Stickboy: A Novel in Verse, by Shane Koyczan (House of Parlance), is the story of a teenager who is raised by his grandparents and is beaten up and threatened at school. When the family moves to a new town in the Okanagan Valley of B.C., the boy’s hope that he can start a new life is quashed when kids at the new school pick on him too. This is where the story takes on its moral complexity and its relevance: in an effort to defend himself from bullies, the boy begins to bully the kids around him. The narrative is filled with punches, bruises, scars, cuts, razors, clueless and antagonistic teachers, and indifferent students who stand by as spectators to the boy’s misery and struggle. Stickboy is not as lyrical as Koyczan’s last release, Visiting Hours, a collection of poems written with gusto and vigour and recommended as a book of the year by both the Globe and Mail and the Guardian in 2005. Here the author is more concerned with story and atmosphere, and with the mindset of bullies, victims and their spectators; the subdued style fits the subject and the length of the book very well. As promised in the subtitle, the book is written in verse, which is good enough to keep the reader’s interest for all 173 pages. One curious thing is that Stickboy is presented as a novel, but it reads or perhaps feels more like a memoir, which adds to the general confusion about the borders between literary genres.