Nix Minus One by Jill MacLean

Posted by on Jan 14, 2014 in Book Reviews, Newfoundland | 1 comment

nix minus one 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.

Memorable Quotes:

 “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

for me.”

– 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.

Your hands

do the talking.'” – from Nix Minus One by Jill MacLean, page 42

Nix Minus One by Jill MacLean is published by Pajama Press (2013).
(Buy this book: Amazon | Indigo | Canadian Booksellers)

One Comment

  1. Dear Amy,
    Thanks for your wonderful review – and on the second reading, no less! I have a soft spot for that book, so it’s great when someone really appreciates it.

    Best of luck as you continue with your venture, and I’ll be sending off a donation to CCBC for the YA Award when I send in my membership later this week.

    Take care,

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