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3.60  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,746 Ratings  ·  565 Reviews
"Y. That perfect letter. The wishbone, fork in the road, empty wineglass. The question we ask over and over. Why? . . . My life begins at the Y."

So opens Marjorie Celona's highly acclaimed and exquisitely rendered debut about a wise-beyond-her-years foster child abandoned as a newborn on the doorstep of the local YMCA. Swaddled in a dirty gray sweatshirt with nothing but
Hardcover, 259 pages
Published January 8th 2013 by Free Press (first published August 1st 2012)
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I received this book through Goodreads First Reads.

I don't think I have ever been so sad to see a book end. It caught me by surprise and I must have stared at the last page for 5 minutes before I finally closed the book. It was like saying goodbye to a friend that you don't want to lose. I grew so attached to the main character that I almost cried.

One of my favourite things about this book is the way it was written. The narrative is beautiful and 150% suits how you imagine Shannon would think if
May 19, 2012 Sabrina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It seems ironic that the day I choose to read Y is the day this quote comes up on my twitter feed: When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature. How right Ernest Hemingway was indeed. My galley copy of Y seems to breathe on it’s own. Its pages are filled with characters, but two or three are so vivid that they aren’t caricatures but real people.

On my first day working for Penguin Canada, there was a quiet hum of “Y” reverberating a
Steven Langdon
The past year, 2012, has been a period of achievement and excellence for Canadian fiction, with particularly strong contributions from women authors such as Nancy Richler ("The Imposter Bride,") Alix Ohlin ("Inside") and Linda Spalding ("The Purchase.") There have also been positive comments in the media about the work of Marjorie Celona, a West Coast writer whose novel "Y" was published during the year.

For this reason, I read this novel with high expectations.

Its basic plot is compelling. A bab
Mar 09, 2013 Cheryl rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Cheryl by: Susan
Shelves: canadian, fiction, bc, victoria
A baby is abandoned at the Y. Why? Why do people choose the forks in the path that they do? People are so often incapable of recognising choices. They lack a perceptual awareness of their own abilities to influence their own course through their life. The novel follows the story of the abandoned baby and her childhood, and intersperses it with the story of her biological parents. The paths of the characters are littered with misery and bad choices. The bleakness is alleviated only a little by th ...more
T. Greenwood
Mar 07, 2013 T. Greenwood rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel is gorgeously written. It is told from the point of view of Shannon who, as an infant, is abandoned by her birth mother on the steps of a YMCA. But the narrative also explores the incidents leading up to this moment. It's a heart-breaking, aching sort of story in so many ways, but it also forces the reader to examine what makes a family and what defines "home." The final passages of the novel just about blew me away with their cruelty, honesty, and beauty.

The only complaint I have is
Jan 25, 2013 Laurie rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I found this to be a quiet book, not a lot of high drama, even when the events could have been told that way, like when her foster father beat her. The book itself takes on the emotional style of the child; mostly quiet and watchful, waiting to see whether the developing circumstances turn out to be good or bad. When she allows herself a moment of breaking out of that passivity, it turns out to be unpleasant enough to send her back to her default mode. The part of the final section in which Shan ...more
Beth Browne
Mar 14, 2013 Beth Browne rated it it was amazing
“My life begins at the Y,” is the first sentence of this brilliant story of a foundling who struggles to make her way in a world not always so friendly or kind. Not only did I love the travails and triumphs of this character, but I was also captivated by the writing. I can wholeheartedly give this book a solid five-star rating because it just has so much going for it. It’s a quirky story, with some very odd characters, some likable, some not, and a plot that just won’t let go.

The author flawless
Casee Marie
Jan 11, 2013 Casee Marie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed, 2013
For the first sixteen years of her life, Shannon never knew her parents. Left by her mother on the steps of a YMCA just hours after her birth, the young girl’s abandonment is witnessed by only one man. Her destiny remained bleak and uncertain as she was shuffled through foster homes, her name altered and her childhood a blur. Y is the captivating story of Shannon’s plight to come to terms with the hand she’s been dealt. It’s a remarkable narrative on life and the perpetual question of “why”, exa ...more
Katie Addison
Mar 29, 2015 Katie Addison rated it it was amazing
I loved this book, even more than I expected to. I finished it in 2 days. The characters seem so full and real and imperfect, and the story took me on a journey of unexpected emotions. I thought I would give this book 4 stars until I reached the end of part two, at which point the strength of my emotional reaction and shock at a surprising and sad twist changed my mind. It earned all five stars.
Thaarane Sethunathan
Celona was able to show character growth throughout this coming of age novel with her protagonist, Shannon. You saw the actions she committed and understood that what she was jumping to do wasn't always the safest decision or most rational one. Yet, while seeing her motives of confusion and disparity behind it, you are exposed to her vulnerability as she gets older and more desperate to find out answers that everyone in her life refuses to answer.

I found myself feeling overprotective over Shann
Oct 20, 2015 Andrea rated it liked it
I thought this book was very different what everything that I have ever read before, I have never read anything with a "point of view" quite like this, it was different. The main character Shannon was very interesting seeing her many different homes and all the hardships she has been through like they were nothing. Although Shannon has a very negative view on life I think its very understandable after all she has been through. I also believe that many of Shannon's actions were justified such as ...more
Oct 23, 2015 Noor rated it liked it
I really struggled with this book, Marjorie Celona had a great coming of age story-line however I did not enjoy Shannon's character. She definitely had my sympathies, coming from such a difficult start in life, however I thought that she took her problems and became angry about them and lashed out at people who cared. She was adopted by Miranda but there were times when she went out of her way to push Miranda's and Lydia-Rose's buttons. She thought of herself as being an outsider in their family ...more
Oct 02, 2012 Kaitlin rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
I received this book for free through a Goodreads giveaway. Thank you!

This is a rare kind of fiction - written well, tells an important story but still easy to read. It's short, too, but says a lot. Many of the other reviewers have said it's a sad story, and it is, but it's happy too. Not whiny, doesn't try to hard.

The chapters alternate between the story of Shannon, whose mother left her at the Y the day she was born, and that of her mother, Yula, in the time leading up to Shannon's birth, told
Jul 17, 2012 Karin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I received this book from Goodreads Giveaway yesterday evening.

When i began reading it, i noticed that within a list of places there was the Eaton's Centre. How odd, i thought, isn't that a store in Canada? I expect most books to take place somewhere in real or imaginary cities in the US. I was delighted to discover that yes, i was right, it IS set in Canada. Bonus deal for this Canadian!

The story is about a baby girl, left on the doorstep of the local Y on an island of the coast of British Co
Michelle (tinyturtle88)
Oct 12, 2013 Michelle (tinyturtle88) rated it really liked it
This book was haunting and mesmerizing in the same way as a car crash. The story is of Yula who finds herself in a very bad predicament and must abandon her premature baby on the door step of the YMCA within hours of giving birth to her. The story follows her life and what led to that moment. Alternately, chapters cover Shannon, the baby she leaves behind and what becomes of her, her horrific experiences through the Foster Care System and her difficult journey to self awareness, and answers.

Joy (joyous reads)
Mar 21, 2013 Joy (joyous reads) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: oh-canada
Truth be told, I wrote this book off as something that was slightly out of my intellectual reach. Even if the story sounded simple enough, I'm shamed to say that I didn't get it.

I had a completely different opinion after I read it the first time. I was unable to get over myself. See, I get so comfortable with my reading choices that when a book this jarring comes my way, I freeze. I don't know what to do with myself. I've been so stubbornly set on how a character should act or how her story shou
"Y" is a book about the why's of two lives. Why did one woman abandon her newly born daughter at the door of a YMCA? Why was it so hard for that little girl to find a real home? Why do we sometimes embrace responsibility and sometimes run away from it? Why are people cruel to the helpless, the innocent? The characters in this book are flawed and stumbling--in other words, very human and very memorable. Weaving two stories continuously could have made for a complicated read, but instead it gave t ...more
Jun 17, 2015 Rachel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Like a fine and delicate diamond, this book is absolutely exquisite. The story may come across as slow to some, perhaps lacking in the drama that our fast-paced society demands, but the beauty in this story is in the build up, the minute detail and intricacy of sadness, tragedy, forgiveness, and growth. The characters are flawed, damaged, and seeking so much in the world, but end up finding more within themselves. So impressed by this writer that I refused to blow through the book in one sitting ...more
Aug 29, 2014 Joanne rated it it was amazing
Shannon is a girl in foster care who was abandoned at birth by her mother on the steps of the Y in Victoria. She shuttles from one hopeless home to another experiencing neglect and in one home extreme physical abuse. Finally, at 5, she is placed with single mother Miranda and her daughter. Over the years, Shannon struggles to find herself, making Miranda's life difficult and bouncing in and out of school. At 17 she makes a serious effort to find her birth parents and reconnect with them.

Yula is
Mar 22, 2014 Sooz rated it really liked it
I had not heard of this novel before it was put forward by my bookclub. It isn't often I pick up a book with zero foreknowledge of the story, the author, the genre .... something. my review contains minor spoilers - nothing that will give away major plot developments- but still i feel i should give you a heads up in case you are a stickler about spoilers.

about 100 pages in ... I would say I am curious. curious to see how the two paths -the two storylines- come together. curious to see how it en
Fatima Ilyas
Oct 28, 2015 Fatima Ilyas rated it really liked it
This book was well written and heart-touching. Marjorie Celona portrayed Shannon's character as brave, sensitive and insecure. She was very insecure about the way she looked, the way her body was and about her hair. Although there were times where Shannon made bad decisions, it was understandable because of everything she was going through. I liked how even though Shannon had a rough childhood, she barely complained about it. She accepted her past but also wanted answers. Her character develops ...more
Ayesha Hadi
Oct 20, 2015 Ayesha Hadi rated it really liked it
My opinion of Shannon is very positive. Shannon as a character is very unique yet inclusive. She shows many sides of her self through her journey to find her parents which include being depressed, rebellious, happy, loving, and dis-trusting. Shannon creates this wall around herself and never tells her secrets to anyone because she is afraid that things may be taken for her so she chooses to keep to herself. I find this quality interesting because she never allows herself to rely on others. She k ...more
Alyssa Rubenstein
Nov 18, 2015 Alyssa Rubenstein rated it really liked it
Throughout this novel, I developed more compassion and understanding for the main character, Shannon. In the beginning, I understood that Shannon had so many questions that she wanted answers to. This led to Shannon's struggle with depression and her problems with her adoptive family. I felt sympathetic and that no one should have to go through what she had been through. With these feelings, I tried to put myself in the shoes of Shannon and often thought that she could have made smarter decision ...more
Abeer Sabri
Nov 04, 2015 Abeer Sabri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed reading this book. I think it had a very interesting story line and I loved the way it was written. It was very engaging and from the second I started reading, it peaked my interest. I would have given this book a solid five stars, however the ending was not satisfying at all and it just totally changed my perspective on the main character - Shannon. All in all, Shannon and Yula were definitely my favourite because I felt emotionally connected to them. I myself felt very protect ...more
Kate McFadden
Oct 26, 2015 Kate McFadden rated it really liked it
My initial thoughts of this book was that I was going to have a hard time reading it. I was proven wrong shortly but maybe that was because I really found the main character to be such a smart and brave young woman. Shannon was shipped from foster home to foster home and was just trying to find who she really was. I found that at times she made risky decisions but at the same time I could see a girl who was just trying to find out she was. I feel that Shannon's personality and actions were self ...more
Avery Beatty
Oct 17, 2014 Avery Beatty rated it liked it
Y was a very different read from what I am used to, and in some ways I loved it and others I couldn't stand it. I loved how the point of view was first person, even if she wasn't born at the time of the recalled event. I felt there were two main characters, as there was two main stories. Shannon, the daughter abandoned at the Y, was confusing to me. She grew up in a single page, and it left me confused as to her actual age. She said she was in kindergarten, and then her thoughts became mature an ...more
Aug 23, 2013 Melanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian-author
This is a story about a young girl who starts life on the doorstep of the Y, abandoned by her Mother right after being born. We taken on a journey of discovery to find out why Shannon's life started at the Y.

There are some squirmy bits in Shannon's life for sure. But there are also some great insights here as well. One quote I particularly liked is "you can really f*** up in your life. You can f*** up and then have things be okay". Life may not be perfect, but it's life and it's what we make of
Luanne Ollivier
Sep 04, 2012 Luanne Ollivier rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Y is Marjorie Celona's newly released debut novel. I think you're going to be hearing lots more about this author and title.

"Y. That perfect letter. The wishbone, fork in the road, empty wineglass. The quetion we ask over and over. Why?"

And the Y is where the story begins as well - the YMCA in a town on Vancouver Island. The Y is where Shannon's mother Yula leaves her when she is a day old, wrapped in a dirty sweatshirt with a Swiss Army knife as her legacy.

As a baby Shannon is shifted through
I did not want to judge.
I wanted to understand.
I always believe that behind every action, no matter how effed up it is, there must be some logical explanations.

Thus, when Yula left her baby that snowy dawn in front of the YMCA, I knew she must have her reasons.

She did. But I have a hard time buying it. How can some people be so damaged, that they are beyond repair? What triggered Yula's spiral into recklessness? Is it her parents' toxic relationship, or is it just her, curious about then merely
The story has a powerful beginning, and interchanges from Shannon growing up, to a haunting and emotional story of Yula, her birth mother and how Shannon ended up where she was. I found this book to be a beautiful and haunting read.

I loved how there were two different stories and it interchanged from chapter to chapter. It worked out wonderfully for this novel. I found that I was completely immersed in Yula's story and how she got to the point in the beginning of the book. The author did a wond
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Marjorie Celona received her MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she was an Iowa Arts Fellow and recipient of the Ailene Barger Barnes Prize. Her stories have appeared in Best American Nonrequired Reading, Glimmer Train, and Harvard Review. Born and raised on Vancouver Island, she lives in Cincinnati.
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“Y. That perfect letter. The wishbone, fork in the road, empty wineglass. The question we ask over and over.” 18 likes
“She was fierce, quick to anger, her temper terrifying and unpredictable, her words deeply damaging when she wanted them to be. Because she had almost no need for people, she had no trouble hurting them. It seemed to enlarge her, give her strength. Quinn told her she had "poison blood".” 9 likes
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