Ready to Fall by Marcella Pixley is another one of those novels that surprised me. I didn’t expect to feel such a connection to Max …
Paperback: 200 pages
Publisher: Pushkin Children’s Books (1 Mar. 2018)
A YA novel about a teen who finds hope and a fresh start after a terrible loss, and learns that being strong means letting go.
Following the death of his mother, Max Friedman comes to believe that he is sharing his brain with a tumour; one that possesses a dark sense of humour and a relentless ability to tease. As Max becomes focused on controlling the malignant tenant, he starts to lose touch with his friends and family, and with reality itself -– so Max’s father sends him off to the artsy Baldwin School to regain his footing.
Soon, Max has joined a group of theatre misfits in a steam-punk production of Hamlet. He befriends Fish, a girl with pink hair and a troubled past, and The Monk, a boy who refuses to let go of the things he loves. For a while, Max almost feels happy. But the tumour is always lurking in the wings – until one night it knocks him down, and Max is forced to face the truth.
Ready to Fall is a funny, touching story of grief, love – and the courage it takes to start afresh.
Available to purchase in digital, paperback and hardcover formats.
When you’re in those early stages of grief, you’re not thinking rationally are you … things that make sense to you seem totally bizarre to others. Max thinks that as he is saying his goodbye to his mum while she lies in her open casket that her tumour has transferred to him. It is the only thing he has left of her. Unable to grieve, there’s a change in his behaviours and as he starts to fail at school, family friend Lydie suggests creative Baldwin school. Max loves to sketch and they are hoping this new start will help him. Already living with his loss and of course going through hormonal/developmental changes, he now has to work out the dynamics and where he fits in at his new school.
I had so many feels for Max as he navigates life without his mum. And obviously with his dad grieving too, he’s not emotionally available for Max. It’s not only Max’s grief which I felt but oh his memories of how his mum showed her love for him and made him feel safe. For most, letting go of childhood is a gradual process but when you have no choice …
As with all friendship groups, the group that Max is on the periphery of already have their roles. Monk in the Alpha role draws Max in, thinking he is similar to him. When the conflict comes, it’s actually a positive thing (although it doesn’t feel like it at the time!). Rehearsals for Hamlet are also key scenes – so much emotion!
Ready to Fall is such a poignant story with the focus on loss and grief which takes the reader (alongside Max) on a journey of unacknowledged feelings to acceptance and hope. Marcella Pixley has captured the tangle of emotions perfectly. I read the last couple of chapters through tears. Beautiful.
Highly recommended if you enjoy a YA story ALSO if you or someone you know is going through their own grieving cycle of losing a mum. Ready to Fall will definitely help you and give you hope.
Marcella Pixley teaches eighth grade Language Arts at the Carlisle Public Schools. Her poetry has been published in literary journals such as Prairie Schooner, Feminist Studies, Sow’s Ear Poetry Review and Poet Lore, and she has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Ms. Pixley has written three acclaimed young adult novels: Freak, Without Tess, and most recently, Ready To Fall. Freak received four starred reviews and was named a Kirkus Best Book of the Year, and Without Tess was a School Library Journal selection.
Ms. Pixley lives in an antique farmhouse in Westford, Massachusetts with her husband and two sons. She is a graduate of Vassar College, University of Tennessee and Bread Loaf School of English.
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