Writing in free verse from the perspective of 15-year-old Nixon “Nix” Humboldt, acclaimed Canadian author MacLean (Home Truths, 2010, etc.) presents an intriguing coming-of-age story set in rural Newfoundland and centered on the love-hate relationship between siblings.
Quiet and a bit of a loner, Nix takes respite from the taunting of class bullies and from bearing the occasional brunt of his gregarious older sister Roxy’s wrath by helping out in his father’s woodworking shop, where the various boxes, frames and birdhouses he creates help to express the inner feelings he often has difficulty verbalizing. Sixteen-year-old Roxy, on the other hand, drives her teenage angst outward by pursuing the most popular (though shady) senior in high school, experimenting with alcohol and repeatedly defying her parents’ wishes. Where Nix admits “The first time / I came across the word / introversion / was the first time / I recognized myself,” Roxy struggles to come to terms with who she is, appearing at one point in Nix’s estimation both “overfed and ravenous / cranky and smug / hyper and exhausted” after blowing her curfew one night. And yet the siblings’ deep-seated love for each other cannot be denied when tested by their overprotective parents, immature classmates or in the wake of grave tragedy.
Well-crafted and intense, an engrossing family drama in which both young and old learn what it means to grow up. (Verse novel. 12 & up)