Pajama Press

Posts Tagged ‘contemporary’

The Montreal Gazette praises free verse in Nix Minus One

Posted on April 1st, 2013 by pajamapress

“Poetry, at its best, has the power to evoke a maximum of emotion with a minimum number of words. As such, it’s a fitting tool for an author whose novel revolves around a teenage boy best described as tongue-tied and introverted — and whose life goes into overdrive when the usual changes that accompany puberty are added to those of a family with its share of secrets.

Nova Scotia’s Jill MacLean has set her most recent novel in Bullbirds Cove, a small town in Newfoundland that used to be home to 37 families but where, now that “the codfish are gone from the sea (and) groundfishing closed years ago,” only 23 families remain — including the Humboldt family. Fifteen-year-old Nixon (better known as Nix) and his 16-year-old sister, Roxy, are part of that family. In telling their story, MacLean uses free verse — which might sound off-putting to some, but actually turns out to be a great way to put into words what Nix thinks and has trouble saying. It also makes for a well-paced story that will leave readers thoroughly engaged with the characters, and probably reaching for a tissue or two before getting to the final page.”

—Bernie Goedhart

If You Suspect Animal Abuse

Posted on February 21st, 2013 by pajamapress

In Jill MacLean’s YA novel Nix Minus One, protagonist Nixon Humbolt develops a relationship with his neighbour’s neglected dog, Twig. When Twig is sold to another owner who physically abuses her, Nix is determined to rescue her. But how?

Many of us have been in Nix’s situation. It can be daunting—how can you protect the animal without breaking the law yourself? Here is a good place to start:

Download the printer-friendly colour version
Download the printer-friendly black-and-white version

Infographic design by Sarfaraaz Alladin

Cross-posted at Pajama Party blog

Nix Minus One is “absorbing, emotionally resonant” —Quill & Quire

Posted on January 4th, 2013 by pajamapress

Available February 15, 2013

Novels written in verse are difficult to execute well. On one hand they have a tendency toward melodrama; on the other they showcase poetry’s inherent ability to communicate flashes of thought, emotion, and experience. For YA novels in which the protagonists are often dealing with difficult situations, balance comes from allowing the characters to emerge authentically without forcing their voices to fit the format’s mould. Nix Minus One achieves this balance.

Though he’s now tall and lean, 15-year-old Nix struggles to lose his “Fatty Humbolt” elementary school identity, make friends, and prevent his older sister, Roxy, from self-destructing. Nix keeps to himself, channelling his frustrations into woodworking and caring for Twig, a neighbour’s dog. But when Twig is endangered and Roxy gets wrapped up in a toxic relationship, Nix is forced to fight against his introverted tendencies and stand up for those he loves.

Author Jill MacLean effectively crafts the verse to create Nix’s voice and uses imagery to convey emotion. Nix’s acerbic tone when faced with uncomfortable situations (such as when he receives his report card or when Roxy asks him to install a lock on her door) reveals his struggle to fit in and his frustration over the differences between the person he wishes he could be, the person people expect him to be, and the person he truly is.

While Roxy’s downward spiral feels a little contrived, MacLean tempers this with Nix’s protective feelings toward her. The novel’s strength comes from the authenticity of Nix’s emotional evolution, Twig’s parallel development from a sad and lethargic dog to an active and loveable one, and the complexity of the brother/sister relationship. This is an absorbing, emotionally resonant book.

Melanie Fishbane, an MFA student at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Click here to visit the Quill & Quire website

Resource Links is rooting for Emily

Posted on November 13th, 2012 by pajamapress

When Emily’s Grandad dies, she’s more concerned with her break up. When a mysterious guest shows up at her Grandad’s funeral, claiming to be an old friend of her Grandad’s Emily’s life gets suddenly more complicated. Her grandfather had a secret life and as it tears Emily’s family apart, Emily finds herself questioning everything she ever knew about her family.

Although Emily’s family situation—secret affairs, hidden adoptions, illegitimate children—could have come across as an over the top soap opera plot, Emily’s genuine characterization keeps the situation grounded in real emotion that readers will be able to relate to. The book is refreshingly romance-free—save for an odd, nearly out of place romantic development in the last twenty pages—giving Emily room to focus on her family and friend relationships, includg her relationship with Leo.

Leo has a rough home situation, with an alcoholic mother. He doesn’t ask Emily too many questions about her home life for which she’s grateful and in turn she tries to be a supportive friend for everything Leo’s going through. Their relationship is unusual in teen fiction—an opposite sex friendship—and it lends realism to Emily For Real.

Teens more interested in friendship and family than romance will find themselves relating to Emily and rooting for her through her struggles.

Rating: G – Good, even great at times, generally useful!

Kat Drennan-Scace

Emily is “thoughtful, introspective, and easily relatable” -School Library Journal

Posted on September 25th, 2012 by pajamapress

“Still experiencing the hurt from a recent breakup, Emily also has to contend with her grandfather’s death and the ensuing family drama that occurs soon after his funeral. Helping her cope is a new friendship with Leo, who, though dismissive and aloof at first, allows her into his life. Plot elements abound. Leo has anger issues, an alcoholic mother, and a sporadically present father, and Emily is hit with one revelation after another (finding out about her grandfather’s infidelity, a half aunt as a result of his affair, and revealed secrets that make her question her identity). Through it all, Gunnery gives Emily a thoughtful, introspective, and easily relatable voice, avoiding histrionics even as the narrative tends to drift toward afterschool-special territory.”
Joanna K. Fabicon, Los Angeles Public Library

Kirkus believes in Emily For Real

Posted on June 18th, 2012 by pajamapress

After being dumped by her boyfriend, an emotionally shaken 17-year-old high school senior makes friends with an angry young man and discovers that the secure family she always considered rock-solid is riddled with lies and secrets.

This is a story about familial ties-ties of blood, ties of love, ties that bind. It’s also about family lies and the way these lies affect core connections. Although protagonist Emily Sinclair’s family is small, it’s complex and is comprised of a variety of household situations: intact, divorced, step, gay, straight, illegitimate and adoptive. The story… is set in motion when Emily’s grandfather dies, and the family learns that he had both a longtime mistress and an illegitimate daughter. And that’s not even the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Sinclair family’s surprising but believable secrets, and their eventual revelation shocks Emily to the quick. The other story thread concerns Emily’s realistically depicted budding friendship with Leo Mac, a new classmate with a plateful of family problems of his own, and their testy but ultimately supportive relationship.

…[The story] is genuinely touching at its tear-inducing, hopeful end. (Fiction. 12 & up)