This book has been read and reviewed by La Mare de Carteret High School Book Group (Addison, Amy, Taylor, Holly, Theo and Harry), aged eleven to twelve.
Written by Catherine Stuart, SLS Librarian.
The story is about an eleven year old boy called Maxwell who isn’t having the greatest time at home or school. His parents are arguing all the time and he seems to be getting into more and more trouble with almost everyone apart from Reg, his next door neighbour. Eventually events culminate into him feeling hated by everyone and he starts to wonder what the world would be like if he’d never existed. Whilst this sounds like a heavy topic it is written in a comical way, through the eyes of an eleven year old school boy.
Maxwell has formed an unusual relationship with his next door neighbour, a pensioner called Reg. Reg appears to have a type of amnesia or dementia. Every day Reg forgets who Maxwell is but Maxwell somehow manages to form a strong friendship with him, sometimes resulting in Reg recollecting some memories from one day to the next. Reg has lots of strange artefacts in his house which he retells unbelievable stories about; Maxwell is not sure he believes them all.
One day, when everything goes wrong for Maxwell he wishes he had never existed and for some reason we cannot explain, his wish becomes a reality. Maxwell finds himself in a world where no one knows him, including family and friends. Whilst initially this seems like a fantastic solution, reality begins to set in and Maxwell suddenly realises how important he was before he was erased.
What audience is this book written for?
There is clearly a deep message within this light hearted book, which makes it a good book ‘for children who feel bad about themselves’, Addison a Year 8 reader explains. ‘This book might make them feel better about themselves once they have read it’ says Addison.
‘It would be good for people who argue with their parents a lot or who think they aren’t worth anything’ says Year 7 reader Holly.
The story offers perspective on the effects that people have on each other’s lives and could help readers relate to and think about their relationships with friends and family. Rather than thinking life would be better without them in it, it could help them to understand how important they are to people and the value they give to the world, no matter how small.
What genre does this fit into?
This story fits into several subgenres. The experience that Maxwell has is quite ‘an adventure’ says Taylor, a Year 7 reader, who felt it should therefore be classed as an Adventure book.
The reader is left in the dark throughout the book about what causes Maxwell to be mysteriously erased from existence. It is not until the end of the book that the reader is given clues to understand the cause and how to correct it. As a result Addison describes this book as a ‘mystery book’.
Theo, a Year 7 reader felt the book should be in the Humour section, because it ‘made him laugh quite a few times’, perhaps also with a little bit of Self-Help thrown in for good measure.
Was the plot line easy to understand?
The Year 7 and 8 book group collectively felt that while the reader wasn’t always given the answer to the mysterious events in the book, the author explained events clearly and offered clues throughout that helped the reader make their own conclusions.
Were the characters likeable?
‘The main character is like me!’ explains Addison. ‘He always seems to get himself into trouble without meaning to; so I like him, I know how he feels’. Maxwell is a very relatable character and describes things that most people have experienced at some point in their life, which makes him an easy character to empathise with.
‘I really liked Maxwell; he is unpredictable which gives him an air of mystery!’ explains Harry, a Year 7 reader.
Theo loved the dog Monster as he kept ‘knocking all the bins over, which seems like something my little brother would do!’
Did the characters speak to each other in a believable way and were the events in the book believable?
Maxwell is a believable and ‘realistic character’, Theo thought.
The ‘book is written in an informal style’, explains Amy. ‘I believe the character would talk like that; that’s the way I talk to my friends and family’. Amy felt that even though the idea of someone being erased from life was unrealistic, ‘the style of writing made it believable’.
Were there any parts in the book that were thought-provoking or emotional?
At the end of the story we find something out about Reg that we didn’t know throughout the book. This leads to an emotional part of the story which Harry explains leads Reg to ‘leave a nice letter for Maxwell; it felt really heart-warming’.
The relationship between eleven year old Maxwell and the pensioner Reg is told in a simple yet sensitive way. As a reader we see how their relationship benefits each other despite the generational gap and offers the reader an opportunity to understand that whilst people are different, there are always positives to be found in the most unlikely of friendships.
What is the author’s writing style like?
The whole book group described the book as being written in a conversational and ‘funny’ style that they could all relate to.
What is the author’s purpose in writing this story and do they accomplish it?
The story is written ‘to reach out to people and help them’, says Addison. Like Maxwell many young readers may find themselves in difficult situations where they feel they cannot cope. This story has a light hearted way of describing a tough situation involving friendships, divorce, depression and anxiety which is an easy read that any young reader can relate to. ‘It might make people think more about not being too hard on themselves’, Holly thought. ‘Maxwell realised he was important to people’, explains Amy; a good message to send to any young person struggling to cope.
What other books are similar to this one?
Whilst the story is reminiscent of the scenes from ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens, where The Spirit of Christmas yet-to-be, shows the lead character what the world is like once he has died, this story has a twist by offering Maxwell the opportunity to experience and talk to family and friends who no longer know who he is. Maxwell is then privileged to see how his existence must have influenced the people around him in a positive way rather than the negative way he had assumed. As a result, Year 7 readers Harry and Holly felt that this was both an unusual and original story.
Who would you recommend this book to?
This is a book for ‘people who don’t feel they have a place in the world or feel they are unimportant’ says Amy. It is for ‘people who are having trouble with friends and family’ agrees Harry and ‘people who feel insecure’ adds Addison.
This is ‘a really good book and an easy read for those in Years 6 or 7’ recommends Addison. Theo recommends this book to Year 5 and above and scored the book 8/10, whilst Holly scored it a 9/10.