I’ve been piecing my thoughts together on this one for a week now. I’m still not sure I can say anything coherent or incisive. Some good, some bad, some icky and some baffling choices in this book.
When We Were Vikings is the story of Zelda, a young adult woman who was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. She lives with her brother, Gert, who has been helping to care for her since the death of their mother. Zelda is high-functioning but has very focused interests. Specifically, she is interested in Vikings and her boyfriend, Marxy. The story follows Zelda and Gert through a span of several weeks in which they come in to conflict with each other and outside forces.
The Good: the author does a great job normalizing the challenges that a disabled adult faces. Zelda navigates changes in routine, learning a bus route, getting a job and meeting new people at various points in the book. Her support system is fleshed out and she is encouraged to become more autonomous by the people she surrounds herself with. It deals frankly with the sex lives of mentally disabled adults and the discomfort that their family members or support systems can have with these surrounding issues. Zelda is brave and a well-developed character.
The Bad: the sex! Zelda is very focused on having sex with her boyfriend, Marxy. It is mentioned several times that Marxy is significantly more disabled than Zelda. Marxy’s mom and Gert’s girlfriend arrange a hotel room for Zelda and Marxy to have sex- despite the fact that the two of them have kissed only maybe twice in this book. Zelda is later manipulated into a sexual situation by a drug dealer, repeatedly lusted after by the entire drug-running crew (Zelda tells us a few times that she doesn’t LOOK like she has FAS), and is nearly raped by another character. For all of this book’s focus on sex, Zelda has not a single decent sexual encounter.
The Thing That Repeatedly Drove Me Nuts: Is dabbing different in Canada? Zelda repeatedly ‘dabs’ other characters, but in such a way that I think the author actually is referring to a fist bump rather than a dab.