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No One Left But You

by Tash McAdam

Tash McAdam (Credit: Johanna Jucutan)

When readers first meet Max, the protagonist of Welsh-Canadian writer Tash McAdam’s taut new novel No One Left But You, the 17-year-old skater and musician (and high school student) is in handcuffs and covered in blood. The moment is the crux of the novel: in alternating sections set before and after the incident, we witness the events that brought Max to this point, and what happens next. It’s a powerful mode of storytelling, and one that compels the reader’s attention.

The novel begins in the spring following Max’s breakup with his summer romance, Danny, which was connected to Max coming out as trans and taking on his new name. (“The sound of my name makes me look up from my work, and I can’t suppress a wide, face-splitting grin. I changed it over seven months ago, right before year thirteen started, but it’ll never get old.”) Danny, however, has taken to bullying Max, forcing him to turn the other cheek and try to fade into the woodwork. Max is also still suffering from the breakup itself: “These days, I don’t have any energy left over for anything except surviving the hole he left in my chest.”

The situation changes, though, when Gloss arrives at their school, a late-in-the-year transplant, who is beautiful, glamorous, and brave. She quickly takes Max under her wing, buying him new clothes, getting him a haircut, building his confidence, and sharing her bed (and her largely parent-free apartment) with him.

But what happened on the night at the start of the novel? Whose blood is on Max’s hands? And who is responsible for their death?

McAdam masterfully interweaves the two narrative strands, wringing a maximum amount of tension and suspense from each. While Max might be savouring his new self, the reader is aware of the peril around him at every moment, suspicious of Gloss and her motivations, flinching at every interaction Max has with Danny and his group of friends. None of this would succeed nearly as well as it does without McAdam’s keen skills with characterization, and the realistic rooting of the characters. From drug use to broken hearts to the effect of testosterone on the libido (Max is basically a walking erection, as he frequently notes), the characters ring utterly true, which makes the novel both fearsomely compelling and emotionally frank. Even relatively minor characters receive McAdam’s full attention, resulting in a climax that is at once surprising and inevitable. No One Left But You is a perfect read for teens, and for older readers that gravitate to a well-drawn story.


Reviewer: Robert J. Wiersema

Publisher: Soho Teen


Price: $24.99

Page Count: 288 pp

Format: Cloth

ISBN: 9781641294898

Released: November

Issue Date: November 2023

Categories: Children and YA Fiction, Kids’ Books

Age Range: 14+