Books

28 Canadian YA books to check out in spring 2021

Here are the Canadian YA books we are excited to read in the first half of 2021!

Here are the Canadian YA books we are excited to read in the first half of 2021.

Like Home by Louisa Onomé

Like Home is a YA novel by Louisa Onomé. (HarperCollins, Linda Arki)

The YA novel Like Home tells the story of a teen named Chinelo, Nelo for short. Her best friend is Kate and life is good. Nelo's family owns a convenience store in a popular neighbourhood known as Ginger East. But when the store is vandalized and police get involved, Nelo is emotionally affected and her relationship with her friends and family change forever. 

Like Home is for ages 14 and up.

Like Home is available now.

Louisa Onomé is a Nigerian Canadian living in Toronto. Like Home is her debut novel. 

Louisa Onomé speaks about her debut novel Like Home - a story that tackles gentrification through the eyes of teenagers - and the inspiration she drew from her own experiences growing up in Mississauga. 9:57

Curse of the Divine by Kim Smejkal

Curse of the Divine is a YA fantasy novel by Kim Smejkal. (HMH Books for Young Readers)

Curse of the Divine is a YA fantasy novel featuring tattoo magic, evil gods and creatures known as inklings. It's about the ongoing adventures of Celia Sand and her battle against dark forces. Celia lost her best friend to an evil being known as Diavala — and is determined to use her magical abilities to win once and for all. 

Curse of the Divine is for ages 14 and up.

Curse of the Divine is available now.

Kim Smejkal is an author of dark YA fantasy novels. She lives on Vancouver Island. She is also the author of the YA novel Ink in the Blood.

If I Tell You the Truth by Jasmin Kaur

If I Tell You the Truth is a book by Jasmin Kaur. (Jasjit Mankoo, HarperCollins)

If I Tell You the Truth delves into the power of truth, love and understanding. After becoming pregnant after a sexual assault, Kiran leaves Punjab and arrives in Canada as a new immigrant. But when her visa expires, Kiran decides that she will do whatever it takes to protect herself and daughter Sahaara. When Sahaara discovers the real story about Kiran's past, she is determined to seek justice, even if it means being put in harm's way. 

If I Tell You the Truth is for ages 14 and up.

If I Tell You the Truth is available now.

Jasmin Kaur is an illustrator, spoken word artist and author from Vancouver. Her approach to writing has drawn comparisons to Canadian poet Rupi Kaur and American writer Elizabeth Acevedo. She is also the author of When You Ask Me Where I'm Going.

Vancouver-based writer and illustrator Jasmin Kaur reads her poem Lost and Found from her new young adult novel, If I Tell You the Truth, which blends prose, poetry and illustrations. The book tells the story of a Punjabi mother who outstays her visa in Canada, and explores the perils that being undocumented brings to both her and her daughter. 4:12

Bruised by Tanya Boteju

Bruised is a YA novel by Tanya Boteju. (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Greg Ehlers)

Bruised is a YA novel about Daya Wijesinghe, a teen girl who navigates first love and identity after a family tragedy. After a tragic accident results in the death of her parents, Daya has taken to bruising herself as a way to cope with her grief. It leads her to the physical and colourful world of roller derby. Bruised explores Daya's healing process and journey to wellness. 

Bruised is for ages 14 and up.

Bruised is available now.

Tanya Boteju is an author and educator based in Vancouver. Her debut YA novel, Kings, Queens and In-Betweens, followed a high school student named Nima and explored themes of gender identity and belonging.

Tanya Boteju on her latest YA book, Bruised. 3:01

The Life and Deaths of Frankie D. by Colleen Nelson

The Life and Deaths of Frankie D. is a YA novel by Colleen Nelson. (Dundurn Press)

In The Life and Deaths of Frankie D.Frankie is a teenager who finds it hard to trust the people around her. She has a mysterious past and recurring dreams — featuring a 100-year-old carnival sideshow and a performer known as Alligator Girl — are warning her of potential danger. Frankie must learn how to trust and uncover the secret to an old mystery before it's too late.

The Life and Deaths of Frankie D. is for ages 13 and up.

The Life and Deaths of Frankie D. is available now.

Colleen Nelson is a YA author based in Winnipeg. Her other books include Spin, Blood Brothers and Finding Hope.

Drone Chase by Pam Withers

Drone Chase is a YA novel by Pam Withers. (Dundurn Press)

Drone Chase is an outdoor adventure novel about a teen drone enthusiast named Ray McLellan and a missed orphan bear cub. Ray is drawn into a world where he must use his tech-savvy skills, street smarts and outdoor survival instincts to protect the cub from a dangerous gang that is operating in the forest.

Drone Chase is for ages 12 and up.

Drone Chase is available now.

Pam Withers is a Vancouver author of over 20 YA novels, including Tracker's Canyon and Stowaway

Nothing but Life by Brent van Staalduinen

Nothing But Life is a YA novel by Brent van Staalduinen. (Dundurn)

Nothing but Life is about a teen named Dills, a hot summer and a sensational crime that haunts his family. When Dills and his mother move to their hometown of Hamilton, Ont., Dills is still affected by the fact that his stepfather was responsible for a horrific crime. But Dills still refuses to speak about what happened that fateful day — and his connection to his stepfather begins to affect his new home and school life.

Nothing but Life is for ages 12 and up.

Nothing but Life is available now.

Brent van Staalduinen is a novelist and short story writer from Hamilton, Ont. His previous YA books include Boy and Saints, Unexpected. He made the 2020 CBC Short Story Prize longlist for The Echoes Are All Mine.

My Body in Pieces by Marie-Noëlle Hébert, translated by Shelley Tanaka

My Body in Pieces is a graphic memoir written by Marie-Noëlle Hébert (pictured) and translated by Shelley Tanaka. (Groundwood Books, Julie Artacho)

In the graphic memoir My Body in Pieces, Marie-Noëlle Hébert grapples with body positivity issues and an obsession with fitness and beauty begins to affect her mental and physical health. When a friend tries to get Hébert professional help, she embarks on a journey of wellness and well-being.

My Body in Pieces is for ages 14 and up.

My Body in Pieces is available now.

Hébert is an artist, illustrator and author based in Montreal. Her work includes illustrations for the children's book Le voyage de Kalak. The French edition of My Body in Pieces, her first graphic novel, was awarded the Prix des libraires du Québec in 2020.

Shelley Tanaka is a translator and editor from Toronto.

Given by Nandi Taylor

Nandi Taylor is a Canadian author of Afro-Caribbean descent based in Toronto. (Wattpad Books)

Given is the debut YA novel by Canadian author Nandi Taylor. It has over one million reads on the online story sharing site Wattpad. Given is a fantasy story about a princess named Yenni and the journey she must take after her father falls ill. Yenni goes on a magical adventure that teaches her about love, fate and destiny. 

Given is for ages 14 and up.

Given is available now.

Taylor is an author of Afro-Caribbean heritage from Toronto. Given is her first book.

The Project by Courtney Summers

The Project is a YA novel by Courtney Summers. (Wednesday Books, Megan Gunter)

The Project is about a young journalist named Lo Denham. After she loses her parents to a car accident, Lo is left alone to grieve. Her sister Bea joins an elusive community called The Unity Project and Lo discovers that she might be in danger. Lo decides to enter the community to find her sister and save her before it's too late.

The Project is for ages 13 and up.

The Project is now available.

Courtney Summers is a YA novelist from Ontario. She made her debut in 2008 with Cracked Up to Be. Her other books include Fall for Anything, Some Girls Are and Sadie, which won the John Spray Mystery Award and an Edgar Allan Poe Award in 2019.

The Forest of Stolen Girls by June Hur

The Forest of Stolen Girls is a YA novel by June Hur. (Feiwel & Friends)

Set in 1426 Korea, The Forest of Stolen Girls is a YA novel about a young woman named Hwani who seeks to know the truth about a past crime that affected her family. But when her detective father vanishes after looking into the mystery, Hwani is forced to locate her family and solve the mystery that forever changed all their lives.

The Forest of Stolen Girls is for ages 13 and up.

The Forest of Stolen Girls is available now.

June Hur is a South Korea-born writer based in Toronto. She has a degree in history and literature from the University of Toronto. Her work is inspired by her personal journey. She is also the author of The Silence of Bones.

TNC columnist Aparita Bhandari finds a Canadian companion to Steph Cha's Your House. 11:36

Some Other Now by Sarah Everett

Some Other Now is a YA novel by Sarah Everett. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Some Other Now is a YA novel about a teen named Jessi Rumfield and what happens when she is caught up in a love triangle between two brothers. When Jessi becomes involved in the lives of Rowan Cohen and his older brother Luke, it kicks off a story of love, loss and family that happens over two fateful summers. 

Some Other Now is for ages 14 and up.

Some Other Now is available now.

Sarah Everett is an author and graduate school student based in Alberta. Some Other Now is her debut novel.

A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth

A Dark and Hollow Star is a YA novel by Ashley Shuttleworth. (Margaret K. McElderry Books, Ashley Shuttleworth)

A Dark and Hollow Star is a YA novel about four LGBTQ teens who have a magical connection to a series of unspeakable crimes that happen in Toronto. The quartet must join forces to uncover the identity of the mysterious culprit — and failure is not an option, unless they wish to destroy the tenuous balance between the human and faerie worlds.

A Dark and Hollow Star is for ages 14 and up. 

A Dark and Hollow Star is available now.

Ashley Shuttleworth is a YA author originally from British Columbia and now based in Ontario. A Dark and Hollow Star is their debut book.

Zara Hossain Is Here by Sabina Khan

Zara Hossain is Here is a YA novel by Sabina Khan. (Scholastic Canada, Tanya Kuriyedath)

In the YA novel Zara Hossain Is HereZara Hossain is the only Muslim teen at her Texas high school, which makes fitting in a bit of a challenge. When a bullying incident escalates into a violent crime, Zara is forced to choose between the only home she's ever known or finally making a stand.

Zara Hossain Is Here is for ages 14 and up.

Zara Hossain Is Here is available now.

Sabina Khan is a Muslim author and educator based in British Columbia and originally from Bangladesh. She is also the author of The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali.

Sabina Khan talks about her debut YA novel. 2:46

Mr. Universe by Arthur Slade

Mr. Universe is a YA novel by Arthur Slade. (Brenda Baker, Orca Book Publishers)

Mr. Universe is a YA novel that features a 17-year-old teen, his eccentric scientist uncle and a time travel adventure. When his uncle's experiments go awry, a teen named Michael finds himself lost in an alternate universe — with seemingly no way to get back home.

Mr. Universe is for ages 12 and up.

Mr. Universe is available now.

Arthur Slade is a prolific Saskatoon author of more than 25 YA, middle-grade and graphic novels. His books include Dust, winner of the 2001 Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — text and The Hunchback Assignments, which received the 2010 TD Canadian Children's Literature Award.

The Power of Style by Christian Allaire

The Power of Style is a YA nonfiction book by Christian Allaire. (christianjallaire.com, Annick Press)

The Power of Style is a YA nonfiction book about the power of fashion. Christian Allaire is a Ojibwe fashion and style writer who has always had a passion for looking good. In The Power of StyleAllaire highlights the need for diversity and representation in fashion — and examines topics such as cosplay, make up, hijabs, and hair to show the intersection of style, culture and social justice over the years.

The Power of Style is for ages 12 and up.

When you can read it: April 27, 2021

Allaire is an Ojibwe author who grew up on the Nipissing First Nation reserve in Ontario. Allaire is the fashion and style writer at Vogue.

Gilded Serpent by Danielle L. Jensen

Gilded Serpent is a YA novel by Danielle L. Jensen. (Tor Teen)

Gilded Serpent is a YA novel about an ongoing battle between good and evil set in the world of the Dark Shores series of YA fantasy books. Gilded Serpent features magic, gods and war as the characters Marcus, Teriana, Killian, and Lydia offer their perspective on truth and ultimate victory.

Gilded Serpent is for ages 13 and up.

When you can read it: April 27, 2021

Danielle L. Jensen is an author from Calgary. She is the author of the Dark Shores fantasy series. The other books in the series are Dark Shores and Dark Skies.

My Indian by Chief Mi'sel Joe and Sheila O'Neill

Chief Mi'sel Joe (left) and Sheila O'Neill (right) are the authors of the YA historical novel My Indian. (Breakwater Books)

My Indian tells the story of Sylvester Joe, a Mi'kmaq guide who helped  William Epps Cormack across Newfoundland in search of the last remaining Beothuk camps on the island in 1822. The historical fiction novel tells the story from an Indigenous perspective with the goal of reclaiming Sylvester Joe's identity and legacy.

My Indian is for ages 15 and up.

When you can read it: April 30, 2021

Mi'sel Joe is the author of Muinji'j Becomes a Man and An Aboriginal Chief's Journey. Mi'sel Joe is considered the spiritual chief of the Mi'kmaq of Newfoundland and Labrador and has been the district traditional chief of Miawpukek First Nation since 1983, appointed by the late Grand Chief Donald Marshall. 

Sheila O'Neill is an author, drum carrier and member of Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation. She is a founding member and past president of the Newfoundland Aboriginal Women's Network.

Green Glass Ghosts by Rae Spoon, illustrated by Gem Hall

Musician Rae Spoon (left) is the author Green Glass Ghosts, a YA novel with illustrations by Gem Hall (right). (Arsenal Pulp Press, Rae Spoon, Gem Hall)

Green Glass Ghosts is a YA novel about gender identity and seeking a better life. When a queer young person leaves behind a troubled home situation, they arrive in downtown Vancouver with a dream of becoming a successful musician. But the protagonist must navigate jealousy, abuse and trauma to reach their desired outcome in life — playing live music in front of a crowd.

Green Glass Ghosts is for ages 14 and up.

When you can read it: May 4, 2021

Rae Spoon is a non-binary musician, producer and author from Calgary, who currently lives in Victoria. Their other books include First Spring Grass Fire and Gender Failure, which was co-written with Ivan Coyote. 

Gem Hall is an interdisciplinary artist currently based on Coast Salish lands.

Hurricane Summer by Asha Bromfield

Hurricane Summer is a YA novel by Asha Bromfield. (Wednesday Books)

The YA novel Hurricane Summer is a coming-of-age story about a teen named Tilla. Her relationship with her Jamaican-born father is straining due to his frequent absences from her life. Tilla decides to spend the summer in Jamaica in order to reconnect with her father and understand herself and the island he calls home.

Hurricane Summer is for ages 14 and up.

When you can read it: May 4, 2021

Asha Bromfield is a Black Canadian actress, singer and author best known for her role as Melody Jones, drummer of Josie and the Pussycats in the television show Riverdale.

Brief But Spectacular – Asha Bromfield

Brief But Spectacular

1 year ago
3:22
Asha Bromfield offers her Brief But Spectacular take on her career as an actor, and the strength she’s had to call on to maintain her authenticity. 3:22

Aetherbound by E.K. Johnston

Aetherbound is a YA novel by E.K. Johnston. (Dutton Books)

Aetherbound is a story of space survival. While on a long-haul space cruiser, Pendt Harland discovers that she is destined for something more when it is revealed that her DNA has mutated. During a layover at a space station, Pendt manages to escape and hatches a plan to take over the facility and realize her true destiny.

Aetherbound is for ages 14 and up.

When you can read it: May 25, 2021

E.K. Johnston is a YA novelist and forensic archaeologist from Statford, Ont. She is the author of The Story of Owen, A Thousand Nights, Spindle and Exit, Pursued by a Bear, which won the Amy Mathers Teen Book Award in 2017.

The Boi of Feather and Steel by Adan Jerreat-Poole

The Boi of Feather and Steel is a YA novel by Adan Jerreat-Poole. (Dundurn Press)

The Boi of Feather and Steel is a YA fantasy about a supernatural assassin and an adventure involving a stolen magic item. Tav is a non-binary, purple-haired, motorcycle-riding teenager who can see magic. But they struggle with their abilities and identity — just as an army of witches emerge to create conflict in the world they live in.

The Boi of Feather and Steel is for ages 14 and up.

When you can read it: May 25, 2021

Adan Jerreat-Poole is a writer from Kingston, Ont., and a PhD candidate in English and cultural studies at McMaster University. They are also the author of The Girl of Hawthorn and Glass.

Tremendous Things by Susin Nielsen

Susin Nielsen is a Vancouver-based author of books for children and young adults. (Penguin Teen, Darko Sikman)

The YA novel Tremendous Things is about a teen named WilburWilbur is in Grade 9, and he still can't escape the embarrassing thing that happened to him back in middle school. But an adventure involving his school music band and a trip to Paris just might mean Wilbur can overcome his past and also find true love in the process.

Tremendous Things is for ages 12 and up.

When you can read it: May 25, 2021

Susin Nielsen is an author from Vancouver. She started her writing career by writing episodes for the classic Canadian teen drama Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High. In 2008, she published her first YA novel, Word Nerd. Her most recent books include We Are All Made of Molecules, which was longlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal, and Optimists Die First

The two YA writers on their new novels (The Truth Commission, by Susan Juby, and We Are All Made of Molecules, by Susin Nielsen). 15:58

The Medusa Deep by David Neil Lee

The Medusa Deep is a YA novel by David Neil Lee. (Wolsak & Wynn, Maureen Cochrane)

The Medusa Deep is the follow-up to David Neil Lee's 2015 YA novel, The Midnight Games. The Medusa Deep continues the adventures of Nate Silva and his monster-fighting adventures. This time out, Silva is captured by the crew of the airship The Sorcerer and has an encounter with his long-last grandfather and a legendary harpoon gun. It's a race against time as Nate must escape and make it back home to Ontario.  

The Medusa Deep is for ages 12 and up.

When you can read it: June 1, 2021

Lee is an author and musician originally from British Columbia and currently based in Ontario. His previous books include The Battle of the Five Spot, Commander Zero and The Midnight Games.

Tell Me When You Feel Something by Vicki Grant

Tell Me When You Feel Something is a YA novel by Vicki Grant. (Penguin Teen, Augustus Richardson)

Tell Me When You Feel Something is a YA thriller novel that revolves around a mysterious after-school program at a medical school. When a teen named Viv gets involved in the program — which involves being a "simulated" patient for med school students to practice on — she soon ends up in a coma. No one seems to know what really happened, and the other kids just don't know who to trust to get the real answer. 

Tell Me When You Feel Something is for ages 10 and up.

When you can read it: June 15, 2021

Vicki Grant is an author from Halifax. Her other books include 36 Questions That Changed My Mind About You, The Puppet Wrangler, Quid Pro Quo and Not Suitable for Family Viewing.

Sisters of the Snake by Sasha & Sarena Nanua

Sisters of the Snake is a YA novel by sisters Sasha and Sarena Nanua. (HarperTeen)

Sisters of the Snake is a YA novel about a lost princess, a street urchin and dark prophecies. When Princess Rani and Ria encounter each other and discover they look identical, the princess and the thief switch places but soon find themselves involved in a dangerous mystery involving magic and a hidden temple. 

Sisters of the Snake is for ages 13 and up.

When you can read it: June 15, 2021

Sarena and Sasha Nanua are YA authors and twin sisters based in Ontario. Born minutes apart from each other, they grew up loving stories about twins and magic, and began writing books together at a young age.

The Last Time I Saw Her by Alexandra Harrington

The Last Time I Saw Her is a YA novel by Alexandra Harrington. (Nimbus Publishing, William Harrington)

Set in Nova Scotia, The Last Time I Saw Her is a YA novel about a teen named Charlotte Romer and the personal trauma she tries to leave behind in her hometown of River John. But when she reconnects with her best friend's ex-boyfriend, the secrets of the past come back to haunt her — and the circumstances surrounding a tragic accident she tried to forget begin to resurface. 

The Last Time I Saw Her is for ages 14 and up.

When you can read it: June 22, 2021

Alexandra Harrington is a writer based in Nova Scotia. The Last Time I Saw Her is her debut novel. 

Rising Like a Storm by Tanaz Bhathena

Rising Like a Storm is a YA novel by Tanaz Bhathena. (Penguin Teen)

Rising Like a Storm is the follow-up to the YA fantasy novel Hunted by the Sky. After the death of a king and queen, a new queen emerges. But protagonist Shayla and her Sky Warriors are on the hunt — and an adventure unfolds involving magic, bounty hunters and an enchanted city.

Rising Like a Storm is for ages 14 and up.

When you can read it: June 22, 2021

Tanaz Bhathena is a YA author who was born in India, raised in Saudi Arabia and currently based in Ontario. She is the author of YA books such as A Girl Like That and The Beauty of the Moment.

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