High School book cover

Hardcover, MCD × FSG, 2019

High School is the revelatory coming-of-age story of Sara and Tegan Quin, identical twins from Calgary, Alberta, who grew up during the peak of grunge and rave culture in the nineteen-nineties. Before they became the celebrated musicians and global LGBTQ icons we know today, Tegan and Sara skipped school, dropped acid, snuck out of the house, and fell in and out of love for the first time — sometimes with their best friends. Written in alternating chapters from Tegan's and Sara’s points of view, High School captures the discordant and parallel memories of two sisters struggling to understand their identities and beginning to see themselves, for the first time, as artists.


Welcome to High School

“Tell her to get out. Tell her to leave us the fuck alone,” Sara screamed as we brawled and Mom tried to separate us. “Naomi’s my best friend. Tell her to get one of her own.”

It took all the air from inside me when Sara said it, like a bad fall.

The summer before we started high school, Sara and I were virtually estranged. During the day you could find me moping in the basement of our baby blue two-story house, deep in the suburbs of northeast Calgary, watching TV alone. If I wasn’t there, I was in my room with the door locked, playing music so loud my ears rang. While my mom and stepdad Bruce were at work, Sara and I either aggressively ignored each other or were at each other’s throats. We fought, mercilessly, for time alone, but I still felt a primal fear of being apart from her, especially as high school loomed. I was plagued with anxiety dreams all summer, in which I wandered the halls of our school searching for her. The dreams stoked the dread I already felt, adding layers of questions I avoided in the light of day like I avoided Sara. We hadn’t always been like this.

Naomi had complicated things. We met her in grade nine, our final year of junior high, when the French immersion program she was enrolled in moved to our school. Naomi was small, blond, with lively, sparkling green eyes. You couldn’t miss her in the halls. She dressed in brightly colored clothes and said hi to everyone. She oozed friendliness and kindness. Around her, a tight-knit pack of equally cool-looking girls we’d nicknamed the Frenchies was always with her. Sara and I became fast friends with all of them, but Naomi drew Sara and me in closest. For a time, we were both Naomi’s best friends. This was nothing new; Sara and I had always shared a best friend growing up. Our shared best friends acted as a conduit between us: we confessed to them what we couldn’t tell each other, and knew they’d pass along the message. We seemed to prefer it this way. But at the end of grade nine, Naomi and Sara forced an abrupt unraveling of this friendship after Naomi told us she and some of the other Frenchies planned to attend Sir Winston Churchill High School, instead of Crescent Heights, like us, that fall. After that, Naomi and Sara acted as if Naomi was being shipped overseas, rather than across town. They isolated themselves as summer started, hid behind the locked door of Sara’s room, and left me out of their plans for sleepovers. I felt confused, injured, abandoned. I instigated violent clashes with Sara in front of Naomi when they left me out, further damaging whatever bond remained between the three of us. It was war.



It was minus-twenty degrees Celsius, and I wasn’t wearing long johns under my ripped jeans. The exposed skin on my knees had turned purple, and the wind burned my cheeks and the tips of my ears. Burying our hands in the shallow pockets of our winter coats, Tegan and I didn’t speak as we made our way from the bus stop on the highway across the subdivision’s shortcut to our house. At home, we hovered near the back deck. We smoked a pinch of weed I spilled into a crushed Coke can punctured with pinholes.

“Hurry,” is all Tegan mustered as I flicked the lighter with my frozen thumb, forcing sparks but no flame. “Give it to me; we’ll die out here.”

Sucking deeply, she passed the can back and I inhaled the smoke lacing out of the hole. When we got inside, I should have done homework, but I went straight to the basement, where I used Mom’s computer to write secret letters about the girl I liked. It was still a shock to feel desire for girls, addictive thoughts that stole hours of my time at school and in bed before I fell asleep.

Girls had always been interested in Tegan and me. They sometimes followed us home from school or watched us at choir practice. As a twin, I was used to being stared at by people, but this was different. I started imagining them observing me, even when I was alone. I wanted these girls to look at me; I wanted to be seen.

Tegan came into the office and flipped on the television. “What are you writing?”


I always told lies to protect her from what scared me, but this one I told only to protect myself. I printed what I was working on and walked upstairs to my bedroom, where I stashed the pages deep inside the torn-out gut of a stuffed animal. A few months earlier Mom had come into my room and read a few lines of a letter I’d accidentally left in the printer tray downstairs. It was addressed to my best friend, Naomi.

“Do you like Naomi as more than a friend?” she asked, saying each word carefully.

My arms and cheeks went numb. “I just wrote the words to see what it would feel like.”

Her face softened, and she placed the paper next to me on the bed. “You know, when I was fifteen—”

“Mom, I don’t want to hear again about how you kissed a girl at boarding school!”

She flinched. “Well, in the future, if you don’t want people to read your thoughts, then don’t leave them where everyone can find them.”

A few weeks later, Tegan found my letter stash, pulled them straight from the guts of my hiding place. “Stay out of my shit!” I hollered at her, ripping the papers from her hands, then slamming both our bedroom doors so hard the windows rattled. I cut each page into strips and threw them in the garbage. Then I called Naomi and told her what I’d done.

“I wish you hadn’t thrown them away. They were so beautiful.”

“No one in this house respects me or my privacy!”

I knew both Mom and Tegan were trying to figure out what was going on with me. But the harder they looked, the more I wanted to retreat. I was afraid of being caught in a trap.

I wasn’t just kissing girls.

I was in love with my best friend.

This account of the pains and pleasures of dirtbag queer-girl adolescence is everything you could want from a memoir: honest and hilarious, dishy and sweet, smart and self-aware and utterly charming. What a gift to get this view of Tegan and Sara as sisters, as friends, and as artistic collaborators, as they were becoming musical icons, and―more importantly―themselves.
Carmen Maria Machado, author of Her Body and Other
To navigate the experiential landscape of high school is always an emotional minefield. To have Tegan and Sara unabashedly share the perspective of young lesbians is a rare and invaluable gift. The kind of empathetic education our society is starved for.
k.d. lang
High School embodies the singular gift of words leaping off of the page and becoming feelings, rattling around in the hearts and minds of a reader. The truth of nostalgia is that it must have multiple lenses to operate in its most flourishing form. Much like in their music, in this book, the voices of Tegan and Sara are two distinct bodies of water flowing into the same harmonious river, spilling through the echoing hallways of old high schools, through the bedrooms of first heartbreaks, through the old haunts that remind you of your own. This book is a triumph of memory, affection, and engaging writing.
Hanif Abdurraqib, author of Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to a Tribe Called Quest
Tegan and Sara's literary coming-of-age memoir High School is an engrossing, sharply crafted, deeply authentic look at the misery of (queer) adolescence and the gorgeous glory of becoming yourself. So much angst and revelation, depression, inebriation, inspiration, vulnerability, and power. A wild, teenage ride I could not put down.
Michelle Tea, author of Against Memoir
What a gift to read the coming of age story of the brilliant Tegan and Sara. High School gives us a glimpse into the struggles and triumphs of both sisters as individuals and an evolving band. Their vulnerability, honesty, and compassion bursts through, and will make countless people feel less alone. It is so important for the LGBTQ+ community to have memoirs like this in which they can recognize themselves and be inspired to follow their truth. I am endlessly grateful to Tegan and Sara for giving so much to this world.
Ellen Page, actress and producer, The Umbrella Academy
It should come as no surprise to anyone who has ever listened to a song by Tegan and Sara, that while not only are they able to convey the raw and complex emotions of the high school experience, the aimlessness of suburban life and the exhilaration of finding your way out, they also speak universal truths about intimacy between families and sisters, friends and lovers. They've captured a time and a place so perfectly, I can't exactly be sure that I wasn't there.
Busy Philipps, actress, Freaks and Geeks, Dawson’s Creek
Candid, tender, courageously honest, and heartbreakingly familiar; I could see myself and my own experience reflected in these stories, more so than in anything else I've ever read. Reading this book moved me deeply.
Julien Baker, singer and songwriter
Intense, vulnerable and life-affirming. Tegan and Sara take us back through their whirlwind journey, densely packed with the intricate complications and the envious, unspoken connection of growing up an identical twin.
Abbi Jacobson, author of I Might Regret This and co-creator of Broad City
With their music, Tegan and Sara offer listeners a glimpse at a specific time and place. In High School, they throw the door open and allow readers the opportunity to become fully immersed in their world. Tegan and Sara’s stories of first loves, self discovery, and the insights into their relationship with each other are deeply moving and relatable. They never hold back from the absolute authenticity they are known for. I never wanted it to end.
Clea DuVall, actress and director, Veep, The Intervention
Tegan and Sara are massively gifted songwriters, so this genius memoir shouldn’t have shocked me like it did. There’s simply nothing like it; it’s completely original, utterly gripping, and gorgeously written. High School is a fresh, beautiful, and fearlessly powerful coming-of-age memoir.
Augusten Burroughs, New York Times bestselling author of Running with Scissors and Toil & Trouble
High School highlights the indisputable fact that Tegan and Sara were never just musicians―they are master storytellers. In reflecting on that torturous span of time spent agonizing over one’s body, friendships, parents, and desires, this book highlights how high school is less of a place or memory but a metaphor for uncertainty, and underlines the salvation that can only be found in music. High School foreshadows the beginning of a rich and riveting literary career.
Vivek Shraya, musician and author of I'm Afraid of Men