Category Archives: Novels

Taking time for reflection

Eleanor Roosevelt famously said:

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

Oh dear.  I realize how often in my daily interactions I slip into the category of discussing events and people, but I aspire to do better.

Journalist Steve Wasserman asks: “Does the ethos of acceleration prized by the internet diminish our capacity for deliberation and enfeeble our capacity for genuine reflection? Does the daily avalanche of information banish the space needed for actual wisdom?”

What would Eleanor Roosevelt think about the way social media bombards us with ‘bites’ of information, but no true analysis of events?

This is why I love bookclub. Coming together for the sole purpose of discussing the ideas presented in thoughtful books is so enriching. When the other group members share their insights I see that each person’s experience of the world allows them to interpret the story and its ideas differently. That in turn promotes clarity and then wisdom, and helps me become a more empathetic person. Books (and journals) are the antithesis of ‘fast news’, which, like ‘fast fashion’ has quantity but no quality.

One of the silver linings from the pandemic is that each of my three adult daughters has rediscovered books and reading. When the pandemic is declared over, I hope they will continue to read and, even more importantly, discuss the ideas found on the pages.

Faster Than Truth

Once again I’ve become the great auntie to a new book. Kim Denman, member of my beloved writing critique group has just launched her Y/A novel, Faster Than Truth.  As the great auntie I’m extremely attached to this story. I’ve watched it grow from infancy (Kim pondering the idea of a Y/A story about ‘fake news’) to suffering along with her through the growing pains (edits, revisions, seeking a publisher) and now I’m delighted to join in the celebration of its release. And what a story it is. Kim always creates loveable, complicated, and unique characters. Her stories are full of humour but always seek out deeper meaning, and she succeeded beautifully with this one. It is a timely story and the reader will struggle along with the protagonist as he tries to understand the nature of truth in journalism.

From the cover: Sixteen-year-old Declan dreams of becoming a professional reporter, an international correspondent who flies around the globe covering big stories. But Declan is still in high school, and as the editor of his school paper, he covers schools dances – not exactly “news”.

Declan gets his chance for a big scoop when another student shows him part of an email written by the principal that discusses an outrageous plot to track the students. Declan publishes the story without checking the source. The story goes viral. Unfortunately, it’s also wrong. Will Declan find a way to make it right?

It is funny, poignant, there’s a hint of romance, and the reader will be left thinking about ‘the news’, what is real, what is fake, and how to dig deeper to find the truth.

A most enjoyable, thoughtful story and I’m proud to have had the opportunity to follow along on its journey to published book.



What Are Your Three Most Formative Books?

On my daily walks I’ve been listening to a podcast called “3 Books with Neil Pasricha”. In each episode Neil interviews an interesting, articulate, (and usually famous) person and they discuss the three books that have been the most formative in that person’s life. The book choices spark some really interesting conversations that often spiral in many directions.  And isn’t that what books are supposed to do?

Neil asks his guests to choose books that changed their lives in some significant way- steering them in a different direction or opening their eyes to new ideas.  Often a book from childhood is  cited as a formative book, as well as one from their early adult years. I’ve discovered some amazing titles by listening to these interviews. I’ve also spent  time considering what my own three most formative books would be.

I’ve always been an avid reader. In my childhood home we could choose to read or do chores. It was a no-brainer for me. (Thanks mom, for turning me into a reader.) But selecting just three books over my lifetime is hard. The following are the first ones that jump to mind. By tomorrow it might be an entirely different list. Continue reading


Lost Boy

Lost Boy

Raised in a polygamous community, Jon starts to question the rules of his faith. After he is caught kissing a girl, he is forced to flee his town and the only life he knows. He finds a community of other Lost Boys, or “polygs,” but is utterly unprepared for life outside his community of Unity. He spirals into a life of numbing booze, drugs and homelessness. When he hits rock bottom, someone from his past enters his new life and helps him find his way.

Jon and several of the novel’s other characters were introduced in Shelley Hrdlitschka’s earlier novel Sister Wife.

Available October, 2018

Orca Book Publishers 

Awards and Recognitions:

Included on the CCBC’s BEST BOOKS for Kids & Teens list


Well written and thoroughly researched, Lost Boy offers a brief but thorough look into religious polygamy and cult dynamics in a realistic and matter-of-fact way. While it is technically a sequel to Hrdlitschka’s novel Sister Wife, Lost Boy works well as a stand-alone. Hrdlitschka provides a satisfying conclusion that is hopeful yet realistic and leaves readers with no doubt that Jon still has a lot of work ahead of him. (Quill & Quire)

Lost Boy is a compelling coming-of-age novel that offers some insight into the polygamist lifestyle. Hrdlitschka provides relatable, intriguing conflict. In a a sting of events that leads the protagonist in a downward spiral, readers can’t help but be mindful of how the choices we make affect more than just ourselves; they also impact those we care most about.

Though Unity represents an atypical experience, the lessons the protagonist learns are universal. Jon must take ownership for his choices rather than lay victim to the past. Lost Boy also provides very real examples of loving kindness from strangers who help Jon along his path; we see exemplary behaviour pitted against self-destructive attitudes for a coming-of-age story that will appeal to both males and females. (Canadian Children’s Booknews)

What sets it apart from much of the teen literature available is its sensitive nature…Lost Boy can be used as a tool to understanding other ways of life and the practice of polygamy…Themes of poverty, perseverance, new beginnings and family are all overarching themes present in this novel. Recommended.  (CM Magazine)

The companion novel to Sister Wife (2008) ends on a hopeful note for the young people of Unity struggling to make sense of the world beyond. (Kirkus)

BC Bookworld Review:

Reader Reactions:

I just finished Lost Boy this morning and I think it is wonderful!I loved it so much. You’ve done an amazing job telling that story and the struggles that teens face in those repressive communities. I loved the new community that Jon eventually finds and is part of in his post-polygamous life. Such a hopeful story in the end. (Debbie Hodge, author)

I have just finished reading your latest book and couldn’t put it down! I love how you create such vivid images in my mind as I read the words you have written. I feel like I’m watching the story unfold in front of me, not just words being read. Thank you for another great read! (Sue Gordon, former employee of Kidsbooks.)

Oh, this book was gut wrenching and so lovely! Wasn’t prepared to be as immersed in the story as I instantly became. It’s a great read, eye opening and touching. The ending was an amazing conclusion to the story, not only was everything ‘tied’ together, but it felt real and worthwhile. (Elizabeth Hunter, Goodreads)

Once again, a winner!  I really appreciate how you manage to avoid the good/bad and find the complexity in the situations, in your characters and their feelings.  I did hope that Jon would find purpose and hope in his life and he did with Hope as well as the support and caring of some others too.  Thank you!  Even Jon’s father became a sympathetic character for me.  Not the Prophet though, that would not have been credible.
The immense challenges of leaving one culture and trying to survive in another one fundamentally different became increasingly understandable as Jon’s struggles evolved.  The school teacher’s comment about not having the foundations to support the new information was like a metaphor for the various dimensions of his situation.  I can imagine your book being useful with teens from different cultures just as Catcher in the Rye and The Absolutely True Diary…was for Jon. (Dr. Nonie Lyon)

That whole Polygamist way of life is fascinating isn’t it?  So interesting to think there are still children being raised in these communities, so very different from our lives. And what an extreme adjustment for those who leave after a lifetime of being raised with those beliefs. You handled that so beautifully, I could just feel how challenging it was for those kids through your writing. (And I still can’t get over Celeste being married off to Jon’s Dad! That horrible Prophet!) (Susan Chubb)

I found your book, Lost Boy, and I am thoroughly enjoying it. I teach students who feel weighed down by their parents’ religious beliefs and their main complaint is not having control over who they get to be.  I will definitely be recommending this book to all my students.  Thank you for creating this story and sharing it with young readers.  (High School English teacher)





AllegraAllegra hopes that being at a performing-arts high school will change her life and make her a better dancer. But high school is still high school, complete with cliques, competition and cruelty. And home isn’t much better. Forced to take a class in music theory, Allegra takes refuge in writing music with her young teacher who nurtures and appreciates her talent. But when her feelings for him become more intense and he seems to reciprocate, Allegra sets in motion a chain of events that could destroy everything and everyone she loves.

Orca Book Publishers 2014

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Awards and Recognitions

Nominated: Yalsa’s Best Fiction for Young Adults 2014 List


“You can’t hear the music, but you can feel it in this fresh, engrossing story.” Quill and Quire

“Hrdlitschka is known for having her pulse on hot-button issues for teens, and her latest novel, which exams a teacher-student attraction, is no exception. Hrdlitschka does an excellent job of illustrating the subtle, gradual and easily understandable shift in their relationship.” Canadian Children’s Book News

“Hrdlitschka allows Allegra to tell her own story, and her fine ear for teen emotion is well displayed in scenes that reveal Allegra’s social anxiety and panic attacks, her sorrow and disbelief over her parents’ crumbling marriage, and her resistance to unfamiliar feelings of love as handsome, young Mr. Rocchelli begins to fill the emptiness in her life….Teens with a passion for the arts will see themselves in Allegra, whose intensity and flaws make her perfectly relatable.”

“The musical creations  – whether through a rock-band jam session, playing a classical harp, or composing with a digital program – are described with loving detail but a light touch, appealing to both veteran musicians and neophytes, who will relish this opportunity to better appreciate the power of music. Allegra’s artistic pursuits – and intense commitment – will resonate particularly with equally passionate teens, while her social anxiety and strained home life might be familiar, albeit painfully so, to a broader audience.” School Library Journal

“As with all the other characters you have created, I thought you really captured the feelings, struggles, thoughts and actions of the adolescent girl. I could feel her gradual experience of her new sexual feelings…You really know how to portray anxiety and depression and the devastating effects they can have. Another great contribution to teen literature and for adults too!”  Dr. Nonie Lyon

“In her absorbing exploration of contemporary teen life…   Hrdlitschka realistically depicts teenage emotional turmoil as Allegra’s growing obsession with Mr. Rocchelli combines with despair at her parents’ separation and the ups and downs of her new friendships.”Publisher’s Weekly

“Shelley Hrdlitschka could have made Mr. Rocchelli the “bad guy” by having him lead Allegra on but she charitably creates no good guys and bad guys, just characters who are human, trying to do the best they can.  Their way of doing things, including their reactions and interpretations, may be right or they may be wrong, but they don’t seem to have any hidden agendas.  Allegra herself recognizes that she “should” be lively, or that she would at least benefit from being more extroverted, but it’s not always possible to be what others want of us, no matter how beneficial.  But, like her parents, her friends, Mr. Rocchelli and others, Allegra takes what she’s been given and works with it.  Sometimes it’s flat but sometimes it’s a superb orchestral piece with layers of harmonies and melodies that inspire and elevate.” See entire review at

Dancing in the Rain

Dancing in the RainBrenna’s beloved adoptive mother is dead and her birth mother wants nothing to do with her. Grief-stricken, Brenna tries to care for her father and younger sister while reaching out to her biological aunt. The last thing she expects is to fall in love, but Ryan is the one person who knows what Brenna needs in order to move beyond her grief into a place of peace.

Dancing in the Rain continues the story that began in Dancing Naked.

Orca Book Publishers 2013


“Dancing in the Rain is an uplifting, heartwarming book that reminds young readers to look outside themselves for support when times get hard. Hrdlitschka sprinkles some good guidance around, showing her characters making good and not-so-good choices from which they learn. Everybody hurts, and nobody’s life is perfect—not even in the end. But it’s real. And there’s a real beauty in that.” Alex Van Tol, BC Bookworld

“While Hrdlitschka revisits the setting of Dancing Naked, this is not a typical sequel; reading the first book is not necessary to understand this one.” Quill & Quire

“Explores the realistic truth that not all relationships can be mended while also offering healing and hope.” Kirkus Review

“This book could be a good read for young teens who recently lost a parent and are looking for ways to heal.” Canadian Children’s Book News.

Starred review in the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s BEST BOOKS for Kids & Teens


Just like her character in Dancing in the Rain, Shelley likes to snowshoe and feed whisky jacks.

Reader Reactions

“I’m only on page 45 and have had tears twice!!  You are so gifted!! CAN WE MAKE IT A TRILOGY?!  This book is sooooo good! I love the ending – everything rounds out nicely and realistically. I love how when I read this book it is like a movie going through my head.  This will be a best seller!  I’m emailing Phyllis and telling her to order copies into kidsbooks!! Well done!” Sue Gordon, Retired teacher and Kidsbooks employee

“Dancing in the Rain is a perfect book. I finished it last night and loved every moment of reading it. After chapters one and two, I was sobbing but completely engaged. You developed Brenna and Ryan’s relationship so sweetly and the Grouse Mtn setting of their romance makes it extra special. I really like how you didn’t let us off the hook concerning the heartache surrounding Joanna’s death and the adoption but nevertheless gave us hope…..a terrific bitter sweet ending that seems to leave the door open for a follow-up book.  I could go on and on, but I’ll leave off for now with just adding that I found the chapter epigraphs insightful and inspiring.” Leslie Martin

“I shed quite a few tears while reading your book. Obviously there has to be a third book so we can carry on the story. Shelley Hrdlitschka’s Dancing Trilogy!  Get on it my dear!  Keep Dancing!! Just wish there had been books like this when I was a teen. Those characters are living with me right now, I’m so fond of them all!” Susan Chubb

“Oh Shelley Shelley Shelley! I barely know what to say besides thank you for writing Dancing in the Rain. Wow… I have JUST finished your book. I laughed, I shrieked, and I most definitely bawled my eyes out. You wrote such a beautiful, emotional, truthful, heart wrenchingly wonderful follow up. I could not have ask for anything more.I will be honest, there were parts that were incredibly emotional for me to read. So much of my own life’s experiences could connect with this story. I found myself looking back over my own life and my adoption and how that got me to where I am. And who I am. So many of the questions Brenna had for Kia, I too once had about my own “other” life. I could honestly talk about this for hours. I am just so happy and thankful for this book. I think it has really hit a spot for me and I know I will hold it dear forever.” Christy Brain

“I am impressed each time I read one of your books with the way you are able to enter into the inner world of your protagonists’ thinking and feeling, their inner dialogues.  You have a wonderful ability to create complex characters with complex feeling states!  I appreciated the quotes at the beginning of each chapter.  Many of them really spoke to me.I liked that everything didn’t get tied up in a neat bundle at the end.   And I could go on!  One more: I really liked how you handled the fresh intensity of young love, Brenna’s early doubts and fears, etc.” Dr. Nonie Lyon

I just finished reading Dancing in the Rain. I absolutely loved it.  Your books always make me so emotional and yes I did cry in parts! I just had to tell you that you are an amazing definitely found your true passion in writing and connecting with many different situations. Monica

“I found this book to be a real page turner from beginning to end and highly recommend this read! Five Stars!!” Karen Upper (Goodreads)