Ready to Fall: A Novel

Mar­cel­la Fleis­chman Pixley
  • Review
By – June 26, 2018

Six­teen-year-old Max Fried­man has an unusu­al way of deal­ing with his mother’s death: he imag­ines that the brain tumor that killed her has moved into his head. The tumor taunts and teas­es him, pre­vent­ing him from mov­ing on, enjoy­ing life, and par­tic­i­pat­ing in school. Max’s father sees him strug­gling, but doesn’t know what’s going on in his son’s mind. He moves Max to an art­sy pri­vate school where he makes new friends, gains encour­age­ment from his advi­sor, and audi­tions for the school play. Through­out these tran­si­tions, the tumor resides in Max’s con­scious­ness and com­pli­cates his already trou­bled life.

Max is a com­plex nar­ra­tor. With art­ful but spare writ­ing, Pix­ley cre­ates a sym­pa­thet­ic and believ­able char­ac­ter. It is espe­cial­ly refresh­ing to read a YA book with a thought­ful and sen­si­tive male as the main char­ac­ter. Max’s friends at his new school are lik­able and feel real, too.

Max and his fam­i­ly observe Jew­ish rit­u­als, tra­di­tions, and hol­i­days through­out Ready to Fall. From Max’s mom’s funer­al and shi­va to a Hanukkah cel­e­bra­tion with a friend from syn­a­gogue, the details of Jew­ish life are effort­less­ly woven through­out the story.

Though the begin­ning of the book is very sad due to Max’s mother’s death, the read­er isn’t stuck in mourn­ing. Instead, we cheer Max on, hop­ing he can move out of grief’s stran­gle­hold and take advan­tage of the oppor­tu­ni­ties and friend­ships at his new school.

High­ly rec­om­mend­ed for ages 14 to 18.

Paula Chaiken has worked in a vari­ety of capac­i­ties in the Jew­ish world — teach­ing in reli­gious school, curat­ing at the Sper­tus Muse­um and fundrais­ing for the Fed­er­a­tion — for more than twen­ty years. She also runs a bou­tique pub­lic rela­tions con­sult­ing firm and enjoys read­ing all sorts of books with her three sons.

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