By: Alexandria Williams

I’ve always appreciated a good storytelling, and in her first work, Canadian author Suzanne Hillier delivers just that with her debut novel Sonja & Carl: a novel.

The story revolves around Sonja Danychuk and Carl Helbig, two contrary high school students who are thrown together under unusual circumstances.

In their small town of Davenport, Ontario, Sonja: an intelligent high school student from a very poor immigrant family, hopes to be granted scholarship to university so that she can leave town for a better future. Carl: the town’s hockey-hopeful from a wealthy family is predicted that he’ll be drafted to one of the major NHL teams but in order to do so he must graduate high school. Sonja agrees to tutor him because she needs the money, and so begins the story of Sonja & Carl: a novel.

Carl is drafted to the Boston Bruins while Sonja attends University of Toronto. Within his first year on the team, Carl suffers a concussion that brings the two together again. Their journey is an unconventional, slow burn romance but a beautiful one nonetheless.

Geared towards young adult readers, I found that this novel appeals to a wider audience. Although the story follows the characters from age 17-20, they are faced with several mature situations. The book touches on issues of poverty, wealth, death, love, and heartbreak, to name a few. It delves into the world of professional hockey, sports related injuries, and the pressure to get back in the game.

In the making of this novel, Hillier, a retired lawyer, researched concussions related to hockey injuries, and interviewed several families of injured players who suffered irreversible damage at the hands of the sport.

Sonja & Carl: a novel takes you on a ride that is as heart-warming as it is wrenching, with unexpected emotion at several turns. Featuring dynamic characters with rich history, I would recommend this to lovers of well-written fiction.