Wab Kinew's YA novel The Everlasting Road tackles grief by way of the supernatural — read an excerpt now
See the cover and read an excerpt! The Everlasting Road will be available on Jan. 10, 2023.
In the follow-up to his YA fantasy debut, Walking in Two Worlds, Kinew picks up where he left off: main character Bugz, an Indigenous teen with an online alter ego, continues to navigate the real-life stresses of growing up on the Rez and virtual battles of life in the Floraverse, an online multiplayer video-game universe.
The only difference is, this time, Bugz may have met her match in the form of a new villain in the Floraverse.
Grieving the loss of her brother, Bugz begins building a bot in her brother's likeness, known as Waawaate, as a weapon against the Clan:LESS and other villains plotting against her. At the same time, her relationship with Feng, a teen boy on Rez, continues to grow as they explore the 'Verse together.
When the pair detect disturbances in the virtual world and the new bot attains powers beyond her control, Bugz and Feng might have more on their hands than they can handle.
Based in Winnipeg, Kinew is the leader of the New Democratic Party in Manitoba and bestselling author. In addition to his two YA novels, Kinew also wrote the memoir The Reason You Walk, about mending the relationship with his father before his death, and Go Show the World, a children's picture book about Indigenous heroes throughout history.
A member of the Midewin and an Honorary Witness for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, he is a former hip-hop artist and broadcaster, hosting the CBC series 8th Fire and Canada Reads in 2015. As a panellist on CBC's great book debate, Kinew won the 2014 edition for his defence of The Orenda.
Kinew told CBC Books that readers can expect "the same sort of action-packed scenes in the virtual world as Walking in Two Worlds," but that The Everlasting Road sees Bugz and Feng maturing — both in their relationship and in the challenges they must wrestle with in both worlds, including overcoming grief.
"Speaking with people across North America, I've learned to appreciate how much of a challenge grief can be for all of us — and young people in particular," Kinew said.
"I want this book to encourage people — whether you find strength in a traditional culture like Bugz does as an Anishinaabe person, or whether you find ways to process your grief in the online world, there are healthy ways you can find support."
"It's okay to feel the way we do and it's okay to ask for help. Even the strong, world-conquering heroes like Bugz need a shoulder to cry on."
The Everlasting Road will be available on Jan. 10, 2023. Read an excerpt from the book below.
Bugz turned sharply and, with a kick of her legs, darted behind a giant stone column, pulling Feng in behind her. She waved at the lake bed and a wall of rocks swirled up around them, concealing the pair completely. The Valkyries swam by within inches of their hiding place, none the wiser. Bugz grinned at Feng, who nodded. In the low light, she studied his strong jaw and round cheeks. He looks like he could be Anishinaabe, she thought.
Once the warrior women were out of sight, Bugz emerged from behind the rock shroud and motioned for Feng to follow her discreetly, before the crowd gathering ahead noticed them. The tourists were taking screenshots around a giant stone circle that looked to be Mishi-pizhiw's nest. Others in the crowd were clearly trying to activate the nest and supercharge weapons they'd brought with them, all to no avail.
"Good luck with that," Bugz said over their private voice-com channel, as much to herself as to Feng. "The thing's a decoy."
"Believe me, I remember." Feng smiled. "I was down here for every painstaking moment when you raised the lakebed."
He gave her a deadpan look. "Over and over again."
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Bugz softened her expression and gave him a playful nudge. Feng was a good sport. After the battles with Clan:LESS, Bugz had felt she had no choice but to work obsessively. She knew the clan would leak the location of the nest to the world and that crowds would follow. Building a massive false rock floor and a decoy respawn point was necessary to preserve the magic of the real respawn point — Mishi-pizhiw's nest.
Recalling that work, however, Bugz knew she'd pushed things too far in insisting Feng stay awake with her for two days straight to finish the job. He'd even helped get the cover story out through some of his old clan buddies. He'd told them that the magic had disappeared after the battle. No one but Feng and Bugz knew that the real nest and the tremendous power it contained were hidden deep beneath the false lake floor.
After the battles with Clan:LESS, Bugz had felt she had no choice but to work obsessively. She knew the clan would leak the location of the nest to the world and that crowds would follow.
Before any of the crowd noticed them, Bugz led Feng toward a rock that looked as though it'd been split in two. The two halves parted further and swallowed Bugz and Feng whole before closing again.
In perfect darkness and total silence, the pair traveled down a submerged mine shaft passing level after level, like an elevator descending a dozen stories. If she'd wanted to, Bugz could've run her fingertips along the stone walls for reassurance—she was that close to them — but there was no need. She knew the path by heart, as well as exactly how long it would take for them to reach the bottom.
In the darkness, Bugz's mind began to wander. Immediately after the cataclysmic final showdown with Clan:LESS, her original plan had been to rebuild her army of supernatural creatures inspired by Anishinaabe culture: Thunderbirds, sturgeon, and Mishi-pizhiw, her closest companion, who'd defended her to his death at the hands of Clan:LESS. Yet she'd done none of this...she'd been too preoccupied.
Bugz hadn't found time to rebuild her wealth either. Her crypto balance in the 'Verse was nearly zero. She'd abandoned selling skins, weapons, and merch to her fans. She'd stopped streaming for her followers. She'd ignored all these things that had previously made her not only the world's most famous gamer, but also a quite wealthy one, in favour of her new obsession. In the minds of most of her old fans, she'd simply fallen off the grid. They'd moved on, now idolizing new streamers and new clans.
From time to time, Bugz would see another gamer's stream getting shared with tons of likes, gifts, and micropayments from fans and she'd wonder whether she'd made a huge mistake. After all, she knew Clan:LESS or another rival group would try to attack her again soon. Her failure to build back her wealth and supernatural army made her vulnerable to a raid.
But Bugz had abandoned those things to work tirelessly on her new project, one she'd started when she'd realized her brother wouldn't be making a full recovery. This project had become the outlet for her pain. She knew without a doubt that it was her greatest creation, the most difficult thing she'd ever made in the 'Verse, and the one she'd poured more of her heart and soul into than any other — even more so than she'd done with Mishi-pizhiw.
Bugz felt Feng's hand reaching for hers, and it interrupted her thoughts. "Scared of the dark?" she asked. Hearing no reply, she decided to reassure him instead of teasing him further.
"Don't worry, we've arrived."
Suspended in the water above the real stone circle — Mishi-pizhiw's true nest — and illuminated in a murky glow was the one Bugz had come to see.
Bugz took Feng by the hand and led him out of the mine shaft and into what she knew was a gigantic cavern, though their surroundings were still completely black. She kicked her feet slowly until her judgment told her she'd reached the centre of the chamber. She let go of Feng's hand and pulled an underwater flare from her belt.
Light exploded from the capsule and burned white hot, blinding Bugz and Feng instantly. Bugz turned her head slightly to minimize the glare as the flare burned down a bit and their eyes adjusted to its now green glow.
Suspended in the water above the real stone circle — Mishi-pizhiw's true nest — and illuminated in a murky glow was the one Bugz had come to see. The one she'd dedicated all of her time to this past year, when she could have been getting rich or building legions of majestic creatures. He was unmistakable in his grass dance regalia, which flowed like purple and green seaweed in the water's current. The face she'd known for as long as she could remember. The one she'd just said farewell to in the real world. He was right before her eyes, here in the 'Verse. Waawaate.
Excerpt from The Everlasting Road by Wab Kinew. Copyright © 2023 Wab Kinew. Published by Tundra Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House Canada. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.