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Write On Ottawa: A teen romance time capsule

By Catherine Brunelle on December 10, 2014

Opening the pages to Yours Truly, Miss Creation is akin to opening the window on a very specific moment in life: a moment when part-time jobs rule; Zaphods is the standard for Friday night; French fries are 2:00 am snacks; and university is a great excuse to troll Elgin Street during frosh week.  (Unless you’re this book’s protagonist, because then you’d much rather escape to the Manx than pub-crawl down Elgin.)

Yours Truly, Miss Creation is Catherine Boivin’s debut novel and rests snugly in the genre of Teen Romance.  Vera Hampton is the novel’s star. She’s nineteen and invincible, yet also unknowingly displaced between the world of a teenager and adulthood. For Vera, waitress/writer, life is a game to be played. She’s witty, she’s judgmental, she’s smart, and she’s totally inexperienced. And, on top of this, Vera is head-over-heels in lust for two different guys: Cale, the new museum janitor, and Logan, the quiet English major. It’s the perfect mix for the teen romance genre, and bordering on new adult fiction.

Vera’s world of late nights, intense friendships and hormonal distractions are beautifully captured within this novel. There is a sensibility that pours onto the page via Boivin’s writing. While not too heavy on description, her chapters are nevertheless emotionally grounded with a vivid sense of place,  be it in Zak’s Diner sharing gossip over milkshakes, or with Vera alone on Victoria Island watching the sun rise.

Catherine Boivin.

Catherine Boivin.

“Ottawa has had a huge impact on the person that I have become,” explains Boivin, “because it was the first permanent home that I had after moving around quite a bit. I finally found a place where I felt comfortable. It was bilingual, it was by a river, it had all the elements along with the university and the museum. The Chateau Laurier and Parliament were like fairy castles to me.

“I was so happy, so I felt like no matter what I was going to write, it would have to be set here. Some of the most intense experiences in my life are associated with this city, so not to ground them in the places I was visiting everyday would have been impossible.”

While Yours Truly, Miss Creation feels like a present day romp through our town, Boivin actually wrote this novel back in 2006 when she was 23 years old. The book tumbled out of her own personal experience of going to Carleton University while working for the museum, and was a direct result of two big crushes that gave more frustration than pleasure. Boivin’s solution was to write it out. What started as some story scribbling therapy evolved into a novel over the course of one year. Then, she let the book cool . . . for eight years.

“During that time, I was changing as a person. I grew, I met more people, had more men in my life, and had other experiences. In terms of writing, a whole lot more school, essays, editing and reading had happened. After putting it aside, I saw so many ways to improve it.”

The maturity shows in the writing style. Even if Vera Hampton cannot fix her head around romance, Catherine Boivin has a good grip on the elements of writing. The dialogue is crisp and the narrative flows. Yours Truly, Miss Creation is a novel that should leave our city feeling proud of its independent literary talent.

And what does Boivin hope her readers will take from Vera’s story of love triangles, writing dreams, and growing up?

“You have to find yourself before you can be with someone else,” says Boivin.

The essence of this novel cannot be captured any better than that. This teen romance and coming of age story was a pleasure to read. Happily, it won’t be the last we hear from the author. She has a fantasy novel in the works for 2016. To follow her writing, visit www.CatherineBoivin.ca

Yours Truly, Miss Creation is available for sale at Books on Beechwood, Amazon.ca, and on Catherine Boivin’s own website.