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Ready to Fall
Contributor(s): Pixley, Marcella
ISBN: 0374303584     ISBN-13: 9780374303587
Publisher: Farrar Straus & Giroux
    OUR PRICE: $16.19  
Product Type: Hardcover
Published: November 2017
Annotation: "17-year-old Max is struggling to come to terms with his mother's death"--
Additional Information
Library of Congress Subjects:
Grief; Fiction.
Friendship; Fiction.
Theater; Fiction.
Dewey: [Fic]
LCCN: 2016058779
Academic/Grade Level: Grade 7-9, Age 12-14
Book type: Juvenile Fiction
Physical Information: 9.00" H x 6.00" W x 1.00" (1.00 lbs) 362 pages
Descriptions, Reviews, Etc.

Reviewed by Horn Book Magazine Reviews (Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2018 #2)
While Max Friedman is standing next to his mother's coffin, he silently offers himself to his mother's "favorite tumor": "You want somewhere to live for a while? My brain is ripe. It will fill your belly. Come eat. And when you're done, bury me next to her so I don't have to be alone." As the tumor continually taunts him ("My mother's favorite tumor is letting his Rottweilers use my cerebral cortex as a fire hydrant"), a miserable Max retreats into his macabre sketches and begins failing his sophomore year. His heartbroken dad transfers Max to an arts school in hopes of a fresh start. There Max befriends Fish, a "gorgeous pink-haired girl" with her own troubles, and her best friend, The Monk, who collects "oddities," including three other eccentric friends. The six are cast in the school's gothic/steampunk production of Hamlet. Similarities between the play and Max's life compound his growing existential crisis until one traumatic evening forces him to finally confront his loss and grief. Writing about mourning a loved one is familiar territory for Pixley (Without Tess, rev. 1/12), but her approach here is as fresh and offbeat as her characters; her poetic prose is full of raw emotions, vivid imagery, and a touch of morbid humor. The tumor may be in Max's imagination, but his pain is hauntingly real. Slowly and believably, Max's family, friends, and teachers help him realize he's not alone, and that finding the courage to trust others and let go of the past will help him move forward. cynthia k. ritter Copyright 2018 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Reviewed by Publishers Weekly Reviews (PW Reviews 2017 September #3)

The first time Max Friedman's mother gets cancer, he's five. The second time, he's 16 and it's a fatal brain tumor. Needing to keep something of his mother with him, Max invites her tumor into his own brain; it soon takes over, making it impossible for him to concentrate on anything, and his grades suffer. A progressive private school seems like the answer, and Max gets involved with the theater kids, including the radiantly pink-haired Fish. Pixley (Without Tess) uses the school production of Hamlet and the theater milieu effectively—the book's title refers to trust-fall exercises, a common theater practice. It's an act that takes courage, and over the course of the story, Max moves toward being willing to do it. The process involves his father, grandmother, a supremely cranky writing teacher, Fish, and even her on-again off-again boyfriend. Max's interactions with the tumor are an odd but appropriate metaphor for the sorrow, fear, guilt, and lousy coping strategies of grieving. When Max finds community with others—who are just as damaged but striving to be happy—it's rewarding and touching. Ages 14–up. Agent: Victoria Wells Arms, Wells Arms Literary. (Nov.)

Copyright 2017 Publishers Weekly.

Reviewed by School Library Journal Reviews (SLJ Reviews 2017 December)

Gr 9 Up—Max's mother died of brain cancer. Her death was too sudden, and in his grief Max imagines that her tumor has become his tumor. Unable to cope with his mother's death and his fear that he will be the next to succumb, the protagonist flounders at school and is eventually sent to an alternative school uniquely equipped to cope with teens with mental health issues. Max's friendships and relationships grow, but as they do so does his refusal to confront his fears and grief. The more things improve in Max's life, the more certain a collapse seems. This unreliable narrator's tale is imbued with feelings of grief and regret and still manages to be humorous at the same time. Max's relationships with his new friends, crush, teacher, and father are realistic, flawed, and beautifully written. Nothing in this world is perfect: the creative writing teacher is brilliant and curmudgeonly and ultimately makes very irresponsible choices; his father is loving but unable to help Max with his grief as he's consumed by his own; and Fish (potential love interest) is understanding and beautiful but stuck in an unhealthy relationship with someone who refuses to let her go. Although occasionally relying on tropes (Fish is clearly a manic pixie dream girl), this work is ultimately an affecting novel about parental relationships, grieving, and recovery. VERDICT Recommended for most YA shelves.—Karen Brooks, Gig Harbor Pierce County Library, WA

Copyright 2017 School Library Journal.