Break in Case of Emergency

Break in Case of Emergency is a YA novel by Brian Francis.

Brian Francis

Life has been a struggle for Toby Goodman. Her mother died by suicide five years ago, and her father left their small town before Toby was born. Now a teenager living on her grandparents' dairy farm, Toby has trouble letting people in. She keeps even her closest friend, the brash but endearing Trisha, at arms' length, and recently ended her first relationship, with Trisha's burnout brother, Mike. Convinced that she is destined to follow her mother's path, Toby creates a plan to escape her pain.

But with the news that her father is coming home and finally wants to meet her, Toby must face the truth of her family's story. Not only is her father gay, but he's also a world-famous female impersonator — and a self-absorbed, temperamental man-child who is ill-prepared to be a real parent.

When Toby's careful plans go awry, she is forced to rebuild the life she thought she knew from the ground up. While she may not follow an expected path, through the support of a quirky but lovable circle of friends and family, Toby may finally put together the many different pieces that make up her past, her present, and her future. (From HarperCollins)

Break in Case of Emergency is for readers aged 14 and up.

Break in Case of Emergency was a finalist for the 2019 Governor General's Literary Award for young people's literature — text.

Brian Francis is a writer and columnist for The Next Chapter on CBC Radio. His first novel, Fruit, was a finalist for Canada Reads 2009. He is also the author of the novel Natural Order.

Tell us what you think!

Help shape the future of CBC article pages by taking a quick survey.

From the book

That voice. I know it. I slowly turn around and see a woman with thick blond hair talking to one of the nurses at the station. She's wearing a blue dress so tight it looks like the buttons might pop at any second. Her lips are the colour of cinnamon hearts. Her eyelashes look like tarantula legs.

Oh my God, I think, as I turn around and slide down the sofa.

It's him.


I don't know what to do. If I try to slither off the couch and crawl back to my room, I'm going to be spotted. But if I stay here, he'll eventually see me, too. There are only a couple of metres and two pillars separating us. My eyes dart from one side of the room to the other as I try to figure out an escape plan.

From Break in Case of Emergency by Brian Francis ©2019. Published by HarperCollins.

Why Brian Francis wrote Break in Case of Emergency

"I remember being a teenager. Your world is so locked down and private. There's no way that anybody could penetrate that. To open up your world to somebody else or to talk about your vulnerability is sometimes perceived as a sign of weakness. There are so many young people who are afraid of judgment or how they're going to be thought about or comments that they'll get from their peers that they don't reach out. It creates an increased feeling of isolation and loneliness. Things can appear fine on the outside but on the inside it's a different story. 

You have to be willing to open that door and step through it, which is a very vulnerable spot for many people to be in. I wanted the book be a little light for that someone.- Brian Francis

"I'm hoping that a reader who might be feeling isolated and alone will be able to relate to this cast of characters and understand that there are other opportunities. The book talks about opening a door. I hope readers might walk away with a sense that that this book was an open door and that there are doors that will open to all kinds of different avenues. You have to be willing to open that door and step through it, which is a very vulnerable spot for many people to be in. I wanted the book be a little light for that someone."

Read more in his interview with CBC Books.

More from Brian Francis

Brian Francis talks to Shelagh Rogers about his new YA novel, Break in Case of Emergency.
Author and TNC columnist Brian Francis reviews The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte, Selp-Helf by Miranda Sings and F*ck Feelings by Michael and Sarah Bennett
TNC columnist Brian Francis is a resourceful and enterprising guy, and he's read three books about turning your ideas into cash. He tell us what he's discovered.
Columnist Brian Francis on the advice given in The Butler Speaks by Charles MacPherson, How Rude by Alex J. Packer, and A Handbook on Good Manners for Children by Erasmus.

Other books by Brian Francis


Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now