Holding Still for as Long as Possible
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Holding Still for as Long as Possible

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  353 ratings  ·  55 reviews
In this robust, scruffy, elegantly plotted, and ultimately life-affirming novel, rising star Zoe Whittall presents a dazzling portrait of a generation we've rarely seen in literature -- the 25-year-olds who grew up on anti-anxiety meds, text-messaging each other truncated emotional reactions, unsure of what's public and what's private. With this extraordinary novel -- whic...more
ebook, 312 pages
Published May 29th 2011 by House of Anansi Press (first published September 15th 2009)
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I don't really pay much attention before I buy a book. I don't really know the process that gets me to pick one up. I do know some bits of it like if I put it on the pile I probably won't buy it till someone gives me crap about the pile being too high, and god knows when I'll read it. But if I'm walking along and I see something and I think, "God I really need that book" not only will I buy it but I'll probably start reading it right away (With the exception being if I think that 4 times in on...more

(ETA par. at end)

this is a self-consciously 20-something book in which life is lived mostly at night -- people work during the day but their workdays seem unimportant -- in a drifty sort of way, fueled by extravagant quantities of alcohol, constant personal interaction (conducted in person or through text messages) and very little sleep. the 20-somethingness is conveyed, i take, by the choppiness of the narrative, the characters' restless sexual lives, their promiscuity, their great reliance on...more
OMG, where has this author been all my life? This book is epic! It's literally the only queer book I've ever read and enjoyed. I say this as a queer person; usually, the books that are written by and for our community do nothing for me, make me feel like my life is some sort of a cliche. This book is freaking great.

There's a long list of things I liked about this book. The narrative style isn't traditional or easy- there are three main characters, and they all take turns narrating- but Whittall...more
Jean Roberta
“YOU PROBABLY like to imagine your death the way it should be: You are old. By old, you mean ready to die. Resolved. You are in bed, with your mind intact and loved ones encircling you. Your regrets are few; your pain minimal. Your last words: golden.”

So opens a novel that is both timeless and contemporary, set in Toronto. If you suspect that this beginning does not foreshadow a serenely predictable death, you’d be right. This is a novel in which there’s always the possibility of violence and s...more
So you feel like you should like Michelle Tea because her characters are like, young and working class and queer so you feel like you have so much in common you just have to like her books, but in reality she irritates you and makes you feel alienated and her writing style feels simultaneously drug-addled and pretentious? (I FUCKING SAID IT. FINALLY. THAT FEELS GREAT) Then you should read Zoe Whittall.

Zoe's characters are queer people in their mid-twenties, floating around between parties, shit...more
In her second novel, Zoe Whittall follows a group of twentysomethings struggling to cope with their complicated lives. Trapped somewhere between growing up and being grown-ups, these would-be adults hide behind excessive drinking and partying, and use text messages to relay their emotions.

The story focuses on three troubled young people: Billy, a former teen pop starlet who suffers from sever panic attacks; Josh, a paramedic whose ability to patch up injured patients parallels his inability to r...more
This was a shallow, dull book, populated by superficial characters about whom I did not care. During the story's climax, I found it very easy to put this book down to do several hours of data entry, during which time I thought about the book exactly zero times.

The writing was occasionally very, very bad. My girlfriend and I had a good laugh over lines like this, "Even in Toronto, 1,791 km from New Orleans, people wore the after-effects of Hurricane Katrina on their faces like badly matched liqui...more
This was a really great read and very relatable. Not to mention I enjoyed all the Toronto references!

It also contains one of the only depictions of a trans person I’ve ever encountered in any form of media ever in my life that wasn’t completely offensive, and in fact presented said trans person as a nuanced human being.

I was super impressed by this book, and it inspired me to seek out her other work.
Don't judge this book by the trying-too-hard marketing copy about SARS and Katrina. The characters are excellently-written and I loved the story.
Kit A.
beautiful & heart-breakingly relatable; such a fantastic read.
Philip Gordon
When I was perusing the fiction section at my local Chapters, this title grabbed my eye as an entry in the list of contemporary novels I've been meaning to check out. I pulled it from the shelf, flipped it open, and scanned a couple paragraphs to see if I could justify spending a chunk of my meager pay-cheque on purchasing it.

The section I read in the store was Billy's description of her thoughts during a panic attack. I was hooked, and brought the book home that day.

Reading from start to finish...more
I am a member of BooksFree.com, a monthly subscription that can easily be described as Netflix’s for books. Each week I tend to read whatever I have gotten in the mail and leave the stacks and stacks (or shelves and shelves) or my personal collection sadly unopened. However, on a recent trip to Puerto Plata with my best friend and sister-in-law, I decided to leave the rental books at home to avoid charges in case any were lost or stolen and dive into my own literary stash.

I bought this book for...more
Em Milling
Oh my GAHD. The last 50 pages killed me, right in the heart, with a big scary knife. This book is great, and has definitely become one of my favourites. I had no idea what I was getting into when I started it, but it definitely had everything you want in a book.

The characters were so well developed, I felt like I was living their lives. All of them. Although Amy didn't have as much focus as Billy or Josh, it did seem towards the end that her narrative role was crucial in the overall scheme. Thi...more
Shonna Froebel
Set in Toronto in late 2005 and early 2006, this book speaks from three voices. Josh is an EMS worker, a transsexual man, and a shy man. Amy is Josh's partner of 5 years, a budding filmmaker, and a confident woman. Billy is recovering from the fame of her teens, prone to panic attacks, and coming out of a seven year relationship. All these characters are in their mid-twenties. Amy and Josh's relationship is coming down from its high, and they are both unsure of whether they want it to continue o...more
George Ilsley
I loved the writing and most of this book. Being a rabid ex-smoker though I was really turned off by the fact that EVERY character smoked. Reminded me of reading Timothy Findley's Spadework, where all the action is paced based on smoker's tics, lighting cigarettes, inhaling, and so on, where it really felt the author was projecting his addictions on to the characters. Even when I was a smoker and was in my 20's and lived in Toronto, lots of my friends were non-smokers. Unfortunately one of the m...more
you've heard about people going to and fro on the idea of the category of new adult? i don't know if zoe whittall would classify it this way but holding still for as long as possible is the kind of book i want to see published under that genre. twenty-somethings wandering about! reading this felt like reading ya did when i was a preteen, like my life wasn't entirely like the characters but i could recognize them, they were somewhere i would be soon. it'd be nice to have a genre that could do tha...more
Meghan Crowley
Reading the first sentence, "You probably like to imagine your death the way it should be: You are old," I expected tragedy. The book is fast-paced and the characters are all living in various states of sleep-deprivation, anxiety, over-partying, and so on. It was a quick read as I was seeking the expected dreadful outcome of these twenty-somethings who fail to live happily and healthily. The novel was not as predictable as I might have supposed, though. It was compelling.
Teena in Toronto
I came across this book in my quest to read more books by Canadian authors. As a bonus, it takes place in Toronto.

It's an interesting story of Josh, Amy and Billy, each with their own demons and how they deal with them. Josh and Amy break up but are determined to remain friends. Billy and Maria have just broken up and are trying to remain friends. Tensions are added when Billy and Josh get together.

This story "happened" in my 'hood. They live and hang out not far from where I live which made it...more
this book was emotionally resonant, well-plotted and relatable. i can't think of another queer fiction book that has had me as spellbound as the last 40 or so pages of this. i kind of wish i'd read this a few years ago, when the main themes--having a partner who's of a different class than you & the problems it causes, working a really intense job whose intensity feeds you while also exhausting you--were very relevant to my life. but i still enjoyed this book a lot. i didn't feel like i real...more
This novel was a bit difficult to get into and overall I didn't really relate to any of the characters as a whole, but rather saw bits of myself and people I knew throughout. I felt anxious the entire time I was reading it, possibly because so much of the book written in hasty snippets from the point of view of a paramedic and it just kind of sets you on that path. Perhaps it's also because the characters always seem like they're balancing precariously on the egde of something, and you're waitin...more
Maisa Leibovitz
Great young voice on relationships and modern anxieties, but reads slightly awkward at times. The Toronto backdrop is interesting, like the city is one of the characters trying to decide what it is and what it wants to be. I'm sure all 20somethings can relate.
Oct 20, 2011 vani rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who has ever been queer in their twenties in a city, or anywhere
the characters linger in your mind long after. i sensed the author truly felt care for the characters she created. their voices compel, entrance. i wasn't ready for it to end. i'm reminded of a bookstore talk where a translator asserted no two people really talk the same, that our varied and distinct speaking voices come out of an innate and maybe very old need to be recognized in the dark.this novel explores class in queer relationships in a very smart way, too. i did wonder, for a book set in...more
It feels like the author suddenly didn't know how to end her novel. I liked it, but the ending is insipidly sweet - unnecessarily so. Whittall doesn't need to redeem herself for showing how terrible the world is. It's ok, really.

The switch of focus from Josh to Billy seemed strange. While readers are under the impression Josh is the main character throughout, it shifts to Billy at the end. If this was done for a specific purpose, I missed it. To me, Josh is more interesting than Billy and her p...more
Jennifer Whiteford
I'd give this slightly more than three stars if that were possible 3.5 would be more accurate. I liked the book, read it quickly and enjoyed the characters. The plot hinges largely on the drama that occurs in relationships when people are in their twenties, which is probably why I didn't enjoy it four or five stars worth. There's only so many pages of identity crises, insecurities, and codependency that I can take before I remember why I was so happy to turn thirty. Still, well written and very...more
Sassafras Lowrey
zoe whittal is such a brilliant writer
Dorianne Emmerton
This book felt like my life. Whittall so precisely captures exactly what it was to be that young and queer in Toronto in the mid 2000's. I imagine that a reader who is not of that demographic would be just as pleased to get such insight into it, the way I love reading books that transport me to 1920's Paris, or whatever time and place.

The characters are so deftly drawn that I had a crush on one of them. (Josh would be the perfect boyfriend for me. Really.)

And the ending is perfect in a way tha...more
Barbara McVeigh
Holding Still for as Long as Possible contains some zinger lines and insight into young people living in Toronto. It is set in a specific time, place and culture politics: post-9/11, SARS, and sexual ambiguity.

Like the title suggests, the plot doesn't move much. Instead, the inner thoughts of the three main characters are explored. I think I would have enjoyed Holding Still more if I had read this book in my twenties since it really concerns that generation trying to figure out how to grow up.
Niya B
It's so refreshing to see Toronto described as Toronto. While all of the characters could have been better developed, there is enough there to empathize with. It is possible to relate to all of them, and some may find them loveable, riddled with flaws and endearing moments as they are. The relationships portrayed could use more detail, more nuance and more subtlety but that is a skill that Whittall may develop over time. The ending is happier than I expected or wanted, but some people like happy...more
Three and a half stars.

I really liked this story of 20-something gays living and loving in Toronto. One of the characters was a paramedic, and the parts about his work were well researched, interesting and full of details.

However, I really didn't like the ending and one of the sections in the book, so that's where the stars were lost for me. However, I would definitely pick up the next thing that Whittall writes. I love her sense of place and the details in her work.
Joshua Brant
I introduced a friend to Whittall's Bottle Rocket Hearts and she loved it, also quickly devouring this follow-up before I had even bought it! I loved the various love triangles and the rich characterization (and again the narrative is set during a memorable Canadian moment, such as the 2004 SARS outbreak in Toronto). I do find that Whittall has difficulty ending her novels (a bit of deus ex machina at work here), but it's a minor criticism--I still highly recommend the book!
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Zoe Whittall has written two novels, Holding Still for as Long as Possible (House of Anansi, 09/10) now out in paperback and optioned for film. Her first novel, Bottle Rocket Hearts, was named one of the Best Books of 2007 by The Globe and Mail and Quill & Quire magazine. Now Magazine awarded her the title of Best Emerging Author of 2007. She has published three books of poetry, Precordial Thu...more
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Bottle Rocket Hearts The Emily Valentine Poems The Best Ten Minutes of Your Life Geeks, Misfits and Outlaws: Short Fiction The Middle Ground

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“That's creativity in a nutshell. A messy tug-of-war with imagination to erase that feeling that nothing really matters anyway.” 11 likes
“I am having a quarter-life crisis," I announced to my mother.

"My generation never had those, we just had babies and thought about killing them from time to time.”
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