cover image Help! I’m Alive

Help! I’m Alive

Gurjinder Basran. ECW, $17.95 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-1-77041-630-7

Basran’s striking if uneven latest (after Someone You Love Is Gone) follows four characters dealing with the aftermath of a teenager’s death. Jay McAlister’s surviving friends and family are left to grapple with whether Jay’s fatal fall from Vancouver’s Lions Gate Bridge was intentional. A “suicide game” has been making the rounds online with Jay’s peers with a common symbol of a blue whale, of which Jay and Winona, his self-harming not-quite-girlfriend, received matching tattoos. Basran covers the 100 days leading up to Jay’s death with stories of Jay’s former friend Ash; Ash’s older brother, Anik; their mother, Pavan; and Winona. None seems to have known Jay very well, creating an unfortunate distance that largely keeps the reader from getting invested in their emotional arcs, though a subplot involving Anik undertaking a pilgrimage from Vancouver to a small island town on foot is more successful. On the road, Anik meets Rose, a trans woman with a knack for social media marketing. “#AniksWay” turns into a popular hashtag and gets the two featured on local news, which leads Ash and Winona to them. The story concludes with a dramatic and symbolic encounter, which brings the disparate story lines into startling cohesion. Despite its flaws, this makes for a satisfying drama. (May)