12 great Canadian debut novels you should check out
Looking to discover a favourite new author? The reveal of the 2018 Amazon.ca First Novel Award shortlist inspired us to put together a list of great recent Canadian debut novels you should check out.
American War by Omar El Akkad
Omar El Akkad's American War takes place in a country devastated by environmental disasters and civil unrest and examines the risks people take to protect their families. It was a contender on Canada Reads 2018, where it was defended by actor Tahmoh Penikett. The novel is currently a finalist for the 2018 Amazon.ca First Novel Award.
The Boat People by Sharon Bala
The Boat People tells the story of a group of refugees who survive a perilous ocean voyage to reach Canada — only to face the threat of deportation and accusations of terrorism in their new land. It was defended by Mozhdah Jamalzadah on Canada Reads 2018 and is on the shortlist for the 2018. Amazon.ca First Novel Award.
The Clothesline Swing by Ahmad Danny Ramadan
In The Clothesline Swing, Hakawati, a storyteller, prolongs the life of his dying partner by telling story after story about his childhood in Damascus. Death joins the couple, eavesdropping on the series of cruel events that have brought Hakawati to love and to Vancouver.
Dazzle Patterns by Alison Watt
Dazzle Patterns is a fictionalized account of a year in the life of three young people in a love triangle, trying to deal with how their lives have changed in the aftermath of the Halifax Explosion of 1917. It is currently a finalist for the 2018 Amazon.ca First Novel Award.
Demi-Gods by Eliza Robertson
Set in the 1950s over the long, nostalgic days of summer, Demi-Gods is narrated by a striking young woman who describes a series of brief, highly charged encounters with her stepbrother.
The Dictionary of Animal Languages by Heidi Sopinka
The Dictionary of Animal Languages is the story of Ivory Frame, a 90-year-old artist who is shocked to receive a letter from a granddaughter she didn't know she had. The letter turns Ivory's life upside down as she revisits her difficult past, and the secrets she thought she had left behind.
The Honey Farm by Harriet Alida Lye
When the bees in The Honey Farm start dying, Cynthia decides to create a residency where artists can stay, in exchange for working on the farm. When the artists feel they aren't getting enough creative work out of the deal, they begin to leave — but something even more sinister may be taking place than a scam for cheap labour.
In the Cage by Kevin Hardcastle
In the Cage is about Daniel, a mixed martial artist whose career ends prematurely when he is injured. No longer able to fight, he attempts to escape poverty by moonlighting as muscle for a mid-level gangster he has known since childhood.
Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead
Jonny Appleseed is about a Two-Spirit Indigiqueer young man who has left the reserve and becomes a cybersex worker in the big city to make ends meet. But he must reckon with his past when he returns home to attend his stepfather's funeral.
Liminal by Jordan Tannahill
Set during the split second between seeing his mother on her bed, and not knowing if she is alive or dead, and learning the answer, Liminal explores a man's relationship with his terminally ill mother — and what grief and death can mean for the living.
Little Fish by Casey Plett
Wendy is a trans woman living in Winnipeg whose life is turned upside down when she is told a family secret: that her Mennonite grandfather was possibly also transgender. Wendy decides she needs to know the truth, and begins a quest to confront her family and the Mennonite culture she was raised in.
Scarborough by Catherine Hernandez
Scarborough is the multi-voiced story of a neighbourhood that refuses to fall apart in the face of poverty and crime. Weaving together the stories of three children growing up in difficult circumstances with the stories of three adults who are doing their best to help them out, Scarborough is a vibrant and emotional debut.