Nix Minus One, by Jill MacLean (book review) – save his sister, a dog, himself?

book cover of Nix Minus One by Jill MacLean published by Pajama PressA dog, beaten and ignored.
A girl, risking and reckless.
A boy who must step out of his safe-place to save them…

I lived in Newfoundland in early grade school (on a now-closed Air Force base), so I have a strong mental picture of the isolated small coastal town that Roxy longs to escape, where Nix’s solitary ways are known to everyone, where a story can never be untold.

Request this novel-in-verse from your local library or independent bookstore; they might have to order it (Pajama Press is a small Canadian firm, not one of the “Big 5”), but it’s so worth waiting for!

Have you ever felt like the only person who could fix a situation?

Book info: Nix Minus One / Jill MacLean. Pajama Press, 2013.  [author site]  [publisher site]  [book trailer] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Nix helps hide Roxy’s wild nightlife from their parents, like he wants to help the mistreated dog he meets, but the consequences may be too much for the quiet teen to handle.

Now that cod fishing is done for good, coastal Newfoundland towns are shrinking fast, but there are still enough bullies at the regional high school to taunt Nix about his weight and red hair. All the ninth grader wants to do is be left alone to play video games and work in Dad’s furniture workshop, pretending that beautiful Loren will pay attention to him some day.

Just by chance, he sees a beaten and half-starved dog at a neighbor’s house and wishes yet again that Mom would have let them have one instead of worrying about clean floors. Maybe the old grump will let Nix walk the dog, just to get her out of that poop-strewn yard full of junk.

Big sister Roxy decides to party with a senior and expects Nix to cover for her when she misses curfew. Their conservative parents warily respect his smooth manners and rich family, but have no idea that he’s the area go-to-guy for drugs. Everyone at school knows Bryan will dump her after a few weeks… everyone but Roxy.

Nix finally coaxes the dog into walking up into the hills with him, occasionally meeting classmate Blue when she’s birdwatching, both laughing about how they’ll never be popular at school with these hobbies.

And then that rainy night, when Roxy doesn’t come home, when silence becomes the fourth person at their dinner table…

Why couldn’t Nix keep his sister safe?
Why can’t he get Twig away from the master who mistreats her?
Why can’t he make Mom and Dad happy?

This powerful novel-in-verse echoes with the rhythms of family life, school tensions, unexpressed dreams and desires, and a long-hidden story that suddenly re-orients everything that Nix ever knew. (One of 6,000 books recommended on