Rabén & Sjögren, 2013.
Reviewed by Kristina Sjögren in SBR 2013:2
Review Section: Fiction for Children and Young People
Sofia Nordin’s novels for young people were nominated for the prestigious August Prize in 2009 and 2010. Her theme is usually that of the quiet underdog with hidden qualities, a loser suddenly finding that he or she can make a difference in a situation where former tormentors or dominating mates now have to rely on him or her. The outcome is that the protagonist grows as a character.
This is also the case in the dystopia En sekund i taget, which starts with the thirteen-year-old protagonist Hedvig fleeing from the family flat, closing the door on the dead bodies of her mum, dad and little brother who have recently died of a ‘fever’. Outside, she enters a lonely, silent world without cars, electricity or running water, where people have simply died in mid-action. Luckily, the plague has not struck any other mammals, so Hedvig makes her way to an educational farm just outside the city. She finds herself in charge of two horses, egg-laying hens and two cows, which she learns to milk from a handbook.
Hedvig stays on the farm, eating pancakes for most of her meals, slowly learning to manage everyday life and tending to the animals. She refuses to think about her family or all the dead bodies she knows are out there, wondering if she is the only person to be immune to the plague. Are there other survivors, or is she doomed to live alone for the rest of her life? In spite of her loneliness she is afraid to meet others, because who would protect her now? And then one day, she sees footprints outside the house, footprints that are not her own. Someone has been looking in through the windows… Hedvig is no longer alone on the farm, and will have to face up to her worst fears.
Sofia Nordin writes in a strong, simple prose with Hedvig as the narrator. The big advantage of this book is the story itself – in all its simplicity it has the germ of a bestseller, and it would make a wonderful series, should Nordin choose to continue the story.
In my opinion, Nordin spends a bit too much space representing the feelings and reactions of the young narrator. A bit less psychological speculation and some more action could have put this novel close to the ranks of The Hunger Games. But the book is certainly good enough. It would not surprise me if En sekund i taget is the book that will win Nordin the August Prize.