Ottawa Citizen, April 30, 2016
Two of Ottawa’s most celebrated authors each have a new book out this spring that features egocentric, overbearing high school student council presidents confronted by social misfits.
The most timely is Caroline Pignat’s Shooter, an unfortunately all-too-real novel scheduled to hit bookstores by May 3. Like Alan Cumyn’s recently published Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend, Shooter is billed as a young adult novel. But both books can certainly be enjoyed by grown-ups peering voyeuristically into the world of teen angst and social mores.
Shooter largely takes place in one room – a high school boys’ bathroom – in which the super-organized student council president Isabelle finds herself trapped with four classmates she calls “antisocial loners;” a gunman is on the loose and the school is in lockdown.
One by one we get inside the heads of Isabelle and the “loners.” Pignat, a real-life teacher at All Saints Catholic High School, definitely knows how teenagers think, speak and feel. There is a ring of truth to the characters, their backstories and their reactions to horrific events.
The plot is cunningly unpredictable. There is a lot more to these “antisocial loners” than Isabelle ever dreamed. And Isabelle has some eyebrow-raising revelations of her own as the story moves to a nail-biter of an ending. Reading Shooter, it is easy to see why Pignat has already won two Governor General’s Awards for children’s books, Greener Grass and The Gospel Truth.
Cumyn, with two Ottawa Book Awards among his trophies, is perhaps best known as the author of such adult novels as Man of Bone and Burridge Unbound. But he has also written some children’s books, including The Owen Skye Trilogy.
Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend really falls in between the categories of adult and children’s books, although some of the erotic scenes involving Shiels, the gorgeous, super-organized student council president, may be a bit too steamy for some parents. Face it: Many high school students have a sex life; Cumyn is just reflecting reality.
Sheils has her life and that of her school perfectly organized until Pyke arrives. Pyke is a pterodactyl-boy, a beaked, flying dinosaur who has learned how to speak (sort of), to sit still in class and to be a rock-star chick magnet. Yes, Cumyn told The Guardian newspaper, “the premise is ridiculous.” …
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Alan Cumyn’s new book is in the Ottawa Public Library collection and, at the time of writing, available in several locations. Order online at biblioottawalibrary.ca and pick up at North Gower.
Earlier works by Caroline Pignat are also in the collection and available.