Summary: Nixon (Nix) Humbolt is a fifteen year-old who pretty much keeps to himself. Working with his hands in his father’s carpentry shop seems to be the only time when things make sense and words aren’t needed. A friendship with a neighbour’s dog he names Twig gives him some confidence, but then his sister Roxy starts pushing the family boundaries with her new boyfriend. Left to pick up the pieces when the relationship goes south, Nix does his best to keep things together when the unthinkable happens.
Number of Pages: 287
Age Range: 15-17
Review: For me, the beauty of this book begins with its title, Nix Minus One. What happens when you subtract one from nothing? The answer might be more surprising than you’d think.
Through MacLean’s expressive use of free-verse poetry, Nix grows into a sensitive and caring young man despite the tragedy he faces. MacLean is so talented at putting her reader inside Nix’s mind that in one scene when Nix was drunk, I felt drunk reading about it.
There are so many things I love about this book. The characters of Blue, Twig, and Nix. Reading the descriptions about Nix’s intricate woodworking. The complex relationship between Nix and his sister Roxy. Nix Minus One is an authentic portrayal of hardship and grief while still maintaining a sense of hope that will leave the reader feeling uplifted.
This is my second time reading Nix Minus One, and I enjoyed it just as much as I did the first time.
“Houses cast up onshore
like lobster traps.
Two skiffs and a longliner
moored in the lee
of the government wharf.
In front of our place, a dirt road and the landwash,
clatter of rocks rounded by the tides.
Glizzard Island and Bullet Reef with their roughed-up surf.”
– Nix from Nix Minus One by Jill MacLean, page 9
“The first time
I came across the word
was the first time
I recognized myself. Like,
there was a category
– Nix from Nix Minus One by Jill MacLean, page 36
“When I try to describe where I’m at
with the joints, the words tangle
my tongue. So I pick up the dovetail saw,
cut into the sockets, chisel out the waste,
and fit the rail into the leg.
Other side the same,
and by now I’ve forgotten
anyone’s watching. Screw the slots next, counter-sinking the holes.
As I lay down the drill,
Blue says, ‘You don’t need words.
do the talking.'” – from Nix Minus One by Jill MacLean, page 42