Posted on April 18th, 2013 by pajamapress
At 15, Nix Humbolt is taller and leaner than in his “Fatty Humbolt” days, but he still keeps a low profile at school. He finds refuge in his father’s workshop where he builds intricate boxes and tables – and avoids arguments with his older sister Roxy. When Roxy starts dating Bryan Sykes, Nix knows he’s bad news – but what can he do? The only battles he ever fights are on his Xbox – until the day he finds the nerve to fight for Swiff Dunphy’s neglected dog. When things start to spin out of control, this dog might just be the one who saves him.
Award-winning author Jill MacLean uses verse to tell an emotionally resonant story of an extremely introverted teenager. Nix still thinks of himself as the bullied fat boy, and he struggles to find his voice. He’s fiercely loyal and intelligent, and has a strong sense of justice, but when it comes to acting on it, he feels helpless. The one area where he can do something is to take care of the neglected and abused dog, whom he calls Twig.
While never explicitly stated, MacLean draws a subtle and effective connection between Roxy and Twig in Nix’s mind. The more out of control Roxy becomes, the more desperate Nix is to save Twig. Just when he thinks he’s failed at that, too, it’s Roxy who surprisingly gives him the strength he needs to fight for what matters to him. Nix Minus One is also a story about transformation, and MacLean skilfully parallels Twig’s transformation with Nix’s. As Twig transforms from a skittish, unhappy animal to a happy, healthy dog, Nix gradually is able to come out of his shell and emerge as a stronger, more confident boy.
MacLean’s books demand a lot from their readers, and Nix Minus One is no exception. Her characters are extremely authentic, and they will make the reader root for everything to turn out OK. The story is complex and engaging, and the deep themes make this an excellent novel for study and discussion.”
—Rachel Seigel is Selection Manager at S&B Books – a division of Whitehots.
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