The Double Life of Benson Yu

This fresh and unique work of metafiction follows a graphic novelist losing control of his own narrative as he attempts to write a polished retelling of his fraught upbringing in 1980s Chinatown.

In a Chinatown housing project lives twelve-year-old Benny, his ailing grandmother, and his strange neighbor Constantine, a man who believes he’s a reincarnated medieval samurai. When his grandmother is hospitalized, Benny manages to survive on his own until a social worker comes snooping. With no other family, he is reluctantly taken in by Constantine and soon, an unlikely bond forms between the two.

At least, that’s what Yu, the narrator of the story, wants to write.

The creator of a bestselling comic book, Yu is struggling with continuing the poignant tale of Benny and Constantine and can’t help but interject from the present day, slowly revealing a darker backstory. Can Yu confront the demons he’s spent his adult life avoiding or risk his own life…and Benny’s?

Buy in the USA via Amazon, Powell’s, and Indiebound. Buy in Canada via Amazon, Chapters/Indigo, and Canadian independents.

Named most anticipated by the Millions, Zoomer, Goodreads, Chapters.

Selected by Kobo Canada as a Best of the Month in the Fiction category. 

The Southern Bookseller Review May Pick.

A Junior Library Guild Selection.

Featured in: Macleans, Toronto Star, LA Times, CBC Q, Zoomer, Fox News 9 in Minneapolis, PW, Kirkus, Library Journal (starred review), From the Front Porch podcast, New York Journal of Books, Electric Lit, Literary Hub, the Tyee, Miramichi Reader, the Vancouver Sun.

“What begins as realist fiction pivots with a gigantic metaphysical twist, asking big questions about what obligations a writer has to their characters. By blurring the lines between fact and fiction, creator and creation, Chong probes some of the tenderest spots in the process of writing fiction.” —Los Angeles Times

“Probing gut-wrenching themes of child-abuse and trauma, Chong provides a thoughtful twist on the coming-of-age genre.” Maclean’s

“This intensely readable and engaging novel deals with serious personal issues in an inspired manner. Highly recommended.” Library Journal (starred review)

“A dark tale, sparsely told, a twisted coming of age.”  The Miramichi Reader

“…a big-hearted exploration of parenthood, friendship and caregiving. This work of metafiction (fiction written from the perspective of a fictive narrator who is both author of the story and driver of the plot) takes unexpected turns while holding up a mirror to how we live now.” The Tyee

“hugely engaging… Yes, there is a lot of darkness in this story, episodes that could present challenges to some readers, but ultimately the heft of this novel lies in its powerful reminder that unless we confront our demons, we’ll never exorcise them.” The Millions. 

“Folding in on itself with its fantastical loop-de-loop narrative only to start anew, The Double Life of Benson Yu is a clever confection that isn’t shy about revealing the humanity behind its narrative trickery.” New York Journal of Books

Advance Praise

“A nuanced, complex and highly original novel, equal parts harrowing and illuminating. Kevin Chong’s language is endlessly readable, bursting with pain, humor and invention. Remarkable.” —Charles Yu, National Book Award-winning author of Interior Chinatown

The Double Life of Benson Yu hit me like a katana blade. It’s a funny and large-hearted coming of age story, wrapped inside of a wise and surprising take on the creative process. But it’s more than that. It’s also a moving testament to the strange, freeing power of fiction—to how the imagination can help loosen the relentless grip of trauma. I won’t forget this book, and neither will you.” —Sam Graham-Felsen, award-winning author of Green

The Double Life of Benson Yu is a thought-provoking, gutsy novel from an accomplished risk taker. A daring and enriching book that lingers in the mind long after reading.” —Iain Reid, New York Times bestselling author of I’m Thinking of Ending Things, Foe, and We Spread

“Instructive as it is inspiring, The Double Life of Benson Yu is a phenomenal example of a writer taking real risks in order to reveal and reckon with deep-rooted, tormenting truths as a means of moving forward. Kevin Chong has crafted a novel that will get your heart pumping, mind jumping, and, best of all, fingers turning. Get ready to laugh and have your expectations defied. I can only imagine how many people this book will help.” —Mateo Askaripour, New York Times bestselling author of Black Buck

“An uncompromising exploration of toxic masculinity and cycles of abuse. Rather than opting for easy answers, this novel faces its demons and finds its catharsis in the powerful medicine of embracing the truth. A triumphant and important novel.” —Seth Fried, author of The Municipalists 

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