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Maxed Out by D. Greer

Greer, Daphne Maxed Out. Victoria: Orca Book Publishers, 2012. Print.

In this cleverly-titled high interest low level novel, Max wants nothing more than to have the freedom to play a game of ice hockey with his friends. The trouble is that his mother is still in mourning after his father’s death and Max is left in charge of his special needs brother, Duncan. Max can’t take his eyes off Duncan without some kind of trouble starting. Readers will sympathize with Max and his good intentions. Despite his best efforts, everything he does seems to go wrong and he consistently disappoints his mom. Max is torn between the responsibilities placed upon him much too young and playing the game he loves that brings him closer to his father. The surmounting pressures of responsibility are made worse when he simultaneously has to deal with a bully on top of everything else.

The character of Duncan, who believes he is Spiderman or Batman depending on the day, is entertaining. Other likeable characters in the story include Max’s caring friend Ian and the friendly neighbour Mr. Cooper. Kids with feelings of neglect or overwhelming pressure in their lives will relate to Max. The author’s notes emphasizing that “asking for help is a sign of true strength” may provide that bridge for children to seek help through the Kids Help Phone.

The cover will attract young hockey fans. The escalating conflicts and intriguing family dynamics will sustain readers to seek out the story’s resolution. This quick read with a simplistic storyline and sentence structure will appeal to boys who are reluctant readers.

Recommended: 3 out of 4 stars.
Reviewer: Lori Williams

Lori Williams has been teaching at Forest Grove School in British Columbia for the past 6 years and feels lucky to be part of a wonderful team of colleagues and students. This year she is teaching grade 5 at Forest Grove and is also a graduate student in the University of Alberta’s teacher-librarianship distance learning program.