Caitlin Press published Pedal, a debut novel, in October 2014. It was a finalist for the 2015 First Novel Award and the 2016 ReLit Award. 

Julia Hoop, a twenty-five-year-old counselling psych student, is working on her thesis, exploring an idea which makes her graduate supervisor squirm. She is conducting interview after interview with a group of women she affectionately calls the Molestas—women whose experience of childhood sexual abuse did not cause physical trauma.

When both her boyfriend and her graduate advisor break up with her on the same day, Julia leaves her city of Vancouver on a bicycle for a cross-Canada trip in search of her father, or so she tells people. Her unexpected travel partner is Smirks, a handsome athlete who also has a complicated history.

Sometimes shocking in its candour, yet charmed with enigmatic characters, Pedal challenges beliefs we hold dear about the nature of pedophilia, the essence of innocence and the idea that the past is something one runs from.


“Pedal is a nearly perfect novel, wise and funny and tragic and illuminating.” –Jason Pettus, Chicago Center for Literature and Photography

“It’s not everyday that you read a powerful debut novel about the thorny topic of childhood sexual abuse. And I doubt I’ve ever read one quite like Pedal by Chelsea Rooney. Combining her personal experience with the subject matter with a profound sense of empathy, Rooney challenges orthodoxies surrounding sexual abuse and childhood sexuality.” —Shawn Syms, The Winnipeg Review

“Pedal is the sort of valuable book that ignites debate, but doesn’t conclude it. Beyond anything, the novel wisely asserts that sexual abuse and trauma are not problems as simplistic and easily solved as we want them to be. Until we are able to have the hard conversations about their complexity we will be no closer to preventing their pervasiveness.” –Stacey May Fowles, The Globe and Mail

“Chelsea Rooney has written a novel that is simultaneously lacerating and deeply empathetic. It confronts difficult material in a frank and unflinching manner, yet remains grounded in an abiding authorial intelligence. Pedal marks the debut of a hugely promising writer.” –Steven W. Beattie, Quill & Quire

“Rooney’s novel hits with a weight and importance not achieved by many debuts…an intelligent, incredibly well reasoned book that manages to uncover humanity…” Publishers Weekly

“This is an unsettling novel – smart, fierce, confident, funny, and full of surprises – with an unforgettable young woman at the heart of the storm.” –Mary Schendlinger, Geist

 “A taut, unsettling and provoking debut novel… [Chelsea Rooney] ought to commended for perceptively addressing such a difficult and inflammatory (and decidedly uncommercial) topic with a subtlety that’s buoyed by ample empathy.” –Brett Joseph Grubisic, The Vancouver Sun

“A romance on two wheels, Pedal will surprise you, possibly disturb you, and certainly give you lots to think and talk about. A brave novel by a smart new writer.” —Nick Mount, former fiction editor at Walrus & judge for 2015 First Novel Award

“Rooney approaches the difficult themes in her book with a frankness that can be jarring. However, she tempers the problematic with beautiful views of the narrator’s physical and inner journeys…Through Julia’s stubbornness and her thoughtful revelations, Rooney crafts a gripping story in murky territory.” –Jacqueline Valencia, Broken Pencil Magazine

“(D)ark and irresistible beauty…” –Dessa Bayrock, Raspberry Magazine

“(B)eautiful prose and lively storytelling…Pedal is a gutsy and innovative debut.” –Alexis Kienlen, Daily Herald Tribune

“Pedal carries the reader through moments that, if they were not buoyed on either end by humour and lively prose, would sink to the depths of discomfort. Rooney handles her topic with sympathy and openness …With public dialogue on sexual abuse expanding, this novel comes at a key moment.” –Jen Neale, The Coastal Spectator

“Pedal’s greatest achievement is not its writing, which is lucid and graceful, nor its characters, knowable yet irreducible. Trumping both is this novel’s creation of a space in which to think freely, naturally, about questions that shame and fear too often suppress.” –Charlotte Rogers, The Grapevine

“Apart from the risqué subject matter, what is most striking about Pedal is its sharp wit, clever wordplay and the characters’ cool and convincing habitation within modern society… Authentic moments recur so fluidly that it keeps Pedal fresh, accessible and remarkably funny.” –Christine Ama, She Does The City

“Rooney has specifically chosen a repulsive and uncommercial topic as her primary source of creative inspiration, and that’s not for everyone…These aren’t comfortable or fun questions, but Pedal is undeniably fun to read regardless—and not just because Rooney is a playful and evocative prose-smith.” –Will Johnson, Literary Goon

“The bike journey that gives rise to the title Pedal entails explicit sex, drugs, drinking and a very disturbing encounter in rural Saskatchewan…Chelsea Rooney is asserting that sexual abuse is not a simplistic subject.” —BC Booklook