When You Get the Chance

Running Pr. May 2021. 272p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780762495009.
Gr 8 Up–Mark is a somewhat irresponsible, fun-loving gay teen who’s hoping summer distance will snuff out his latest romantic tryst. His cousin Talia is queer and struggling to save her fading long-term relationship with nonbinary partner Erin. After their grandfather dies and their grandmother is hospitalized, Mark and Talia find themselves at the family’s summer cottage in Ontario cleaning out old memories. But both have bigger plans: with Mark’s younger sister Paige in tow, the unlikely duo embark on a road trip to Toronto Pride to salvage their summer and maybe even their parents’ fraught bond. Chapters alternate between Mark’s and Talia’s perspectives to shape an emotionally resonant journey, mostly for Talia. Varying articulations of young queer identity are discussed with aplomb; Talia’s broader awareness of gender diversity and systemic inequity opens Mark’s eyes as a privileged cisgender white boy. Historical elements of Canada’s LGBTQ movement are touched on through the thin yet pleasant cast of supportive queer elders. Mark’s careless attitude toward his family, and his consistent interest in getting his needs met by any means necessary, makes his evolution at the novel’s end feel rushed and unrealistic. Readers will appreciate the tender depiction of growing apart and breakups, and the concept of nonmonogamous relationships is also explored without stigma.
VERDICT A solidly entertaining trip through Canada’s queer history, and one family’s difficult secrets. Recommended for fans of lightly adventurous realistic fiction.

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