Publishers Weekly

Is self-invention truly possible? Twelve-year-old Max gives it a go in Salm’s sweetly comic debut novel. Everyone knows Max as a good kid who flies under the radar and tries to avoid the class bully. But when he’s forced to take a summer vacation at a family camp with his parents, Max trots out an edgy new persona he’s sure will impress the other camp kids—especially a beautiful girl. As cool, bold “Mad Max,” he dons a headband and shades while mastering hanging out at the pool. Soon he’s leading his cohorts in an unfortunate prank and getting caught up in behavior that makes him wonder if “Mad Max” is who he really wants to be. In Max, Salm has created a likable everykid who’s shy and caring, but who also possesses flashes of petulance, goofiness, self-doubt, and—yes—questionable decision making that make him very real. The 138 footnotes, set in a font that resembles hand-lettering, are smoothly integrated into the story and contribute to its easygoing, memoirlike pace. Ages 8–12. Agent: Nancy Gallt Literary Agency. (May)

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

Salm, Arthur Anyway*; written by Arthur Salm. Simon, 2012 [192p] Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-4424-2930-7 $15.99 E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-4424-2932-1 $9.99 Reviewed from galleys R 

Gr. 5-8 “I’m Max. A good kid. Except for the time I decided I didn’t want to be a good kid anymore.” That time is the summer after Max’s seventh grade, when Max and his parents attend a family camp and he decides to reinvent himself as a cooler, older guy. “Mad Max,” complete with headband, joins a group of other kids there and enjoys the novel taste of daring and independence—until his new friends turn out to be more trouble than even Mad Max is seeking. With its comic, self-aware tone (accented with reams of footnotes, hence the titular asterisk) and marginal spot art, Max’s narration will be familiar to readers of the Wimpy Kid series, while his experience of camp as a life-changing opportunity recalls Chris Lynch’s Extreme Elvin (BCCB 2/99). The book conveys with keen perception the revelations that persona can be a choice and that people tend to take us as we offer ourselves; it’s also sympathetically realistic about the need to calibrate that choice a little in the face of its consequences (Max ends up as an accessory to some pretty jerky behavior, which he regrets). Despite his brief foray into jerkhood, Max is incontrovertibly not just a funny guy but a good guy, a fact that his friends—including the girls he’s starting to notice—certainly appreciate. The affable yet thoughtful treatment of shifting adolescent identity will ring true with kids thinking about changing their own reps, and it’ll gratify readers that the nice guy definitely doesn’t finish last. DS

A funny book about a boy named Max

Written by John Wilkens

Arthur Salm used to review books for the U-T. Now he’s written one, for children in the 8-12 range. “Anyway*” is a funny and touching story about an almost-teen named Max, wise beyond his years. Except when he’s not.

Salm will be at Warwick’s Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. He answered questions by email.

Max is a good kid. Were you a good kid?

I was much too good. And I was aware of it, but couldn’t stop. I kind of made myself sick, I was so good.

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