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Thesis Defence: What We Keep in Between

September 12, 2023 at 2:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Larissa Piva, supervised by Kevin Chong, will defend their thesis titled “What We Keep in Between” in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing.

An abstract for Larissa Piva’s thesis is included below.

Defences are open to all members of the campus community as well as the general public. Registration is not required for in person defences.


What We Keep in Between is a dual-perspective YA novel set in 2011 that follows the main characters, and best friends, Josie and Kayla, as they navigate intractable choices. The first perspective follows Josie as she contemplates whether or not to tell someone that she discovered her sort-of-sister Kayla’s romantic involvement with their biology teacher. Kayla’s perspective of events unfolds in an epistolary fashion over a two-year period between 2009 and 2011; however, instead of letters, this piece utilizes Tumblr blog posts that stay true to the early 2000s internet vernacular.

Eighteen months prior to the narrative present, Kayla lost her parents and sister in a tragic car accident. With no other family close by, Josie’s mom took Kayla in and the since-birth besties now share a room. After the inciting incident (Josie catching Mr. Yates kissing Kayla in their classroom), she decides to find more details on the relationship and weigh the consequences for everyone involved. As the soccer team’s star goaltender with the biggest game of the season coming up and a student falling behind in classes right before the end of grade eleven, she also has her own problems to deal with. If that isn’t enough to handle, her crush Cyril finally makes his move and her estranged brother David shows up unannounced from Australia to make amends for his familial transgressions. Trying to find many truths, Josie opens Kayla’s personal blog and uncovers private entries that depict Kayla’s emotions surrounding her family’s deaths, Mr. Yates, and her strong romantic feelings toward Josie. Kayla is a gifted student and artist but also feels lost, depressed, and distant from everyone in real life, so she shares her experiences with her nearly anonymous internet best friend, @backpackpanda. Little does she know, backpackpanda has been sitting behind her in class all year. Kayla also struggles with her growing feelings for Josie that don’t make sense but eventually come out during a fight the two of them have over the inciting incident. She kisses Josie in the midst of it which shocks the both of them in different ways.

Over the narrative present, the girls dance around each other with every interaction, playing an endless game of “Does she know,” while Josie slowly loses grip on reality. After reading the blog posts, she begins to spiral further. She skips school and misses a crucial exam as well as the big game against Pender High. When her team captain (and close friend) Alicia comes over to check on her, Josie finally decides to tell someone about the entire situation. Alicia, disturbed that Josie even contemplated keeping the situation a secret, ends their friendship in a tirade. At the climax, angry and confused by everything she blames Kayla and her family for putting her through, Josie experiences a derealization episode and pushes Kayla down when Kayla tries to stop her from harming herself. In the falling action, Josie wakes up with short-term memory loss. Paired with her mother’s recount of events, she remembers enough to decide that she has waited too long to confront her problems. After confiding in and getting advice from backpackpanda in the real world, Kayla also decides to take action and resolve the issues that have fissured her relationship with Josie and herself. The girls come together at the end to decide how to move forward in spaces that seem so far apart.

What We Keep in Between is an exploration of self with sapphic undertones. The piece delves into themes of love, loss, friendship, and coming-of-age while calling the reader to contemplate which character perspective they relate to most. The novel seeks to take the reader on a journey through a time when social media existed as a highly unfiltered and underregulated mode of communication, and a time when queer narratives, as well as survivor stories, remained underrepresented in mainstream culture.



September 12, 2023
2:00 pm - 5:00 pm


Creative and Critical Studies Building (CCS)
1148 Research Road
Kelowna, BC V1V 1V7 Canada
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Additional Info

Room Number
Registration/RSVP Required
Event Type
Thesis Defence
Arts and Humanities, Research and Innovation
Alumni, Community, Faculty, Staff, Families, Partners and Industry, Students, Postdoctoral Fellows and Research Associates