Writing characters with mental illness is always a delicate balance Representing the character s experience in an authentic way without alienating the reader is tricky stuff, but Sutherland manages to nab this balance Marie is an interesting character and a unique love interest for Katherine, not solely because there are so few lesbian love stories in YA, but because she is just as irritating as she is endearing I oscillated between really liking Marie to finding her oppressive throughout the novel, but there is no denying that her incredibly energy, dedication to music and sheer life force is exactly what Katherine needs.I very much enjoyed the Toronto experience in the book and I imagine readers will, too It s not enough to mention street names Queen West and landmarks Bloor Street Viaduct , in order to create an authentic experience you have to capture the atmosphere, energy and community of a city, which Sutherland does It s sad that in 2013 it feels like a rare treat to come across Canadian isms in kidlit and YA I do not believe that if a YA reader in Tennessee, Sheffield, or Brisbane picked up this or any other Canadian specific book they would frown at the place names and think, Oh this is Canadian, I can t relate and stop reading Good on Sutherland and Three O Clock Press for sticking to their guns.For full review, please visit vikkivansickle.wordpress.com While the world didn t end when the calender turned from December 31st, 1999 to January 1st, 2000, things in Katherine Boatman s life aren t going so well Her best friend and her couldn t be further apart and her grandmother died suddenly on New Year s Eve, leaving a void that she doesn t know how to fill In When We Were Good, Suzanne Sutherland offers the world a beautifully written debut novel with an edgy realness that teens who are struggling with or who have struggled with their sexuality will appreciate.Sutherland writes a believable and sensitive portrait of a teen girl, who is struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts, with feelings of self hatred and the confusing feelings of love for someone of the same gender, and she does it in a way that makes the city of Toronto, a 50 bill with William Lyon MacKenzie King s face, and the underground music scene at the time into vibrant characters in their own right For someone, like myself, who has been living in Toronto for less than a year, who still doesn t have a complete understanding of Toronto s geography or history, I feel like this book was published at the perfect time I also love that Michael Ondaatje s In The Skin of a Lion, which is about the construction of Toronto s infamous Bloor Viaduct and the lives of the immigrants who built this city, but weren t remembered by history, is such a strong feature in Sutherland s novel Of course, it makes perfect sense to those who know the history of the viaduct since the novel takes place two years after a suicide barrier was approved for the bridge, called The Luminous Veil However,than the historical significance, the importance of Ondaatje s book signals aspects of thematic importance about When We Were Good, including the various histories that have been written on this city, and of course, the depression that Katherine is going through I ve read some other reviews on Goodreads that questioned the relationship between Marie and Katherine, saying that the love interest came on far too strong for someone who was struggling with their sexuality, but personally, I just don t see that Yes, Katherine was struggling with her feelings for Marie, but the latter never crossed the line Marie is direct about her sexuality, but I don t see a problem with being honest and open about being a lesbian with a friend If anything, Ivan a guy Katherine meets at a concert came on far too strong and his affections toward Katherine felt wrong. Graded By AlixCover Story Chronologically AppropriateBFF Charm Maybe Roger MurtaughSwoonworthy Scale 1Talky Talk Straight Up AngstyBonus Factors DiversityAnti Bonus Factors Peer PressureRelationship Status Young MenteeRead the full book report This review originally posted at More Than Just MagicNot only does When We Were Good tell the story of a young girl trying to figure out who she is and how she can do some good in the world, it s also a portrait of a city at a particular point in time That city being, of course, Toronto.Sometimes the city a novel is set in is inconsequential It could be any major city centre, but this story is so grounded in Toronto it s impossible to imagine it somewhere else Sutherland has taken great care to draw as detailed a picture as she can, its pieces scattered among a story of grief, young love and underground music Early on in the novel, Katherine and her classmates are discussing Michael Ondaatje s In the Skin of a Lion another book is which the city of Toronto plays a central role Their teacher encourages them to think about why Toronto s identity is central to the story and by extension readers of this book are encouraged to do the same.Sutherland takes the reader back to the year 2000 post the Y2K madness The world hasn t ended and people find a way to carry on living their life as they always did Except Katherine Her world has been changed forever because New Year s Eve is also the day her grandmother dies The reader never gets to meet the grandmother, only see her through Katherine s memories, but it is enough to demonstrate the important role she played in her granddaughter s life When We Were Good is a very honest portrayal of grief Not everyone grieves the same but I think there are some common emotions that many people are going to be able to relate to.In particular, the struggle to honour the person who has passed on This is a question that weighs heavily on Katherine s mind throughout the novel She finds a lost 50 bill and wants to do something good with it but is vexed with the problem of what real good can you do with 50 It was interesting to see how the different people in her life responded to the question and very telling about what kind of person they were Perhaps this should be a standard question to ask when you re getting to know someone.The wild card of this novel is Katherine and Marie s relationship both when they are friends and when they arethan that It is a difficult relationship to say the least That s not to say it s a bad one I think in the long run they are exactly what each other needs But they are both so different it takes them some time to get to that point Katherine iswithdrawn and nervous about saying the wrong thing It makes the reader want to intervene and give her a push in the right direction Marie on the other hand is quite loud and opinionated and there were times I wanted her to dial it down a notch She s a good person and her heart is in the right place but she feels things so deeply and so impulsively at times she was difficult to be around.When We Were Good is a short novel but it accomplishes what it set out to do It tells the story of one quiet, grief stricken girl coming to terms with who she is, how she fits into this world and exactly how one can be good Despite its subject matter it s not a particularly emotional tale there were no tears from this reader but that makes it no less meaningful and poignant And if nothing else it made me want to get out and explore the music scene of my city a littlethoroughly. I agree with one of the reviews here that I am probably too old to enjoy this book, although I did appreciate the Toronto references and thought how a pre teenaged me would have been thrilled to recognize the downtown and indie rock landmarks name checked in it Though it might have beenfun had the author branched out a little beyond a few Annex sites and the Kathedral Reverb Holy Joe trifecta of kiddie punk rock in her survey of all ages Toronto circa 2000 Overall, it felt like a sincere first effort by a very young author and amounted to a fairly fast and fun read I do have to comment on the rather sloppy editing and copy editing job by the publisher that put it out, Three O Clock Press the spelling and other errors that popped up fairly regularly in these pages were quite distracting Though I hate to knock a small press, it s really these detailsthan any other that mark efforts like these as being less than professional I d suggestthorough proofreading on their next venture.I have to say the best part about having read this book is discovering, through this site, linked from a similarly meh review, the existence of foreveryoungadult.com it looks brilliant, and like a place where I will be spending quite a lot of time very soon. I received my copy from Goodreads First Reads.I really enjoyed this book with its plot and themes about goodness and not caring about the views of society I liked the strong personalities of the characters as well as the varying voices of Katherine in different situations clipped with family, but open about Megan and Marie The possible romance between Katherine and Marie was also well done in that they don t immediately fall for each other, but the author lets it build up to leave the reader uncertain about their eventual relationship until the final page However, there were some problems that I noticed with the writing style From the first page, I felt like a lot of unnecessary words were repeated mainly so , and that the language could have been tightened Not only were words being repeated, but a lot of paragraphs had many consecutive sentences that began with I verb ed, which is an easy trap to fall into with first person narrative, and they seemed to occur during moments that were overly detailed, such as when she s getting Oreos and tells the reader every single action, when it could easily be summed up without taking anything away from the story The last issue was in the dialogue Many of the dialogue tags were said and lacked any variance, like muttered or exclaimed, that would provideinsight into how the characters said their lines and what the emotion was behind them Plus, some of the dialogue tags were used too much, which distracted me from the narrative.But just as much as there were problems, there were also parts that were amazing When Katherine talks about her family and the moments with her Mom, her voice becomes objective, which emphasizes how distant she and her parents have become The same happens with Jack and Marie when she talks about her love for them, her half interest in Jack is clear as is her confusion with her feelings for Marie.Despite the need for tightening, this was a very good book and I love the emotion throughout it The setting, characters, and influence of music worked well for the story. is facing her final year of school without her best friend her grandmother Her grandmother had always been there even when her overly busy parents weren t, so when she passes away from a heart attack on New Year s Eve, it means that Kathy doesn t have her most important person any.And that s when Marie walks into her life Marie s a straight edge, no booze, no drugs, no filter on her mouth, kind of girl She talks and talks, filling in the silence in Kathy s life with words and with amazing music.Together, they face their final days in school, as well as the anger of former friends Kathy learnsabout herself in these months than she ever knew before.Final thoughts Decent read about self discovery and personal relationships It s LGBTQ only in the vaguest sense, since it s not the real focus of the story, but it does impact it Nothing really stands out as either good or bad It s OK. To be quite honest, I wasn t a fan of the plot nor the characters when I was reading As a Canadian the Toronto setting was familiar, but I wasn t sure what it was that had me binge reading and looking forward to being able to sit back down with the book again For some reason, Katherine s life became my own I ve got no interest in underground Toronto music scenes of straight edged misfits and ex friend drama, but for some reason I understood I wasn t even sure if I liked the book, but I kept reading as fast as I could I read the last page, and I quite literally held it to my chest and whispered, oh man It all ties together Nothing life changing, nothing ground breaking This book is just good This book makes you feel good This book is light and a misfit itself and lovely Also, the dynamic between Marie and Katherine works out so beautifully by the end. The YearIsn T Starting Out Too Well For Toronto High School Senior Katherine Boatman Not Only Has Her Oldest Friend Ditched Her For Yet Another Boyfriend, Her Beloved Grandmother Died On New Year S Eve, Leaving A Void Of Goodness In Her Life That Katherine S Not Sure How To Fill While Overwhelmed With Sadness And Self Doubt, Katherine Unexpectedly Finds New Love, Both For Toronto S Underground Music Scene And For Her Would Be Savior A Straight Edge, Loudmouthed Misfit Named Marie As Katherine Seeks Comfort In Jagged Guitars, Mind Reading Poets And Honest Conversations, She Struggles To Figure Out Not Only What She And Marie Might Mean To Each Other, But Also What It Truly Means To Be Good A coming out coming of age story in many ways, set in my beloved Toronto It was a great kind of feeling to read about streets and places I know and also to contextualize that with music and the real end of an era, literally.It s a lovely, engaging read that delves into the sort of maelstrom self discovery brings when you least expect it I loved this character s relationships with her parents as a couple and individually I liked how detached she was from them and how she compared it with the parents of her friends But I also really loved how none of that mattered much, in the end I also thoroughly enjoyed Katherine s thoughts about Marie, about how we re drawn to people and have absolutely no idea why The ways in which it became obvious why to Katherine are delicately explored in a very pleasing sort of confused manner And the teen speak was PERFECTION.