Set in 1980's Newfoundland, The Agony of Bun O’Keefe is the story of a 14-year-old girl who runs away to the city and is taken in by a street musician who lives with an eclectic cast of characters: a hotel dishwasher with culinary dreams; a drag queen with a tragic past; a Catholic school girl desperately trying to reinvent herself; and a man who Bun is told to avoid at all cost.

Through her experiences with her new roommates, and their sometimes tragic revelations, Bun learns about the world beyond the walls of her mother’s house and discovers the joy of being part of a new family.

(Penguin Random House Canada 2017 - Publisher's page)

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  • Winner of the 2019 OLA Forest of Reading White Pine Award

  • Winner of the 2018 Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Award

  • USBBY Outstanding International Book Selection 2018

  • Kirkus Reviews Best Teen Books Selection  2017

  • Globe and Mail's 100 Best Books Selection 2017

  • Shortlisted for the 2018 Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People

  • Shortlisted for the 2018 Amy Mathers Teen Book Award


"Under the streetlights ahead, a strip of row houses, each a different colour.
“We’re here.”
We entered the sixth one down, yellow with a blue door. 
Six, yellow, blue.
Six, yellow, blue.
Six, yellow, blue.
I had no reason to believe I wouldn’t be invited back so I memorized it."

Now available in paperback

Now available in paperback



Quill & Quire [Starred Review, Editor's Choice]

“There’s an abundance of humour both subtle and overt, and a shattering of stereotypes and tropes... This is a book that grabs readers by the heart and the head.”
- July 2017

The Globe and Mail

“Heather Smith's second novel burns with nostalgia, wonder and sadness… a quietly profound, starkly Canadian account of being unwanted by family and society."
- September 2017

Kirkus Reviews [Starred Review]

“Although Bun is 14, she possesses the endearing naiveté and honesty of a child, but her first-person narration isn’t sappy or immature.... Bun O’Keefe will settle comfortably at home in readers’ hearts.”
- July 2017

CM: Canadian Review of Materials

“Smith’s strength is her attention to setting details and character development.... Recommended.”
- May 2017

School Library Journal

“Teens will truly dive into Bun’s mind and her surroundings through her understanding of the world… A nuanced, well-done novel about tough topics that deserves a place in most collections.”
- September 2017

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