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Fiction Literary

Bottle Rocket Hearts

by (author) Zoe Whittall

Cormorant Books
Initial publish date
Apr 2007
Literary, Lesbian, Political
Recommended Reading age
16 to 18
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Apr 2007
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2007
    List Price

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Welcome to ’90s Montreal. It’s been five years since the OKA crisis and the sex garage riots; the queers are rioting against assimilation, cocktail AIDS drugs are starting to work, and the city walls on either side of the Main are spray-painted with the words YES or NO. Revolution seems possible to eighteen-year-old Eve, who is pining to get out of her parent’s house in Dorval and find a girl who wants to kiss her back. She meets Della: ten years older, mysterious, defiantly non-monogamous, and an avid separatist. Their explosive beginning and volatile relationship paves a path for the personal and political to collide on the night of the referendum.

About the author

ZOE WHITTALL’s third novel, The Best Kind of People is currently being adapted for limited series by director Sarah Polley. It was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, named Indigo’s #1 Book of 2016, a Heather’s Pick and a Best Book of the Year by the Walrus, the Globe and Mail, Toronto Life and the National Post. Her second novel, Holding Still for as Long as Possible, won a Lambda Literary Award for trans fiction and was an American Library Association Stonewall Honor Book. Her debut novel, Bottle Rocket Hearts, won the Dayne Ogilvie Prize and is being adapted for screen. In 2014 Whittall sold her first sitcom, Breaking, to CTV, and recently optioned the half-hour comedy Wellville to CBC. She has worked as a TV writer on the Emmy Award–winning comedy Schitt’s Creek and the Baroness Von Sketch Show, for which she won a 2018 Canadian Screen Award. She has written three volumes of poetry, most recently an anniversary reissue of The Emily Valentine Poems, about which Eileen Myles said, “I would like to know everything about this person.” Zoe Whittall was born on a sheep farm in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, has an MFA from the University of Guelph and has called Toronto home since 1997. 

Zoe Whittall's profile page


  • Commended, CBC Canada Reads Top 10
  • Winner, Dayne Ogilvie Prize

Editorial Reviews

Bottle Rocket Hearts, the debut novel from Zoe Whittall, is a coming-of-age tale that goes down like a cherry popsicle. It’s a delicious, bright suburban delicacy melting in the inner-city sun.”

NOW Magazine

“Zoe Whittall might just possibly be the cockiest, brashest, funniest, toughest, most life-affirming, elegant, scruffy, no-holds-barred writer to emerge from Montreal since Mordecai Richler … Bottle Rocket Hearts is a major statement about lessening unhappiness by overcoming the small dishonesties that creep into everyday life.”

The Globe and Mail

“The novel is a well-constructed and well-written queer urban twist on the Bildungsroman … There is no doubt that Zoe Whittall has a poet’s heart. She doesn’t indulge in long, flowy passages, but tosses out seemingly careless lines with aplomb.”


“Whittall’s writing is evocative, youthful and raw.”

Eye Weekly

Bottle Rocket Hearts is about coming of age, identity, politics, the nature of love and who constitutes family. Anyone who is different in any way will relate … Whittall’s background as a poet shines in every paragraph. Her poetic voice hits hard and with beauty … Bottle Rocket Hearts is a compelling story told by a writer skilled in her craft. It leaves me wanting more.”

The Vancouver Sun

“Poppy, absorbing and subversive … A short, snappy tale of youth slumming, first love and its nasty symptoms.”


“An achingly good read, bringing moments of joy to the reader along with heartache and sorrow … full of sarcasm, name-dropping and style punctuated with a queer, feminist twist … This book comes alive for the reader and is a lovely coming-of-age story for women to reflect on and perhaps even relate to their daughters.”

The Calgary Herald

Bottle Rocket Hearts brings to mind Jeanette Winterson circa Written on the Body with an adolescent, punk-tinged flare. This is a believable, flesh and blood narrator whose flaws make her all the more enduring.”


“Assured, gripping and sincere … [Whittall’s] characters are richly detailed and wonderfully, quirkily vibrant … The people in this book jump out of the pages and into your heart. Bottle Rocket Hearts is a delightful novel whose characters will stay in my thoughts for a long time to come.”


“Whittall is quicky carving out a place for queers on the esoteric bookshelves of Canadian literature … a post-riot grrl coming-of-age tale, Bottle Rocket Hearts … makes reliving the decay of adolescence bearable – enjoyable even. Combining queercore, sexuality, and politics, Whittall licks every last ounce of icing from the sugary layer cake of first heartbreak, while savoring the potent ingredient of self-deprication. This Toronto-based writer isn’t just witty, she gets it.”


“Even with heavy themes of loss, Bottle Rocket Hearts is a fun romp through Montreal’s 1990s counterculture.”

Montreal Gazette

User Reviews

Queer Joy Ride

This is a fun romp, sometimes sexy, often funny, always relateable.
I liked it! I liked her style of writing and the way I often stopped and said, "hey, me too."
Good history of Quebec referendum.