With her third novel, Mean Boy, Lynn Coady takes several risks which leave the reader wondering: is this just another solidly crafted book? or might it qualify as something more substantial? My ambivalence on this point stems from the nature of the risks she takes. The first risk is the novel’s subject matter — poetry. Coady tells the story of a young man, Lawrence (Larry) Campbell, from rural Prince Edward Island working class roots, who aspires to be a poet and so crosses the Northumberland Strait to attend a small mainland university, drawn there by the Big Name Poet, Jim Arsenault. We sit in on poetry workshops and readings where students evaluate one another’s work, sometimes nasty, sometimes clueless, most often hungover. Is the poetry banal? Is it pretentious? Could it hold the kernel of an emerging talent? Who’s to say? How can anyone really be sure? Just as the students engage in back—stabbing and petty jealousies, so too their mentors. Rural Jim Arsenault bears a long-standing grudge against urban Derrick Schofield and this rivalry has worked its way into nasty reviews of one another’s work. Do the reviews contain any legitimate observations? Or do they merely reflect the clash of strong personalities? In the end, all this writing about writing acts as a tacit invitation for the reader to scrutinize Coady’s work in the same way. Is the novel banal? Is it pretentious? Could it hold the kernel of an emerging talent? At the very least, one must say of Coady that she has confidence when she openly invites such scrutiny.