Nothing but Life


During a sweltering summer, Dills must come to terms with a horrific crime and the parent he loves who committed it.

Dills and his mom have returned to Hamilton, her hometown, hoping to leave the horrors of Windsor behind. But it’s impossible to escape the echoes of tragedy, and trouble always follows trouble.

When Dills hurts a new classmate, it comes out in court that he was in the Windsor High library when the shooter came in. But he won’t talk about what he saw, what he still sees whenever he closes his eyes. He can’t. He definitely can’t tell anyone that the Windsor Shooter is his stepfather, Jesse, that Jesse can speak into his mind from hundreds of kilometres away, and that Dills still loves him even though he committed an unspeakable crime.


In Nothing but Life, Brent van Staalduinen offers readers what the news often fails to provide in the wake of a mass shooting — what remains in the aftermath beyond sensationalism and how those affected grieve. In following a young boy and his family's journey toward healing after someone they love commits unthinkable violence, this novel sings with sorrow, yes, but also with great empathy and love.

Anne Valente, author of The Desert Sky Before Us

Capturing perfectly the tender chaos of adolescence, Nothing but Life grabs you by the heartstrings and won’t let go. Beautifully written and satisfyingly redemptive.

Roz Nay, bestselling author of Hurry Home

As Dills tells his story and shares the worst and weirdest summer of his life, it feels deliciously like eavesdropping. A compelling read.

Karen Bass, author of Two Times a Traitor

Brent van Staalduinen has once again created an unforgettable character and voice. In Dills, he brings forth our seething, hurting unpredictability along with all of our innocence, reminding us that love is that thing which complicates us and yet also, ultimately, makes us who we are. Nothing but Life is a gentle and yet razor-sharp look into what hurts and heals us, filled with a wisdom that permeates every sentence.

Amanda Leduc, author of The Centaur’s Wife

van Staalduinen writes with clarity and ease ... A moving portrayal of a complex situation that will appeal to teenagers mature enough to read about school shootings.

School Library Journal

van Staalduinen does an excellent job of capturing a teen voice and capturing Dills's emotional and challenging journey towards healing.

Canadian Children’s Book News, starred review

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