Books·Forest of Reading

Here are the 2021 White Pine Award finalists: 10 great Canadian books for readers in Grades 9-12

Ten Canadian books are finalists for the 2021 White Pine Award, which celebrates books for readers in Grade 9-12.

Ten Canadian books are finalists for the 2021 White Pine Award, which celebrates books for readers in Grade 9-12.

The White Pine Award is part of the Forest of Reading program, in which students from kindergarten to high school are encouraged to read from a selection of shortlisted books and vote for their favourites over several months.

The Forest of Reading program is organized by the Ontario Library Association.

The winners will be revealed in spring 2021.

Break in Case of Emergency by Brian Francis

Break in Case of Emergency is a YA novel by Brian Francis. (HarperCollins, Samuel Engelking)

Break in Case of Emergency follows Toby Goodman, a teen whose father left their small town before she was born and whose mother died by suicide when she was a young girl. When she finds out that her estranged father is coming back to town and wants to meet her, Toby must try to make sense of her life amid surprising revelations about her family history.

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.

Charming as a Verb by Ben Philippe

Philippe is of Haitian descent, was raised in Montreal and is now a teacher at Barnard College in New York. (Balzer + Bray, Richard Louissaint)

Charming as a Verb is a YA novel about Henri "Halti" Haltiwanger, a teen with swagger who is convinced he can charm just about anyone. As one of the most popular kids in his prestigious high school — and as the operator of a highly successful dog walking business — Henri has it made and his dream of attending his dream college awaits. But when Henri meets Corinne Troy, a girl who sees right through his charms and exposes his less-than-ethical business practices, it becomes a battle of wits — with potential love looming on the horizon.

Ben Philippe is a writer who was raised in Montreal and currently lives in New York. He published his debut novel The Field Guide to the North American Teenager in 2019. He has contributed to publications like Vanity Fair, the Guardian and Playboy. CBC Books named Philippe a writer to watch in 2019.

Fan the Fame by Anna Priemaza

Fan the Fame is a YA novel by Anna Priemaza. (HarperCollins Publishers)

After filming her famous YouTuber brother Cody aka Codemeister in a hateful rant at a video game convention, Lainey decides to out him to his beloved fans. The situation gets tricky when Lainey's path collides with streamers SamTheBrave who is trying to get his idol Codemeister's attention, and ShadowWillow, who fans have been shipping with Cody. 

Anna Priemaza is a lawyer, university instructor and YA author based in Edmonton. She is the author of YA novels Kat and Meg Conquer the World and the upcoming novel The Forgotten Memories of Vera.

Frying Plantain by Zalika Reid-Benta

Frying Plantain is a short story collection by Zalika Reid-Benta. (House of Anansi Press)

Frying Plantain follows Kara Davis through elementary school to her high school graduation, as she comes of age while being perennially caught between her Canadian nationality and Jamaican heritage. Over a series of 12 stories, Davis visits her great aunt in Jamaica, endures a cruel prank by close friends and deals with her stubborn grandparents. 

Frying Plantain was longlisted for the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Zalika Reid-Benta is a graduate of Columbia's MFA program and was named a writer to watch by George Elliott ClarkeFrying Plantain is Reid-Benta's first book. CBC Books named Reid-Benta a writer to watch in 2019

He Must Like You by Danielle Younge-Ullman

He Must Like You is a book by Danielle Younge-Ullman. (Viking Books for Young Readers, David Leyes)

He Must Like You follows high school senior LibbyHer older brother fled to a Greek island, her dad tells her she's going to be cut off after she graduates, she hooks up with a co-worker and there's a customer at the restaurant where she works who harasses her. As Libby struggles with how to deal with the men in her life, as well as figuring out what her future plan is, she has an outburst at work that makes everything worse. 

Danielle Younge-Ullman is Toronto-based novelist, playwright and freelance writer. She is the author of adult novel Falling Under and YA novels Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined and Carlyle's 12 Step Romance.

Hunted by the Sky by Tanaz Bhathena

Hunted by the Sky is a book by Tanaz Bhathena. (Nettie Photography, Penguin Teen)

Hunted by the Sky is a YA adventure novel set in medieval India. Gul, a young girl, has a birthmark on her arm that makes her a mark. So she's on the run. Her parents were murdered because Gul is marked. A group of female rebel warriors take Gul in and train her to become one of them. And she has one thing on her mind: revenge.

Tanaz Bhathena is a YA novelist based in Mississauga. She is also the author of The Beauty of the Moment and A Girl Like That.

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Rosemary Valero-O'Connell

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me is a graphic novel written by Mariko Tamaki and drawn by Rosemary Valero-O'Connell. (House of Anansi Press, Shawnee Custalow)

This YA graphic novel is about a teenage girl named Freddy who can't seem to quit her girlfriend, the popular, enigmatic Laura Dean. Though they keep breaking up and getting back together, Freddy frets over whether to forgive Laura's many indiscretions — all the while taking her friendships for granted.

Mariko Tamaki is an award-winning Canadian comics writer, contributing to Marvel and DC Comics, based in Oakland, California. She was named comics writer of the year at the 2020 Eisner Awards. Her other books include the YA novel (you) Set Me On Fire and the graphic novels  Skim and This One Summer, which were illustrated by Jillian Tamaki.

Rosemary Valero-O'Connell is an American illustrator who has worked for DC Comics, BOOM! Studios, CAPY Games and Mondo Tees.

Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian

Like a Love Story is a YA novel by Abdi Nazemian. (HarperCollins)

Like a Love Story is a YA novel that describes the friendship of three New York teens in 1989, set against the backdrop of the AIDS crisis. Reza, a recent Iranian immigrant, is terrified people will find out he's gay and begins to date a young woman named Judy. While their friendship deepens, Reza starts to fall for Judy's best friend Art — their school's only out and proud student.

Abdi Nazemian, a dual Canadian-U.S. citizen based in Los Angeles, is a screenwriter and author. His other books include the YA novels The Authentics and The Walk-In Closet.

The Starlight Claim by Tim Wynne-Jones

Tim Wynne-Jones is a British–Canadian author of children's literature and adult novels. (Candlewick, timwynne-jones.com)

The Starlight Claim is a thriller geared for YA readers. The story follows a boy named Nate who is suffering from bad dreams after his best friend goes missing. Nate decides to embark on a treacherous solo journey to find out what happened that fateful day. Nate is forced to rely on his wits in a wilderness full of strangers, secrets and a blustery winter storm.

Tim Wynne-Jones is a writer from Ontario. has written over 35 books, including The Ruinous Sweep, The Maestro, Zoom at Sea, The Boy in the Burning House, Blink and Caution and the adult novel Odd's End. In 2011, he was named an officer of the Order of Canada. He has won the Governor General's Literary Award for children's literature — text three times: in 1993 for Some of the Kinder Planet, in 1995 for The Maestro, and in 2009 for The Uninvited.

You Don't Have to Die in the End by Anita Daher

You Don't Have to Die in the End is a novel by Anita Daher. (anitadaher.com, Yellow Dog)

Eugenia Grimm lives a tough life in a Rocky Mountain town. Her father died by suicide on her eighth birthday and she's been hurting ever since. Eugenia left home at 14 and rebels by drinking and getting into fights. After a violent incident leaves her facing incarceration, she ends up in a treatment program where she is forced to choose between changing her life or spiraling back into her old life. 

Anita Daher is a children's author, screenwriter and actor based in Winnipeg. She has written over a dozen book for kids including Forgotten How to Breathe and Two Foot Punch, and was longlisted for the 2017 CBC Short Story Prize

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