The YA scene in Québec today, says literary translator Arielle Aaronson, is grounded in strong characters and good old-fashioned storytelling: “The coming-of-age novel has never been more topical as young readers struggle to find themselves in an era of vast connectivity and stark isolation. Québec charges onto the YA scene with an offer that is both timely and raw. Its authors prove that there is no need to dress their stories up in vampires and superheroes; Québec continues a literary tradition rooted in a humble, down-to-earth approach to storytelling.” Aaronson knows a thing or two about telling stories. She has a young adult novel in translation under her belt (21 Days in October by Magali Favre, Baraka Books), along with a handful of translations of novels for adults.
Readers, it seems, are spoiled for choice by the variety of recent YA novels from Québec. Themes range from suicide (La chute de Sparte by Biz), gender identity (Ciel by Sophie Labelle), and bullying (Jane, le renard et moi by Isabelle Arsenault and Fanny Britt) to immigration (La Route de Chlifa by Michèle Marineau) and depression and family dynamics (Comme une chaleur de feu de camp by Amélie Panneton). Many publishing houses are putting out quality novels that are meeting with success both at home and abroad. And the greatest variety of all comes in the approaches authors take to creating wildly different YA works: each has an angle of its own, a prism through which to view the world.
Le deuil de mon animal de compagnie by Annique Lavergne (Les Éditions de l’Homme) is an activity book for helping children grieve the loss of a pet. Les Malins, meanwhile, is especially excited about publishing the Gamer series by Pierre-Yves Villeneuve, set in the world of video games and e-sports. Québec Amérique rights director Alexandra Valiquette says Vingt-cinq moins un by Geneviève Piché is “a YA novel that will have adults shedding a tear too.” Québec Amérique’s Les Rois mongols by Nicole Bélanger was made into a movie that took home a Crystal Bear from the 2018 Berlinale.
The popular Taboo series from Éditions de Mortagne features hard-hitting themes (a 16-year-old becoming a father, a suicide pact, incest) that other publishers might shy away from. In Olivier Simard’s Youtubeurs series from Les Éditions de la Bagnole, which has sold more than 7,500 copies in Québec, twists and turns abound as a teenager tries to win a girl’s heart through YouTube fame. Last but not least is Ophélie from La Courte Échelle, written by Charlotte Gingras and illustrated by Daniel Sylvestre. Gingras’s books have been translated into Dutch and German and she is a two-time winner of a Governor General’s Award for her YA novels.
These examples barely scratch the surface of Québec’s YA scene, which is broad and varied. It’s safe to say that Québec’s literature for young readers is thriving.