3.75/5

When We Were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald

Honestly, When We Were Vikings was really difficult to read at times. But in the end, I adored the message. And I think the things that made it heartbreakingly painful and endearingly meaningful were one and the same.

This book was painful to read because the protagonist’s actions so earnestly misguided that at times I wanted to shut the book and never know what the consequences were. In the same vein, her brother is such a flawed hero that you want him to win, but you can’t bear to know what how far he’ll go to accomplish it. The world is ragged around the edges and just, wholly, wholly real. There are a lot of adult scenes and messages that aren’t comfortable, to be honest.

And some of this world’s flaws and realities are also what made this book amazing. Every character’s actions felt so realistic. Gert and AK47’s relationship was especially true-to-life. Both were flawed, and not in convenient ways. MacDonald wasn’t afraid to get down and dirty with his characters.

Enter Zelda. Zelda…I adore her. Her sincerity bleeds off the page, and it’s heartbreaking at times. She feels real, not just as an intellectually disabled character, but as a person in general. She brings this book to life with her reactions and her tone and desires and her faith. It’s very, very well done.

So, this book thrives completely off its characters’ realism. This doesn’t work for every book, but MacDonald pulled it off here. The setting isn’t incredibly clear. It just feels like a town. I mean, even the plot seems aimless at times. But, both of those things are just how life is. Sometimes where you are is less important than the people you’re with. And you never have a clear grasp of where you’re going until you’re there.

The more I think about it, the more When We Were Vikings feels like poetry in every facet. Despite the pain…I’m really looking forward to more from Andrew David MacDonald.