Willa is nine years old in 1950 when she first meets Patrick, the son of her mother's boyfriend, at her family's beach house in British Columbia. He persuades her to take a boat ride during which she's stung by a jellyfish, then convinces her to urinate on the wound. Their relationship gets more bizarre, painful and intimate from there. They meet only six times throughout their lives, and they forget each other when they're apart, but for Willa their time together is all-consuming. Even as a child, Patrick is unnervingly self-assured, both reckless and controlled. Willa is observant and strong-willed, committed to proving that she's Patrick's equal. But over 11 years, Patrick manipulates Willa into chasing him, abuses her when she does and gaslights her into believing it's her choice.

With themes of divergent pairs--Castor and Pollux, Canada and California, Willa and Patrick--Eliza Robertson's (Wallflowers) first novel, Demi-Gods, depicts the push and pull of magnetic relationships. In early chapters, Robertson captures the awkwardness of adolescence, as Willa wonders how to be a woman while watching her gorgeous sister and her mother's awkward attempts at glamour. Most compelling are Willa's later meetings with Patrick as young adults. There's a tension to Robertson's writing that makes their interactions always unsettling, even if Patrick's actions, as Willa says, are "minor." Throughout, she explains how confusing predatory attention can be: "The quality... disturbed me--but I focused on that fact of it, which surrounded me in a light not as pure as the sun, maybe, but like one of those heat lamps." --Katy Hershberger, freelance writer and bookseller

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