Book review: Ready to Fall by Marcella Pixley

I am more than a little bit late with my review of this book (this book was published in the UK on March 15th) but my life has been very hectic recently so I didn’t have time to properly sit down and finish this book till now.  I also just want to quickly mention at the start before I start this review that I was very kindly set my copy of the book by the book’s publishers*.

The plot of the book is as follows:

Following the death of his mother, Max Friedman comes to believe that he is sharing his brain with a tumour. As he 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. Max starts to feel happy, and the ghosts of his past seem to be gone for ever.

But the tumour is always lurking in the wings – until one night it knocks him down, and Max is forced to face the truth.

-Mild spoilers ahead. There are no big plot spoilers here but I usually keep my reviews almost spoiler free so I wanted to flag-

I’ll start by saying that it took a bit of warming up too but I did enjoy parts of this novel. It reminds me a lot of books I would devour as a teenager. After all, who doesn’t dream of going to an artsy school where the teachers are cool and there are loads of quirky characters. I think this is also my main issue with the book, it feels very much like what you expect a novel for teenagers to read like – it’s basically screaming no one understands you if you’re quirky! This isn’t a bad thing, and there is books I love that apply the same techniques (*cough, cough, John Green*); however, there is still a uniqueness to the writing style that this lacks.

Don’t get me wrong there is real heart within the novel. The bits of the writing that truly resonated with me and managed to cut through the teen novel stereotypes where the parts where Max discusses his relationship with his mother, father or grandfather. The way Max’s grief is depicted felt raw and honest and kept me going with the novel, even when other parts grated with me a little.

I also loved the advice in the creative writing class about use of the 3rd person instead of 1st in certain instances, as it pinpointed an issue I’d had when reading my own writing and others in the past but couldn’t quite put my finger on. It even has influenced the direction I want to go in terms of my own novel, highlighting why I will always love reading – there is also something new to be discovered.

The characters in the novel I may not wholeheartedly love as much, but I was not completely uninvested in them – I just thought they could be a little more. Fish, the main love interest of the novel for example, very easily falls under the ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’ stereotype. However, I have always felt two-fold about these characters. Yes, they are often used almost as a prop for the male characters to project all the angst onto and ultimately to ‘save’ them, but they are often the best, more empowered and memorable characters. Fish is somewhere in-between, she is strong and resilient in the way she strives to confront her own emotions and helps others too as well; however she doesn’t completely shake the idea that she exists purely to help Max through his pain.

In regards, to Fish, her past relationship with Monk also wasn’t really explained enough for me to invest in it. I could understand why Max didn’t seem that fazed by getting in the middle of it. However, at the same time I’ve witnessed relationships like that where you’re always aware of a small spark between two people existing, but deep down they both needed to just let each other go because they just don’t work (it would have been nice for more detail of the ways Monk and Fish didn’t work).

Another part of the novel that didn’t sit right with me was the way in which Max was repeatedly drawn to Fish’s self harm scars. Self harm scars are not something anyone should be ashamed of or feel they have to hide; but it felt like the novel was implying that was something almost romantic about them. Especially by the way Max obsessively went back to them again and again.

Overall, while I definitely had issues with this novel; something about it made me not want to stop reading. The novel had sparks of greatness in the way it treated grief and mental illness; I just wanted that little bit more from the characters.

*To be clear I was not paid for this review, which I think may be obvious may be its content.

April (April is the Cruellest Month)

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P.S. SPOILER AHEAD

Max’s creative writing teacher, Dr Cage was completely in the wrong in regards to what happened at the restaurant. You shouldn’t drink in front of a pupil full stop, especially not to the extent where you’re a bit too drunk to notice that said pupil is taking massive gulps from your drink.

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Reviewing Youtuber books: Emma Blackery ‘Feel Good 101’

For those of you who don’t know already, I’m still what I would describe as fairly new to Youtube. I remember my sisters when they were younger (and still today to a certain extent) enthusing over their favourite Youtubers, and they even went to Summer in the City (while my mum and I strolled around London doing touristy things). But, I just never really got into the Youtube phenomenon in the same way they did. I only went to Youtube to listen to music and watch music videos- I also had seen the occasional viral video from there (but still far less than anyone else). A year or so ago however I decided to actually start to check out some more channels, as Youtube was now everywhere. To be honest, I’m not really sure who I first subscribed to but I think one of the first Youtubers I watched was grav3yardgirl through a recommendation from a friend, along with Zoella (if you’re British you just cannot not watch Zoella or escape her- don’t worry Zoella lovers I’m not slating her).

It did not take long before I became completely obsessed. As not only is there some amazing content out there but Youtubers and the way fans interact with them is something I also find fascinating from an academic perspective. We also live in a place now where people’s careers can be Youtube, and consequently recently there has been more and more controversy about sponsorship, affiliate codes and how much Youtubers earn. At the same time revenue from videos has decreased, and videos are becoming monetised less and less (and disturbingly a lot of videos with LGBTQ+ also became restricted). It’s not surprising then that a lot of youtubers have also brought out their own collaborations or products not only as a source of extra revenue, but because it’s something their passionate about and because their supporters want it.

When brands saw these ranges go well, suddenly they were everywhere. But with popularity becomes controversy. Zoella’s debut novel may have been the bestselling debut novel ever, but it has been accused of affecting literacy levels, and more famously there was a massive controversy about the book being ghost written. Emma Blackery then in reaction to the outpour of Youtuber books initially hated the idea. However, with time she changed her mind, and felt that if those books made people happy, how could she get angry about that?

For those of you who don’t know Emma Blackery is a Youtuber and musician, who rose to fame initially for a series on her Youtube channel when she read out pieces from 50 shades of grey and critiqued the novel. Although, those videos eventually got taken down due to copyright claims; Blackery continued to make comedy videos and again went viral with her video ‘My Thoughts on Google +’. Recently, she released this book I’m about to talk about, and the artwork for her EP Magnetised was featured on Apple’s Keynote for the iPhone 8 and X.

However, let’s get onto the book. From the get go it’s obvious this book’s target audience is teenagers, which since that is generally considered to be the largest viewership group for Youtubers that’s hardly a shock. Plus, I picked it up in the teenage fiction section in Waterstones so if that doesn’t clue you in I don’t know what will.

Emma Blackery

Therefore, if you’re in your early twenties some of the advice and stories in this book, although they may help you reflect; are going to come a bit late for you. ‘The Brain Stuff’ section however is relevant whatever your age. We all need reminding sometimes to take better care of ourselves and look after our mental health- this book then is something that can be there when you’re feeling down and need that motivational reminder (without feeling like you’re being lectured to).

Also, for fans of Blackery there is no denying she wrote this book. It sounds and feels like she talks, which you’ll know if you’ve ever seen any of her videos. I can already predict how the audio book will sound in my head just from reading it. Prose wise this is not supposed to be something that is hard to follow, so it isn’t, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

The section ‘Sex Talk’ is another highlight, especially for teenagers considering how sexuality and consent (at least when I had sex education) were not talked about properly in schools. I also like the way in which she talked about being able to categorise her feelings with the label ‘squish’  (a crush but without sexual desire) helped. I know a lot of people argue now that sexuality labels have ‘gone too far’ and are ‘redundant’, but when you live in a society that is so quick to categorise and define you, not having that definition available for you, for many people makes them think there is something wrong with them. Yes, in an ideal world it wouldn’t matter, and it’s nice that you don’t see gender (I’m going to be honest I think there are very few people who think this way just because the effect from society is so strong), but does that mean you should slate on something that helps other people? No, surprisingly, it doesn’t.

I also appreciated how Blackery made sure not to leave anyone out from the sexuality spectrum, including those who are assexual. While there was no talk about questioning your gender (from what I can remember, apologises if there is); Blackery cannot be expected to talk about everything (though I will admit maybe she should have explicitly stated this). She made it clear she was just talking about her experiences, and what she knew (that’s why in the back of the book there is helplines for people more specialised in that subject area).

I have always as well felt like honest experiences help more than well meant, but often misleading advice. Although, in one way I wish I could have read this in my teenage years; there was some chapters such as ‘Sex Talk’ that would not have applied, as Emma’s problems came from problems with crushes, and that would have involved me actually becoming involved in that area of my life.

The ‘Education (and making the most of it)’ section of the book is going to be painful for anyone who has gone to university. I don’t mean this as a disservice to Blackery, I mean it in the sense that the job market nowadays is hard (see my post Post University Panic for more) though I do think some of Emma’s CV tips are well worth taking a look at.

Overall, the book is half memoir, half advice. A quick guide to help you along in your teenage years by someone who can actually remember them. Not to say that’s its not still useful if you’re past twenty. The mental health section is definitely a must read (and as I mentioned there are also helplines at the back of the book to help with a variety of different issues). The book shows that Emma cares about her fans, and wanted to write something they could appreciate but would also hopefully be useful for them. That is something I can definitely respect.

So will I be reading sections of this again? Definitely. Do I regret buying this Youtuber’s book? No. And I think if you take anything from this review those two statements are definitely a good start.

The book is available to purchase from Waterstones, and Amazon (and I’m sure a variety of other places but those two are my favourite book buying sites). You can also get a audiobook of the novel from Audible.

I hope you enjoyed this post, and my future reading plans at the moment include ‘Secrets for the Mad: Obsessions, Confessions and Life Lessons’ by the Youtube sensation Dodie Clark (due out the 2nd November) and ‘The Rosewood Chronicles: Undercover Princess’ by Connie Glynn aka Youtuber, and cosplayer, Noodlerella (also out the 2nd November).

Let me know if there are any other Youtuber books (or products!) that you’d like me to review. I’d love to also do a Youtuber music series to accompany this as well, so drop me a line if that’s something you’d find interesting.

🍂April🍂

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