During a diving competition Linda discovers that she has a rare heart condition and is told that her only hope of surviving is a heart transplant. Sensitive, introspective, and intelligent, Linda refuses to be coddled, despite her parent’s wishes. Determined to experience everything a 13-year-old girl should, Linda starts to work her way through a list of all the things she and her best friend wish to do: have a first kiss, go to a pop concert, travel without parents . . . But as Linda starts to tick these off, a mysterious emo boy called Zak appears — and always at the most unexpected moments. And he is happy to accompany her on daring escapades, particularly those that her timid best friend refuses to go on. But is Zak good or bad? And why is he the only one that Linda can share her fears with? Minus Me is a gripping, addictive novel — written with heart-stopping emotional honesty — from one of Norway’s most acclaimed young adult writers.
What I loved about this story was the rawness, you can’t help but go through some of the stages of grief as Linda discovers that she can no longer dive competitively, or share in her helplessness as she tries to make amends for the hurts she’s caused before she dies.
Linda is only thirteen years old, which only adds to the sense of urgency of the plot - her time is up before it really even starts. Aided with a list of things she wants to do before she dies, and her growing friendship with Zak, Linda takes teenage rebellion to the max; trying to soak up every last second before it’s her last. Linda’s dreams felt completely realistic, and she was written in a very relatable way. Linda embodies the spirit of a girl who is dealing with turning thirteen, and dying on top of it all. This book is emotional, both for Linda and the reader.
The plot was intense, especially since Linda is racing through her “bucket list,” and the writing was crisp and clear. Since this book has been translated into English, there were a few spots where the tone felt rigid, but never inconsistent. Knowing that I wasn’t reading this book in its native tongue helped me gloss over any jarring words or phrases in the text. Other than a few words, the flow of the novel moved me right along with the story.
The only reason I could not give this book a higher rating was because of Zak. You’re never quite sure who, or what, Zak is until the final moments (and I won’t spoil it here), but one thing is clear - the boy has some very different ideas of boundaries and friendship. There were a few very uncomfortable moments where Zak would be physically aggressive with Linda, only to turn around and tell her he only acted that way out of care. The suddenness of Zak’s switch in character, and the reasons he gives for acting that way just seemed almost abusive and, at the very least, manipulative. The problem is, I don’t think Zak was meant to come off that way, and it ultimately didn’t fit with the rest of the story.
Even though I struggled a bit with Zak, I really did enjoy Linda and her trajectory as a character. Minus Me is a heavy book that addresses death in a creative way, with lots of plots twists along the way. It is a book about growing up too fast, and not fast enough all at once. The heartfelt struggles of Linda will both challenge and comfort the reader, while leaving enough room for life’s mysteries.