perceptive—and dashing—Prince Lucien. But as the two uncover a sinister plot to destroy the wavering peace of the kingdom, Seraphina’s struggle to protect her secret becomes increasingly difficult… while its discovery could mean her very life.
The Chaos* by Nalo Hopkinson
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Release date: April 17 2012
Sixteen-year-old Scotch struggles to fit in—at home she’s the perfect daughter, at school she’s provocatively sassy, and thanks to her mixed heritage, she doesn’t feel she belongs with the Caribbeans, whites, or blacks. And even more troubling, lately her skin is becoming covered in a sticky black substance that can’t be removed. While trying to cope with this creepiness, she goes out with her brother—and he disappears. A mysterious bubble of light just swallows him up, and Scotch has no idea how to find him. Soon, the Chaos that has claimed her brother affects the city at large, until it seems like everyone is turning into crazy creatures. Scotch needs to get to the bottom of this supernatural situation ASAP before the Chaos consumes everything she’s ever known—and she knows that the black shadowy entity that’s begun trailing her every move is probably not going to help.
The Story of Owen* by E.K. Johnston
Release date: March 1 2014
Listen! For I sing of Owen Thorskard: valiant of heart, hopeless at algebra, last in a long line of legendary dragon slayers. Though he had few years and was not built for football, he stood between the town of Trondheim and creatures that threatened its survival. There have always been dragons. As far back as history is told, men and women have fought them, loyally defending their villages. Dragon slaying was a proud tradition. But dragons and humans have one thing in common: an insatiable appetite for fossil fuels. From the moment Henry Ford hired his first dragon slayer, no small town was safe. Dragon slayers flocked to cities, leaving more remote areas unprotected. Such was Trondheim’s fate until Owen Thorskard arrived. At sixteen, with dragons advancing and his grades plummeting, Owen faced impossible odds armed only with a sword, his legacy, and the classmate who agreed to be his bard. Listen! I am Siobhan McQuaid. I alone know the story of Owen, the story that changes everything. Listen!
The Night Has Teeth by Kat Kruger
Publisher: Fierce Ink Press
Release date: September 23 2012
Seventeen-year-old Connor Lewis is chased by a memory. On his first day of kindergarten he bit a boy hard enough to scar the kid for life. Since then he’s been a social outcast at a New York private school. Through an unexpected turn of good fortune, he lands a scholarship to study in Paris, where everything starts to look up. On the first day he befriends two military brats, and he may finally get a taste of what it’s like to be a normal teenager. It doesn’t last. His host family – an alluring young tattoo artist and her moody, handsome boyfriend – inadvertently introduce him to the underworld of werewolves where there are two types: the born and the bitten. Those born to it take the form of elegant wolves, while the latter are cursed to transform into the half-man, half-beast creatures of horror movies. The bitten rarely survive. Unfortunately, Connor is on the wanted list of a four hundred-year-old bitten human who’s searching for both a cure and a means of wiping out werewolves for good. Connor’s loyalties are tested as he becomes embroiled in a conflict where werewolves, mad science and teen angst collide.
Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt
Publisher: Boyds Mills Press
Release date: November 1 2006
Keturah, renowned for her storytelling, follows a legendary hart deep into the forest, where she becomes hopelessly lost. Her strength diminishes until, finally, she realizes that death is near—and learns then that death is a young lord, melancholy and stern. She is able to charm Lord Death with a story and gain a reprieve, but he grants her only a day, and within that day she must find true love.
Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston
Release date: Deceber 23 2008
Seventeen-year-old actress Kelley Winslow thinks that playing the role of the fairy queen Titiana in a production of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream could be her lucky break – if she can pull it off. But when she meets the handsome Sonny Flannery, Kelley has to face the shocking truth that the world of Faeries is all too real – and that she an unwitting part of it. Sonny warns Kelley that she is no mere mortal, and that she is being haunted by powerful forces from the Faerie realm. Now, Kelley must come to terms with her heritage – and her growing feelings for Sonny – if she wants to save not only herself, but also the human world that she holds dear.
Deviants* by Maureen McGowan
Publisher: Amazon Skyscape
Release date: October 30 2012
Glory, a sixteen-year-old orphan whose emotions can kill, lives in a domed city where her ability means Deviant—and dead. For generations, Earth has been buried in asteroid dust that’s mutated the DNA of some humans. To survive, Glory must hide her Deviant ability—and her paraplegic brother—from the authorities. When her boyfriend joins the secret police, she must flee the dome and outrun the sadistic, scab-covered Shredders living outside in the dust. Can Glory trust a mysterious boy with a dangerous Deviance of his own?
This Is Not A Test by Courtney Summers
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Release date: June 19 2012
It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self. To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up. As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live. But as the days crawl by, the motivations for survival change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life—and death—inside. When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?
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