The Misadventures of Max Crumbly 2: Middle School Mayhem by Rachel Renee Russell

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The Misadventures of Max Crumbly 2: Middle School Mayhem by Rachel Renee Russell

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 2.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: With a welter of slapstick, all warmth I felt for this franchise is gone at my first return to it, which is both a big surprise and shame.
Buy? No Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 256 Date: June 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's UK
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781471144646

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Max is in the middle of a situation, and no mistake. Last time he had to bust himself out of his own school locker, and found himself caught up in a right scrape suitable only for his own superhero aspirations, involving burglars at the school, retrieving valuable comics, and so much more. Joining right back into the action with a literal splat this time we face the thieves up front and personal, and at the same see Max trying to save what little friendship he has with the hot computer-loving girl at school, who can easily rank as his only friend there – and whose clothes he happens to be wearing. Oh woe is he…

But woe is also us, on this evidence. For one, we don't resume the action with a splat – instead we get an extended riff on super-powers and more verbiage before page 40 hits us and we find ourselves thrown back in to the main narrative at last. I know this wants to have the character of a superhero comic, with cliff-hangers and other narrative devices, but it needs to do it more evenly.

Also heinously uneven is the action. A lot of it does not succeed in working. It just jumps onto the page in comic strip form, and without the narrative voice describing it you can't be sure at times exactly what happens, or even if it's real – so often it looks and feels the same as the comical flash-back beats we also get pictorially, and you can't rightly tell how much is in the here and now.

The whole thing is quite educational, in one regard – it taught me that preposterous has multiple meanings. There is the superhero comic kind of 'preposterous', which I admit to liking, and there is this kind of 'preposterous'. With that clarity I said I found lacking I'm not sure whether I'm seeing a kid plug the school canteen's soup into the fire sprinkler system or not – the fact it just happens with no real explanation or build-up is proof the storytelling here just didn't work. And the whole series of shenanigans whereby the thieves get their comeuppance is just ridiculous.

Yes, we're strictly in the territory of revisiting Home Alone, which I was just not interested in doing. There was enough that was silly and yet sensible in the first book that made me expect a really good series, something with enough of the creators' experience and nous yet with its own spirit – raps, paragraphs crossed through as in the narrator having second thoughts about what he tells us, etc. I talked in my review of that series opener switching into a different form at times, but neither of them was straight slapstick like this. This I just found inherently scoff-worthy, although as I seem practically alone in hating that cinematic equivalent, it may well be much-loved by the target audience. As for me, as much as it pains me to say it, I fail to see me – a big Russell fan – returning to this sophomore franchise of hers.

I must still thank the publishers for my review copy.

Franchises like these are built to run and run – just look at Family, Friends and Furry Creatures (Tom Gates) by Liz Pichon, already the twelfth full book in the cycle.

Buy The Misadventures of Max Crumbly 2: Middle School Mayhem by Rachel Renee Russell at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Misadventures of Max Crumbly 2: Middle School Mayhem by Rachel Renee Russell at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Misadventures of Max Crumbly 2: Middle School Mayhem by Rachel Renee Russell at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Misadventures of Max Crumbly 2: Middle School Mayhem by Rachel Renee Russell at Amazon.com.


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