Book Reviews · Uncategorized

Book Review: Scarborough by Catherine Hernandez


Format: ebook (Kobo Touch)

Price: $9.89 CAD

Genre/Themes: Fiction, Diverse, LGBTQ, Family


(From Goodreads) Scarborough is a low-income, culturally diverse neighborhood east of Toronto, the fourth largest city in North America; like many inner city communities, it suffers under the weight of poverty, drugs, crime, and urban blight. Scarborough the novel employs a multitude of voices to tell the story of a tight-knit neighborhood under fire: among them, Victor, a black artist harassed by the police; Winsum, a West Indian restaurant owner struggling to keep it together; and Hina, a Muslim school worker who witnesses first-hand the impact of poverty on education.

And then there are the three kids who work to rise above a system that consistently fails them: Bing, a gay Filipino boy who lives under the shadow of his father’s mental illness; Sylvie, Bing’s best friend, a Native girl whose family struggles to find a permanent home to live in; and Laura, whose history of neglect by her mother is destined to repeat itself with her father.

Scarborough offers a raw yet empathetic glimpse into a troubled community that locates its dignity in unexpected places: a neighborhood that refuses to be undone.


I first saw this book right at the front of my favourite Coles location, with a staff recommendation sticker on it. I was in a rush and didn’t really have time to focus too much on it, but the title and cover was enough to capture my attention: Scarborough. Literally the area where I was born, and I spend a lot of my time in, whether it be for going to work or my favourite place to eat.

I bought Scarborough for my Kobo on a whim, and I immediately was drawn into the different lives of every character. It’s so sad reading this book, because we’re about 90% of the time reading through the perspective of children, but they were all just mature and aged beyond their years. All these Scarborough kids learned how to grow up quickly,  and it just breaks my heart because I know that this true for so many other kids in real life. The truth is, I think that this book is just way too intimate and real to be looked at as a true work of fiction because all the stories in here are a reality for more than one family, I can tell you that much.

One character that surprised me the most was Victor, a young black man who had the whole wide art world in front of him to look forward to. Victor was the one kid who seemed like he was actually going to make it, and break out of the community housing complex he was in. But unfortunately, his race, age, and gender eventually caught up with him and he was held back by socioeconomic and racial profiling. He was put in his place, basically ( -_- ). I was devastated when I read his story, because I actually thought that his story would be the one light of hope for all the other kids to look up to (but Catherine clearly had other plans for everyone, as you read along).

I have such a special place in my heart for Ms. Hina, who was a superstar throughout. I hope every kid in Scarborough has, or will find, the Ms. Hina in their lives – someone to guide them, give them strength, and hope. Because we all need it to survive. All of the characters in Scarborough will make you cry, laugh, and smile at their actions, words, and feelings. I can’t stress to you enough about how much I loved this book. Even though Scarborough is here in Toronto, I don’t think this should stop you from reading it if you’re not familiar with the setting or the people. Catherine Hernandez does a great job in painting a picture for you, whether you know the community and area or not.

Final Grade

5/5. Can I give Scarborough more stars than that? I absolutely loved everything about this book. It’s now my favourite book of the year because of its diversity, true-to-life story. Some reviews on Goodreads raved about this book being a love letter to the Scarborough community, how its a tribute to Scarborough, and how nothing else has been written about the community like this. I agree 100% with all of these people. If there’s one book you have to read before 2018 hits, it’s this one.

Are you open to reading a book about a community that you have no idea about?

You can find me on TwitterInstagramGoodreads, and 50BookPledge

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