Between and beyond YA

Nora Decter to release genre-breaking novel

University of Winnipeg creative writing and English instructor Nora Decter is releasing her new novel, What’s Not Mine, on April 2. - Supplied photo

Fentanyl. Abandonment. Sexuality. Bears?

What’s Not Mine, the upcoming novel from author and University of Winnipeg adjunct English and creative writing instructor Nora Decter, addresses all of these issues head-on.

Told from the perspective of Bria, a teen girl living in a rural town during the summer of her sixteenth birthday, What’s Not Mine is set to be released by ECW Press on April 2.

“I’ve always been really interested in teenage characters and narrators,” Decter says. “I just think it’s a really dynamic time in your life, and it’s sort of an interesting consciousness to write from inside teenagehood.”

After witnessing her father’s girlfriend overdose on Fentanyl, Bria’s life becomes fraught with peril. She finds herself caught in a world of drugs, lies and a much older man.

When asked why she chose to write about such dark themes, Decter explains that overdose awareness posters around campus prompted her to think about the secondary effects an overdose can have.

“What happens to the addict after (an overdose) ... but also what happens to by-standers?” she wondered. “How does that experience leave a person, especially a young person?”

Using rural settings reminiscent of various Manitoba locations, Decter explores the contradictory thoughts and emotions that can exist within teenagers.

“(Bria) might think that the way she’s feeling or what she thinks about a person or a thing is true, but then, like five minutes later, it isn’t.” Bria’s developing substance addiction only adds to her confusion about who she is and what she wants from life and those around her.

While Dexter’s first book, 2018’s How Far We Go and How Fast, was published as a young-adult (YA) novel, What’s Not Mine carries no such label, even though it focuses on teenaged characters.

“I feel like, (with) the categories, that publishers and maybe reading audiences care a bit more about than I do,” she explains. “I was reading something the other day about how J.D. Salinger would have a hard time publishing Catcher in the Rye traditionally these days, because people would be like, ‘well, it’s YA.’”

“I think big publishers get more uncomfortable with that stuff than maybe the independent ones do.”

ECW Press, the independent publisher releasing What’s Not Mine, also has some otherbenefits.

“They have a program where they let you choose a nonprofit, and one per cent of the cover price of the book is donated,” Decter explains. “So I chose Sunshine House, which is a drop-in centre/resource centre in Winnipeg doing really great work to support people with addiction issues.”

What’s Not Mine will be released on April 2 by ECW Press, and a book launch event will be held at McNally Robinson Grant Park on April 5 at 7 p.m. For more info, visit

Published in Volume 78, Number 23 of The Uniter (March 28, 2024)

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