Vilma Sandnes Johansson

Vilma Sandnes Johansson
Lea Meilandt
Vilma Sandnes Johansson: Tænk ikke på mig. Youth novel, Gutkind Forlag, 2022. Nominated for the 2023 Nordic Council Children and Young People’s Literature Prize.


Tænk ikke på mig (“Don’t Think About Me”, not published in English) is a sensuous, heartbreaking and important young person’s novel about Vilma, aged 13, who’s just had her first period at the same time as her mother is declared terminally ill with cancer. In one spot a whole new life is beginning, and in another, it’s ending much too soon. This prompts a long series of powerful and immediate emotions that in one moment tear, shake and pierce Vilma, while in the next, everything is a wonderful dance, with friends, parties, and possible and impossible romances all making themselves known in a state of typical teenage euphoria where no emotion is small.


It’s a raw, gripping and at times truly refined and warm insight into a world that in many ways is crumbling but which is slowly being built back up again through important, close relationships, and where reality shows itself from all sides, which is precisely what life is – for better or worse.


Sandnes Johansson doesn’t beat about the bush. Her language is alive, leaping on the page, and simple, yet poetically imaginative within its own context, and the story peels away many superficial outer layers, so that we as readers are completely taken in by the sorrow, pain and despair, but also by the beautiful, well-described moments in which mother and daughter spend their last moments together. This young adult novel has been written with a relatively sober yet shrewd pen, telling a story at once credible and unbearable, about losing something while gaining something else.


Tænk ikke på mig is Johansson’s autobiographical debut. Raw, surprising and tightly composed, it is situated in the great complexity of the formative years, when everything and nothing are trying in one and the same way to convey an obvious meaning and perspective. The writing pulsates like a heartbeat. Airily light in some places, compact and persistent in others. It’s almost like meeting oneself in the mirror, with no way out and no merciful forgiveness. This is a necessary book about living as opposed to merely surviving. It is a young adult novel that emerges clearly in a series of exuberant characterisations of musical and creative environments and times in the middle of a Copenhagen that never stands still. Not even in death.      


Sandnes Johansson (born in 2000) has produced a brave, convincing work that dares to be strong and vulnerable and to be alone and together with a world that the book repeatedly celebrates. You can’t read it without getting teary eyed, and just like the life we live, it is completely impossible to calculate.