The Last Days of Archie Maxwell

This is the first time I’ve read a book that is printed with a dyslexia-friendly typeface, lots of white space, a bigger font, and black text on a slightly yellow background. I wish more books were printed this way!

Annabel Pitcher’s young-adult book handles complex issues deftly and with grace. Archie Maxwell is struggling with many things in his life, including his dad leaving the family, being bullied by his so-called friends at school, and trying to help Tia, the girl that he likes, who is looking for answers about her brother’s death. Archie is spiralling deeper into a dark place where he feels that he is a burden, unable to cope, and that there is only one way out.

Even though this is not a funny book, I had to laugh at ‘The Tia Effect’, which is a euphemism to describe Archie’s embarrassing boner for the girl he fancies. There are little moments like that throughout the story. Annabel Pitcher captures the various teenage interactions in a way that reminds me of Judy Blume. She’s not afraid to let her characters swear, swagger or be awkward at the right moments. Adults might balk, but I think teens will appreciate her frankness.

The pacing is consistent, with the tension mounting as things reach a crisis point. I was on the edge of tears for the last chapter. The book finishes with a hopeful though not perfect epilogue. The afterword provides supportive resources. This is a fantastic book! Super-readable YA.