Ready to Fall by Marcella Pixley

ready to fallTitle: Ready to Fall

Author: Marcella Pixley

Genre: Young Adult Fiction

Publisher: Pushkin Press/Allen and Unwin/Murdoch Books

Published: March 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 368

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: 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

When Max Friedman’s mother dies of cancer, instead of facing his loss, he imagines that her tumour has taken up residence in his brain. It’s a terrible tenant – isolating him from family, distracting him in school, and taunting him mercilessly about his manhood. With the tumour in charge, Max implodes, slipping farther and farther away from reality.

Finally, Max is sent to the artsy, off-beat Baldwin School to regain his footing. He joins a group of theatre misfits in a steam-punk production of Hamlet where he becomes friends with Fish, a girl with pink hair and a troubled past, and The Monk, an edgy upperclassman who refuses to let go of the things he loves. For a while, Max almost feels happy. But his tumour is always lurking in the wings – until one night it knocks him down and Max is forced to face the truth, not just about the tumour, but about how hard it is to let go of the past. At turns lyrical, haunting, and triumphant, Ready to Fall is a story of grief, love, rebellion and starting fresh from acclaimed author Marcella Pixley.

 

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Max’s story begins with a flashback to when he was five, and the first time his mum came home from hospital after being sick. And then, ten years later, she has passed away from a brain tumour. Max has watched her slow deterioration, struggling to cope with his own grief as he goes back to school, and as his dad tries to make the best effort he can, but Max just wants to feel close to his mother, which is when his own brain tumour comes into being. Max’s belief that the tumour exists impacts everything in his life, and he begins to become withdrawn, hiding away from friends. When his father sends him to an artsy school – the Baldwin School, Max begins to settle down a little, finding friends like Fish he can talk to. But the cloud that is the tumour is always there, hovering at the edges of his mind – until the day he is forced to face the truth and come to terms with what has happened in his life.

 

This was a surprise arrival from Allen and Unwin – I have only managed to finish it now after a gap in other books presented itself, and found that, as strange as the story felt, it was one where I wanted to know what happened to max, to Fish and I wanted to know more about Lydie and her girls, Soleil and Luna.

 

When I read it, I could feel Max’s grief over losing his mother – it was raw, real and Marcella didn’t shy away from letting Max feel things or bottle them up – she let him exist as the person he was, wary, yet wanting to talk – yet not knowing how to begin a conversation. Throughout it all, I also felt for Max’s dad, whose grief was just as intense and in his own way, he dealt with it and showed his love for Max, though it was hard for him. When it came to Lydie and her twins, I enjoyed getting to know them and came to love them, especially Luna and Soleil as the novel progressed.

 

Of the friends at Baldwin, Fish was my favourite – the one who let Max be who he was, and didn’t judge him, who truly cared, but had secrets of her own. I quote liked Ravi too, because he seemed to temper The Monk, who I didn’t really like and couldn’t understand why everyone did when he came across as quite the bully, trying to get everyone to think like him – at times, I felt Max agreed with him to keep the peace. This showed I think, the dynamics of school and various relationships though, and in the end, it was the ones with Fish, Dad, Lydie and her girls that helped Max the most, and the ones I cheered for – because here we had family love, the love of friends, and romantic love – though this last one was a delightful surprise that wasn’t forced, and that felt real when it happened.

 

Even though I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book when I first got it, I did enjoy it, though I found it hard to pin down a genre – it doesn’t neatly fit into one, and I feel that the books that do this are ones that are either very good, or potentially odd – this one was a little odd, but good – and the execution of the storyline, and anthropomorphising of the tumour made Max and how people deal with their own grief or illness interesting and relatable. A decent, though provoking read for teenagers.

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Where’s Jane? – Find Jane Austen Hidden in Her Stories by Rebecca Smith and Katy Dockrill

wheres jane.jpgTitle: Where’s Jane? – Find Jane Austen Hidden in Her Stories.

Author: Rebecca Smith and Katy Dockrill

Genre: Children’s and Educational

Publisher: Allen and Unwin/Murdoch/Quarto UK

Published: 29TH January 2018

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 48

Price: $19.99

Synopsis: An introduction to the novels of Jane Austen with the main characters and elusive author hidden in ten beautifully illustrated scenes.

Can you find Jane Austen hidden in ten scenes from her beloved novels? This beautiful new book introduces young children to Austen’s intriguing Georgian and Regency-era world, filled with all the makings of the best stories – sparky humour, legendary showdowns, secrets, love and triumph. Children spot the main characters in ten major scenes from Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, and Mansfield Park. First read a snappy synopsis of the story, then explore key stages through a simple, illustrated narrative as you meet the main characters. Next absorb the wonderfully detailed illustrations as you search for the characters and the elusive author in the big and bustling main artworks. Katy Dockrill creates the fun and engaging scenes that house Jane’s immortal characters, from imperious Lady Catherine to timid Fanny Price, wicked Mr Wickham to sensible Elinor Dashwood, and proud Mr Darcy to feisty Elizabeth Bennet.
Getting to know them all will keep young readers enthralled for hours.

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Where’s Jane? By Rebecca Smith and Katy Dockrill takes Jane Austen’s novels, and translates them into an accessible book and game for young children and readers of the novels. Including ten major scenes from each of Jane Austen’s novels – Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey. Each summarises the book in the pages before the pictorial scenes, and gives a list of characters to look for on the page before – each scene has a different set from each book, and each scene also contains a pug, and Jane Austen – additional characters to be found amongst a host of many, in some of the best-known stories in English literature today.

The Georgian and Regency world of Jane Austen is full of traditions, and characters that are well known today. Her books are read by millions each yea, and this is a great way to introduce a younger audience to her work and these periods, inviting them to investigate literature beyond the modern stories available when they are ready. It is ideal for ages six-seven and older, as even teenagers and adults will get enjoyment out of this. Knowing some of the stories and characters helps complement this book and in turn, this book will complement a Jane Austen collection as well. A fun afternoon can be spent searching for Darcy, the Bennet family and other popular characters in a delightfully colourful way after or before reading the books by Jane Austen.

The author, Rebecca Smith, is Jane Austen’s five-times great-niece, and has also written other books linked to Jane Austen, including writing guide, The Jane Austen Writer’s Club, reviewed on this blog as well. Using her ancestor’s stories, and together with illustrator, Katy Dockrill, Rebecca has created a delightful new entry and portal into the world of Jane Austen that will delight fans, young and old. It is a nice addition to any library that includes books by and about Jane Austen.

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