Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Author: Michael Christie
Formats Available: eBook, Paperback, Hardback
A heartfelt and wondrous debut about family, fear, and skateboarding, that Karen Russell calls "A bruiser of a tale . . . a death-defying coming-of-age story."
Will has never been outside, at least not since he can remember. And he has certainly never gotten to know anyone other than his mother, a fiercely loving yet wildly eccentric agoraphobe who drowns in panic at the thought of opening the front door. Their world is rich and loving, full of art, experiments, and music—but confined to their small house.
But Will’s thirst for adventure can’t be contained. Clad in a protective helmet and unsure of how to talk to other kids, he finally ventures outside. With the help of an artistic loner who introduces Will to the high-flying freedom of skateboarding, Will is pulled far from the confines of his closed-off world and thrust headfirst into the throes of early adulthood and the dangers that everyday life offers.
In buoyant, kinetic prose, Michael Christie has written an emotionally resonant and keenly observed novel about mothers and sons, fears and risks, and the lengths we’ll go for those we love.
My So-Called Review:
If I Fall, If I Die is the story of Will and his mother, Diane who’s an agoraphobic, which means she has a severe fear of going outside. Will stays at home and cares for her, having their meals and any other necessities needed to survive delivered to their house. He has no memories of ever being in the “outside” world and his only interactions are the conversations he has with deliverymen. One day Will finally decides to go outside, there he meets another boy, Marcus. He experiences his first injuries while learning to skateboard but also realizes what he’s been missing all these years. Will demands more freedom from his mother and their home and soon begins attending school; but when he tries to locate Marcus again, he discovers he is missing.
The premises for this book sounded so interesting to me, I just had to read it! I had heard of the term agoraphobic prior to reading this and knew what it literally meant but I have no firsthand knowledge (thank god!) of what it really means to suffer from a disorder such as this or what it must mean to live with someone who does. I consider myself slightly eccentric, am severally OCD, and I can certainly find comfort in being a homebody sometimes; but to actually have a fear of going outside??? I can’t even begin to image the ramifications to one’s life if you suffered from a disorder such as this, how would you live? I do love that we are seeing more characters in literature and TV that are being showcased with common forms of mental illness and learning disabilities. Kudos to author Michael Christie for tackling such a complex character and portraying her as not just “crazy” but also a loving, caring mother!
The writing in If I Fall, If I Die is very beautiful and dreamlike; there’s some truly fascinating characters written into a very compelling storyline. I just adored Will, here we have a boy who’s never been outside due to his mother’s mental illness so when he does; you really worry for him!! His understanding of the outside world along with the language he uses has been influenced by the strange, yet touching world his mother created within their home’s walls. The story is told from alternating POV’s between Will and Diane and this style works well here. We get to experience everything Will is going through as his “world” is blown wide open; some of these chapters were truly brilliant!! From Diane we learn about the severity of her condition, the loneliness and humiliation she’s suffered for years. We also learn about some past family tragedies which might have played a large factor into how and why her illness originated. There is a mystery here surrounding the vanishing of Will’s new friend Marcus but it’s the overall character studies of the two main characters that makes this story so good.
Despite the seriously heavy themes scattered throughout there’s also quite a bit of humor, I was pleasantly surprised by this! All and all, I really enjoyed this book, it won’t be for everyone’s tastes since it’s clearly not a “mainstream” read but I think Will’s story will really resonate with teens an YA.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher, Crown Publishing and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review