Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “When We Were Vikings” as Want to Read:
When We Were Vikings
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

When We Were Vikings

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  9,476 ratings  ·  1,858 reviews
Sometimes life isn’t as simple as heroes and villains.

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 midd
Kindle Edition, 326 pages
Published January 28th 2020 by Scout Press
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about When We Were Vikings, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Andrew MacDonald Hi, and thanks a bunch for your patron request! It's Adult, but I know a lot of readers, librarians, and high school teachers have noted that it can d…moreHi, and thanks a bunch for your patron request! It's Adult, but I know a lot of readers, librarians, and high school teachers have noted that it can do double duty as a book with crossover appeal. (less)
Andrew MacDonald Yes! One of Zelda's adult besties is. …moreYes! One of Zelda's adult besties is. (less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.87  · 
Rating details
 ·  9,476 ratings  ·  1,858 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of When We Were Vikings
Sep 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved being inside of Zelda's mind. Zelda, a high functioning young adult diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome, has something about her that everyone can relate to. While exploring life’s boundaries, she often compares her world to the Viking world. Though others consider Zelda “not normal”, she considers her life a quest and strives to fulfill her legacy while searching for identity, battling for independence, and overcoming life’s villains.

“I told him that I was used to it. “
Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell

Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest

WHEN WE WERE VIKINGS is a book that has a very interesting premise but is potentially problematic in a lot of ways. I breezed through it pretty quickly-- normally a good sign-- but when I finished, I found that I had a really bad taste in my mouth. Something about the book really didn't sit right with me. I finished the book on my lunch break and spent the rest of the day with my thoughts on the back burner, trying to figure out, what, e
Scarlett Readz and Runz....Through Novel Time & Distance
As a fan of all things Vikings, I was drawn to the cover of this novel and had a certain expectation on how it would follow. If the blurb and quotes did not give it away, I soon found myself questioning if I had the correct book at hand that I so expectantly put on top of my tbr the moment it was in my possession. What I was reading was both plain and endearing in the use of verbiage but also resembled the main adult protagonist of child-like character. How was this supposed to make a leap from ...more
Elyse  Walters
Audiobook... read by
Phoebe Strole/ ebook sync.

I’m not an enthusiastic Viking - reader - in any shape or form. I trusted other readers that this book had very little to do with Vikings, but it was still too much for me.

I wasn’t interested in Zelda’s tribe, or dressing correctly to get into character.

Even with a - somewhat lovable character,
....Zelda, a high functioning 21-year-old with fetal alcohol syndrome.... I just didn’t really enjoy the story.
Zelda is an unreliable character >> which is
Apr 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I'm surprised how much I enjoyed this book! I figured it'd be a 2-3 star read for me and I'm glad it exceeded my expectations.

The main character Zelda is a young woman with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. She is obsessed with Vikings and makes sense of her world and herself by comparing them to Vikings.  She is such an enjoyable, vibrant, and likable character and I found myself drawn to her from the first page. As another friend noted in her review, the book felt derivative of The Curious Incident of t
Shelby *trains flying monkeys*
A book where the main character is obsessed with Vikings?

Not normally the kind of book that I would jump all over. I actually have no clue what made me want to read this book but whatever/whoever it was...thank you!!

Zelda is a character that is different. Zelda is a character that I wish the world had more of. She is honest, outspoken for her tribe and knows what she wants. In this story we get to go with her on her quest for a bit.

Zelda lives with her big brother Gert. She goes to the comm
“With Gert, I do not mind going to new places. If I am alone, I do not like new places, since it’s easy to become lost or kidnapped and held for ransom.”

It’s Zelda’s 21st birthday, and she’s an adult today. Her older brother Gert, with whom she lives, has already surprised her with a Viking stripper who makes balloon animals (but doesn’t strip today). She thinks he’s great

“He looked like he could defeat hordes of villains and commit acts of bravery, like Beowulf . . .”

Zelda’s favourite book i
Jan 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
[3.5] I have mixed feelings about When We Were Vikings. Zelda is a young woman born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, who functions well in a scripted routine. She views everything in black and white, is crazy about Vikings and uses simplistic language with "words of the day" thrown in. Initially the novel felt derivative (Curious Incident) and YA (except for the sex-talk). I stuck with it because I thought the contradictions around her burgeoning sexuality and desire for independence were interestin ...more
This is a very engaging debut novel featuring a young adult with a cognitive disability. Born with fetal alcohol syndrome, Zelda is high functioning but is quite guileless and naive, not always understanding social interactions and people's intentions, which can get her into dangerous situations. Her parents both died when she was young and she and her brother Gert were sent to live with their creepy Uncle Richard, who was cruel to Gert and liked to touch Zelda. After a knee injury put paid to t ...more
Susan's Reviews
Nov 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley-arc
What a fine - A VERY FINE!- story Andrew David MacDonald has brought us in When We Were Vikings. That ending was just beautiful. I'm still leaking tears as I write this review. At the end of this epic tale, this talented author did not leave any loose ends untied: we certainly have a lot to learn from Viking lore. "...For [Zelda] the world is a place where courage and being part of a tribe means more than anything else—where we are all Vikings paddling together, to the beat of the same drum."

This is a hard hitting contemporary fiction book that has some mental health. The main character in the book is Zelda, and she is a high functioning young adult diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome at born. She loves Vikings and rules. I cannot say if the fetal alcohol syndrome is correct because I personal do not know anyone with fetal alcohol syndrome. I can say I hate that her brother who is in charge of taking of her brings trouble into her live. I am a big problem of special needs world ar ...more
Andrew David MacDonald delivered an amazing story in When We Were Vikings. I absolutely adored this literary fiction about our protagonist Zelda who was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, due to her mother's heavy drinking. Zelda and her brother Gert are left on their own as their father died while in prison and their mother died shortly after.

Zelda obsessed with Vikings adapts the Viking culture to make it through life’s difficulties and challenges. I adored her character and how she is set in
☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣
This one's really touching. And cartoonish. And endearing.

The Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is shown rather inaccurately (!) or maybe this just wasn't a too high-functioning protagonist but rather a mid-functioning one (if there is such a qualification). After all, these things come as various blips on a really large spectrum.

Gert? Actually both siblings were pictured with some FAS characteristics.

Zelda and her sex and her legendary stuff and the Dr. Kepple letters - ughhh!!! Ocerall, I'd say I got a
Susan's Reviews
Nov 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a fine - A VERY FINE!- story Andrew David MacDonald has brought us in When We Were Vikings. That ending was just beautiful. I'm still leaking (happy/wow) tears as I write this review. At the end of this epic tale, this talented author did not leave any loose ends untied: we certainly have a lot to learn from Viking lore. "...For [Zelda] the world is a place where courage and being part of a tribe means more than anything else—where we are all Vikings paddling together, to the beat of the sa ...more
Suzanne Leopold (Suzy Approved Book Reviews)
Zelda is twenty-one years old and was born with fetal alcohol syndrome. She is high functioning with her learning disability and relies on repetition to learn her tasks. She lives a simple life and maintains a constant routine to reduce anxiety. Zelda is friendly and attends community classes where she learns life skills such as basic finance and social interaction. She is also obsessed with Vikings and uses their rituals as guidance in her life.

Zelda lives with her older brother, Gert, who has
Book of the Month
Why I love it
by Bryn Greenwood

As a reader, I'm always looking for the same things that attract me as a writer. I love stories that are outside the mainstream, about people who, in other books, might be relegated to sidekicks or one-dimensional sources of inspiration. When We Were Vikings hit that sweet spot for me.

Zelda is an older teenager on the fetal alcohol spectrum, but she is nobody's disability inspiration. She sees herself as a modern-day Viking with a sacred duty to protect her family,
Feb 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
When We Were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald is a young adult contemporary read. This book stands out from others in it’s genre by boldly having a lead character that suffers from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome which leaves her with cognitive differences which makes for quite a different coming of age contemporary read.

Zelda has always been obsessed with vikings with them being heroes in her eyes but day to day her brother, Gert, has been Zelda’s real life viking raising her on his own. Zelda is throw
Nov 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020, giveaways
You can’t be brave unless you’ve been afraid. Zelda is a Viking enthusiast who is trying to make her way in a world full of villains whilst figuring out what makes someone a hero. Born on the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum, she thinks and acts differently, but is still relatively high-functioning. Zelda lives with her older brother, Gert, though they’re struggling financially without any parental or family support.

It would be easy to make her FAS the main adversary in the story, or perhaps vilify her mo
It’s been a long while since I felt so completely addicted and in love with a character. I didn’t want this book to end. Five stars all the way!

Audiobook narrated by the fabulous Phoebe Strole.

My favorite quote:
“... even though Vikings have wise men who tell them what to do, sometimes heroes need to follow their own hearts and believe in themselves.”
Jun 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I didn’t know what to expect whe. I picked up this book and I wasn’t convinced when I read the first few pages, but my goodness....what a life affirmation read. Zelda is magnificent. Masterful writing. Possibly the best book I’ve read this year.
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at:

Ahhhhhhhh this little book . . . . .

If you are of the ilk that is offended by everything it’s probably best to just stay far farrrrrrr away. The protagonist here isn’t your average gal, her family is not your average family and their issues aren’t your average issues. There’s plenty to get butthurt about. For the rest of you with more open minds who are willing to take a risk, hopefully you will find yourself in the same boat as
Susan Johnson
Jan 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I needed a book like this desperately. First of all, it has a main character, Zelda, you can unreservedly root for and she has surrounded herself with a tribe that gives her needed help, support, and love. She is a 21 year old who has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and is struggling to establish her independence. Her older brother, Gert, is not ready to let go and he still wants to protect her (who doesn't?)
Luckily she has the support of Gert's girlfriend, AK47, her doctor and the Community Center she
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley-arcs
Thank you, Netgalley, for an ARC!

Wow, what a good read. A story I was into, with real daily life problems being address by an unlikely heroine you can only root for, with her Viking philosophies quick at hand and a desire to write her own legend.

I’d certainly compare this to the Curious Incident of the Dog inasmuch as a young, mentally different protagonist leads the story, and the blunt narration made it easy but also immersive to read… But this was a young woman’s story, one I was infinitely
When We Were Vikings is a cute, light, coming-of-age story about a woman named Zelda and her day-to-day life with her older brother Gert. Zelda suffers from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, but she doesn't let the haters get her down. Zelda is a good-natured, funny, protagonist and while this book may sound like it could venture a darker route, and at times did, it's definitely a fun ride. Zelda is one of the most loveable protagonists I've ever encountered. ...more
Dec 13, 2019 marked it as to-read
Just got an ARC, might read it soon
Kathryn in FL
This highly engaging debut novel is a very original, unique story with interesting, dynamic, primary characters. Told in the first person, Zelda is a special needs person, who is highly functional adult. We watch her get entangled in some very challenging situations that most people would find difficult to work through. Her ability to apply logic and respond based on her sense of what is morally right is both her biggest strength and at times a great weakness. Even in her failures, she learns an ...more
Joy D
Zelda, a young woman born with fetal alcohol syndrome, lives with her older brother, Gert. They were previously living with an abusive uncle, but to get away, Gert borrows money from a shady character – not his best idea. Zelda is a fan of Vikings. She knows she is different and wants to create her own legend, just as a Viking would aspire to do. She makes a checklist to accomplish her goal.

The novel is written in first person from Zelda’s perspective. The language is direct, as if Zelda is tal
Dec 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Great debut novel. Tenderly told from the POV of a young woman named, Zelda. Though she suffers from Fetal Alcohol Spectrum disorder she still manages to face the many challenges in her life with grit and determination to become the ‘hero of her own story.’ Uplifting and inspiring this story will leave you with a tear in your eye & a smile on your face. 4 stars.
Is it weird that this book didn't feel like it was written by a man? Andrew David MacDonald did a phenomenal job capturing the essence of Zelda. Add to this the superb narration done by Phoebe Strole, and this book came to life.

Zelda is a 21-year-old girl with a lighter case of down syndrome. She is shown to be a lot brighter than many of the other disabled people she associates with. I felt that her thought process well-illustrated some of this when she was not always able to make some of the
Kerrin P
Sep 20, 2019 rated it liked it
When We Were Vikings is an unusual book. For my personal preference, I give it a 3-star rating. The story is narrated by Zelda, a 21-year-old high-functioning young woman who was born on the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum. Her father left home when she was a baby. After her mother died from cancer, she and her brilliant, but thuggish brother, Gert go to live with their uncle. Uncle Richard is truly a terrible person, a Grendel. Desperate to get away from him, Gert borrows money from a thug, who is a Vil ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Regretting You
  • The Last Affair
  • The Twin Towers
  • Moon Water
  • A Small Town
  • All This Could Be Yours
  • Love Lettering
  • This Little Dark Place
  • The Light in the Hallway
  • The Arrangement
  • Out of Darkness, Shining Light
  • Half the Sugar, All the Love: 100 Easy, Low-Sugar Recipes for Every Meal of the Day
  • A House of Ghosts
  • You Are Awesome: How to Navigate Change, Wrestle with Failure, and Live an Intentional Life
  • Stay
  • Cupid's Match (Cupid's Match, #1)
  • Rain Will Come
  • Savage Appetites: Four True Stories of Women, Crime, and Obsession
See similar books…

Articles featuring this book

There's something great about a paperback book: They're perfect book club choices, you can throw them in your bag and go, and they've been out in...
62 likes · 19 comments
“He needs to write his own legend.” 3 likes
“...Sometimes the world thinks something is not possible, but it turns out that they can be wrong.” 2 likes
More quotes…