Indie Next Pick for February 2020
Book of the Month January 2020
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“Zelda is a marvel, a living, breathing three-dimensional character with a voice so distinctive she leaps off the page.” —The New York Times
“Heartwarming and unforgettable.” —People
For Zelda, a twenty-one-year-old Viking enthusiast who lives with her older brother, Gert, life is best lived with some basic rules:
1. A smile means “thank you for doing something small that I liked.”
2. Fist bumps and dabs = respect.
3. Strange people are not appreciated in her home.
4. Tomatoes must go in the middle of the sandwich and not get the bread wet.
5. Sometimes the most important things don’t fit on lists.
But when Zelda finds out that Gert has resorted to some questionable—and dangerous—methods to make enough money to keep them afloat, Zelda decides to launch her own quest. Her mission: to be legendary. It isn’t long before Zelda finds herself in a battle that tests the reach of her heroism, her love for her brother, and the depth of her Viking strength.
“A most welcome and wonderful debut” (Tyrell Johnson, author of The Wolves of Winter), When We Were Vikings is an uplifting debut about an unlikely heroine whose journey will leave you wanting to embark on a quest of your own, because after all...we are all legends of our own making.
MacDonald's offbeat debut introduces 21-year-old Zelda, a Viking-obsessed young woman with a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, who lives with her gruff, tattooed older brother and guardian, Gert. While he attends college on a hardship scholarship, Zelda enjoys spending time with Gert's feisty ex-girlfriend AK47 and at the community center with her friends. She's also determined to have sex with her boyfriend, Marxy, if only his overprotective mother would get out of the way. Money is tight, and when Zelda discovers that Gert has resorted to some possibly illegal money-making methods, she decides to help, because helping the tribe is what a Viking warrior does. What follows is by turns funny and tragic as Zelda navigates a new job at the library, explores intimacy with Marxy, and puts herself firmly in the crosshairs of some decidedly unsavory people. The guileless Zelda, who narrates, is a joy, and her fierce love for her family drives her, even if it means running headlong into danger. MacDonald avoids oversentimentality and a too-neat resolution, instead depicting Zelda's desire to shape her own life and be the hero of her own legend with frankness and humor. Readers will be inspired by the unforgettable Zelda.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Couldn’t stand Gert!
~Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC!~
I had high hopes for this book because the blurb sounded amazing! A girl with an extreme enthusiasm for Vikings and maybe has to use her knowledge to help her brother get out of trouble? Let me read it ASAP! But shortly into the first chapter, I realized that it was completely different to what I’d thought it would be. It was a surprise at first, but I got used to reading in Zelda’s POV.
The two high points I had with this book were the two female characters, Zelda and AK47/Annie. As annoying as it was that Annie was called AK47 by Zelda for almost the entire book, except for one or two times, I loved how strong Annie was as a character. She was like this glue that was sticking Gert and Zelda together. It was sweet how much Annie cared for Zelda and Gert, enough that she stuck around for some time to help them both, and how Annie acted as someone that Zelda could call for help, advice, or anything else.
I also loved Zelda’s job at the library and was so happy for her when she got the job and did her work with Carol. Didn’t care for her relationship with Marxy, which went on for way longer than it should have. Zelda developed amazingly as a character, but Gert not so much.
I couldn’t stand Gert. He was one of the low points of the book. I liked him at the very beginning. I thought he was just an older brother, a tough guy who softens up by the end and loves his family (Zelda). But even though this did describe Gert somewhat, he just had nothing going for him.
Gert’s moments of violence (punching walls, very short temper, willingness to get into fights, destroying objects, and even throwing Zelda’s phone) had me concerned that he’d hurt Zelda. He wasn’t a character I could support at all, and there were times when, even though he cared about Zelda, I was afraid for Zelda that her own older brother would hurt her, especially since Zelda described him as a big guy who used to be a football player. Gert was an insufferable character but was in the book a lot, being Zelda’s brother. He was very lucky that Annie and Zelda put up with him as much as they did.
The book’s plot was essentially Gert vs. Toucan, another low point since it was so uninteresting to read about, but the lowest point in this book was the attempted rape scene. There was no warning beforehand for it, and I hated that the author included this scene. The attempted rape was by Toucan to Zelda, and by that point we already knew that Toucan was a bad guy whenever he showed up. We didn’t need an attempted rape to show us just how much of a bad guy he was.
The ending, I have mixed feelings about. While it did wrap things up nicely in terms of Toucan, Gert, and Zelda, it felt anticlimactic and like there was something missing from the book, or it should’ve been a little longer. The future was left uncertain for Gert, Zelda, and even Annie, and I didn’t like that.
When We Were Vikings overall was hard to get through and finish. The plot never had me interested. Although Andrew David MacDonald had a writing style (used mostly for Zelda’s POV) that was simple and not at all complicated, I got so tired of Zelda’s POV and her constant swearing and use of the word “legendary.”
Can’t recommend this book, but it was a unique read that I enjoyed here and there!