cover image Nix Minus One

Nix Minus One

Jill MacLean. Pajama Press (Orca, dist.), $21.95 (296p) ISBN 978-1-927485-24-8

Fifteen-year-old Nix Humbolt narrates his daily life in Bullbirds Cove, Newfound-land, where he and his family, one of only 23 remaining after the fishing industry collapsed, struggle to survive economic challenges, small-town politics, and adolescence. MacLean (The Present Tense of Prinny Murphy) writes in short free-verse chapters that read like prose stripped of all unnecessary words. An introvert, Nix watches in dismay as his tempestuous sister flirts with drugs, alcohol, older boys, and risky social scenes: “I thought the yellow sun/ rose over the mountains and set over the sea/ on my sister Roxanne./ Then she hit puberty./ Head-on collision.” More observer than participant at home and school, Nix comes alive in his father’s woodworking shop: “I pick up the dovetail saw,/ cut into the sockets, chisel out the waste.... and by now I’ve forgotten/ anyone’s watching.” Writing with careful, evocative language, MacLean explores love in myriad forms: Nix’s concern for a neighbor’s abused dog that he longs to rescue, his crush on one girl and budding friendship with another, Roxy’s affection for her brother, and his family’s grief over a devastating tragedy. Ages 12–up. (July)