Sunday, January 7, 2018

Ready to Fall by Marcella Pixley - Book Review, Guest Post & Giveaway + Manuscript Critique Contest

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Review by Suze

Max's mother has lost her battle with cancer. Max doesn't know how to deal with life without his mom and imagines her tumor has taken residence inside his head. This makes it impossible for him to concentrate. The tumor is mean and is constantly taunting him. Living with this secret makes it difficult for Max to trust his family and friends and he distances himself from everyone around him. Max's father doesn't know what's going on with his son, but he acknowledges something has to be done to get him out of the negative spiral he is in. That's why he sends Max to the artistic Baldwin School to get back on his feet.

Max is still dealing with the tumor inside his head, but at his new school he makes friends nonetheless and he manages to fall in love. Max even joins the school's theater group and together they're performing Hamlet. Working on their own version of the play brings Max some distraction, but the tumor is always ready to strike and mess him up. On one dramatic night everything comes to the surface, will Max be able to beat his demons or will the tumor have a hold over him indefinitely?

Ready to Fall is a beautiful impressive story. Max is a great guy. He's kind, he's intelligent and he's sweet. He's also living with a big secret, he thinks his mother's tumor is inside his head. I had tears in my eyes when I read about his struggles. He's such a gentle soul and Marcella Pixley makes it easy for her readers to feel the pain her passing is giving him. She describes this in a fantastic open and original way that blew me away. Because of the creativity of her story there's enough lightness and I loved how well she balances sadness, careful and tentative happiness and hope. The result is a brilliant story.

Ready to Fall deals with many interesting topics. Marcella Pixley writes about teenage love, moving on after a tragic event, not being able to communicate, domestic problems and tense situations in a gorgeous descriptive way. She makes it possible for her readers to get really close to Max and know everything there is to know about him, which is something I greatly admired about her story. She skillfully peels off every layer of emotion Max is going through. At the same time he meets many interesting people and they all have their special features that are making the story even better. This makes Ready to Fall a compelling story. It's also poignant, thought-provoking, touching and fascinating. I highly recommend this gem of a book.


If you love beautiful emotional books for young adults Ready to Fall is an absolute must-read.

About Marcella Pixley

Marcella Pixley teaches eighth grade Language Arts at the Carlisle Public Schools. Her poetry has been published in literary journals such as Prairie Schooner, Feminist Studies, Sow’s Ear Poetry Review and Poet Lore, and she has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Ms. Pixley has written three acclaimed young adult novels: Freak, Without Tess, and most recently, Ready To Fall. Freak received four starred reviews and was named a Kirkus Best Book of the Year, and Without Tess was a School Library Journal selection.

Ms. Pixley lives in an antique farmhouse in Westford, Massachusetts with her husband and two sons. She is a graduate of Vassar College, University of Tennessee and Bread Loaf School of English.


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Guest post

Frederick and Me
By Marcella Pixley

My journey as a writer began with a picture book called Frederick by Leo Lionni. It was filled with paper cuttings of mice and stones, and filled with gorgeous colors and textured patterns. I can still remember the first time I ever saw it. I was four years old. My father had returned from a business trip with this slim volume tucked under his arm just in time for my bedtime story.

Frederick is about a family of field mice, all working as hard as they can to get ready for winter, harvesting grain and nuts and wheat and storing them in the old stone wall where they live. Everyone appears to be doing their part to support the community except Frederick, who sits by himself with his eyes closed while his brothers and sisters scurry back and forth with the harvest.

When they ask him why he doesn’t work, he tells them that he is working, but he is doing it in his own way. Instead of gathering nuts and corn and grain like they do, Frederick is doing the work of a poet. He is gathering words and images to sustain his community. In one of my favorite pictures, Frederick is sitting by himself with his back to the others, a grey, paper mouse with an enormous yellow sun blazing over his head. “I gather sun rays for the cold, dark, winter days,” says Frederick, simply.

And in another picture, he sits by himself on a grey stone. His back is to the reader, and there is something meditative about his still, round form. “I gather colors…for winter is grey,” he says. Frederick continues doing the work of the poet throughout the book. He gathers words so that when the winter is long, and the mice have “run out of things to say” to each other, Frederick can tell them stories, and when the days become so grey and dreary that the mice can barely remember that there is

such a thing as color, he offers them brilliant memories of sun rays and the color of “periwinkles” and “poppies.”

As he speaks, the colors move from his mind, out into the world. You can see the stones beginning to warm, grey stones now glowing golden. In my favorite and most colorful page, the blues, reds, purples yellows from his memory move from his imagination into the imagination of his community. I will never forget that one triumphant page. Frederick’s eyes are open, but all the other mice have theirs closed as they receive the gift of his words, his colors swirling above their heads. Somehow at age four, I knew that I wanted to do what Frederick does.

Our communities need poets and storytellers just as we need bricklayers and farmers and doctors and other kinds of workers. We need good writing to soothe and sustain us, to make us feel and remember, to warm us. Writers are the keepers of our collective memory. Their job is to remind us of the truth.

All through my childhood and young adult life, I prepared to become as much like Frederick as I could be. I carried journals with me wherever I went and filled them with observations, thoughts, worries and dreams. I would write moments of conversation that I overheard. In the summer, I would sit on the dock in Gloucester and write about what I imagined I could see, gleaming on the surface of the water. Frederick gave me courage to believe that the work of the writer is vital and important and that there is space for those of us who prefer a different kind of work.

When I write novels, I believe that my job is to express the truths that I have gathered and give them back to you (my community) in a way that will sustain you and move your heart in some way. My characters are imperfect people who struggle.

They keep secrets from each other. They yearn to make connections. They have difficulty letting go of what haunts them. They are afraid to put their fears into words. Sometimes, even though they wish they hadn’t, they hurt themselves and each other.

We are all fragile that way. But despite the conflicts and hardships we face, as human beings we are marvelously and heart-breakingly resilient. Even in our most desperate states, even in our darkest winters, we can make connections with each other. We can tell our stories. We can understand each other’s pain. And we can heal.

When I write, I become Frederick, sitting still on my grey rock with my eyes closed, telling my stories to you so that even when the winter nights are long, you can know that you are not alone.


One very lucky reader of With Love for Books will receive a signed copy of Ready to Fall.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Manuscript critique giveaway

One very lucky (aspiring) writer will receive a full manuscript critique from Marcella Pixley. After reading the story she'll give productive feedback aimed at improving the story. This contest is for any genre, not just YA.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The winner will be notified by email and has 3 days to respond. All of our giveaways are international.


  1. Ready To Fall sounds like a beautiful and emotional YA contemporary story that is both captivating and poignant.

  2. Thanks for the review and giveaway!

  3. This book is my kind to read--I love emotional turmoil in my characters and this book, based on your review, is going to make me connect to Max and see the world differently.

  4. Lovely review. Sounds like a great read!

  5. Oh, Marcella, you've brought back so many memories for me. When I taught children with intellectual disabilities there was one little chap who always used to snuggle my hair. This little guy hadn't spoken since his Mum had died but we made the connection. I had long (dyed) blond hair just like hers had been - he hated her wig and wouldn't go near it. In fact the wig lived in a box under the bed except for going to Mass on Sundays! Using this info we were able to work with him to help him through what must have been such a confusing time and, I'm happy to report, that he became a much happier little boy.

  6. An interesting book no doubt about it. I think writing is very creative and really enjoy a good book.

  7. Your "Frederick and Me" post is written so beautifully! It sounds like though your characters struggle there is a lot of hope as well. That really resonates as I've been through a lot but in God's mercy I've come out the other side enjoying the sunlight more than ever! :D xx

  8. P.S. The manuscript giveaway is such a lovely idea!! I really wish I could enter it, but my fantasy novel won't be finished in time. But maybe sometime later this year? :) It's wonderful that published authors can support aspiring writers like this. :D x

  9. It sounds like an awesome read. Thanks for sharing

  10. this looks like a great book! I would love to enter for the critique as well, but due to a physical disability writing hurts too much and i'm unable to finish my novel!

  11. I think my daughter would love this book.

  12. Young adult romances are my favourite stories. I'm so excited to read it.

  13. Sounds like a tear jerker! Also sounds similar to A Monster Calls, like it could be a moving on story afterward. Great review!

  14. What a beautiful post, book, & review!

  15. I love the sound of Frederick, and his gifts of colors and words. We get to experience so much more of life with books and our imaginations.

  16. This sounds like a very sweet and moving story. And quite unusual to have a young male protagonist dealing with issues like this and learning how to live in the world - we need more books like this! Will definitely have to check this one out.

  17. What a nice blog post! I'm working on putting some new life in to my own. And what a wonderful thing to do with the giveaway!