“Being strong means letting go”, were the first words I saw on the blue covered, abstract looking book which I later fell deeply in love with. “Ready To Fall” by Marcella Pixley is one of the most heart-warming young adult stories I have come across. The story of a troubled boy, Max, is one that will forever stay with me. It’s a story that could save lives, a story that brings hope even in the darkest of times, making the reader look forward to the next day of this strangely marvellous journey called life. It is a book which brings a deep understanding of the true power which the human mind holds. The power to believe.
Max Friedman, after his mother’s death due to a brain tumour, begins to believe that the tumour has taken refuge in his brain and knows with a dim certainty that he is going to die. The tumour of course is the lousiest of tenants, scraping off the wallpaper, throwing parties, ruining every cranny of our protagonist’s brain. Slowly, but surely enough Max begins losing everyone, his friends, his family, his grades and finally even himself. Revelling in flashbacks of the times when his mother was alive, Max drowns his sorrows with his tumour, buried in the past and unable to see the future that awaits him.
The story proceeds and we see Max burying himself deep in a pit of self-pity and hatred, neglecting school, his father and his sanity. Soon however Max’s father decides that it’s time for Max to gather himself and give a fresh start to school, thus our beloved protagonist is sent to the Baldwin school, which is wildly different from anything he imagined a school to be. Of course, it still consists of the tiresome hours of filling his brain with things he believes won’t be important for a dying man and the existence of the ruthless monster called homework is undeniable, the Baldwin school is different. It is seen as a place for people like Max. And for Max? He fits in perfectly after a week of some social gruelling, Max and his trusty sketchbook along with his newfound pink-haired friend Felecia or rather Fish and the fierce delinquent David Moniker (known as the Monk), he feels something he hadn’t felt in a long time, included.
As the school year progresses, Max meets a bunch of misfits who along with the Monk and Fish persuade Max to audition for a steampunk production of Shakespeare’s heart wrenching tragedies, Hamlet. Soon Max sees himself in a flurry of rehearsals and homework and sneaking out with the bunch of misfits he now calls his friends. Life seems perfect and the tumour, it still exists but it feels too far off, in an unreachable place, but even the unreachable can be reached.
Pixley, in this book has made numerous references to literature from Kafka’s The Metamorphosis to Shakespeare’s Hamlet which the story somehow revolves around. Along with these literary references, creative writing also plays a crucial part in the story as does the creative writing teacher, Dr. Cage. To be or to not to be becomes a vital question as the story proceeds and as our protagonist tries to find the answer to this question which lies deep inside him. This story makes some scenes of Hamlet come alive with emotion and description of the heart-breaking play seen through the eyes of the actor.
Characters are brought alive through the rather relatable description and life, seen through the eyes of our protagonist, becomes something beautifully abstract as we follow Max to the almost fairy tale-like ending. Pixley describes the smallest details of every setting in the story making the novel come alive before the reader. A story that shows the importance of a teacher and the brilliant power which the human mind possesses, Ready To Fall left me feeling warm and wonderful till a long time after I turned the last page.
Being a teacher by profession, Pixley possesses a deep understanding of the mind of a teenager thus enabling her to take the reader on a tour inside the mind of our beloved protagonist. As a language arts teacher, the author has a brilliant command over language and Pixley can describe the most abstract things with stunning realism. Ready to Fall is a story of learning to live from a boy who is certain that he will die. It is a story of hope, a story of learning how to let go of the past and welcome the future. A story of love, of sorrow, of today, of being brave enough to face tomorrow. It is a story of life, making the reader feel everything, from the thrill of adventure to the tears of letting go. Albus Dumbledore’s words, “It does not do, to dwell on dreams and forget to live”, ring with brilliant clarity as the story proceeds and Max learns to let go and welcome his future with open arms.
With simple language yet beautiful phrasing, Pixley tells the story of how a broken boy learns to mead himself. A story which has always provided immense hope to me, Ready To Fall will always be a book that I would cherish for a lifetime. It is a book which makes the reader want to live in the moment and learn to love all the little things life has to offer. It is a book which gives me strength to move on, to let go and to live.
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