IF I FALL, IF I DIE by Michael ChristieIf I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie
Published by Crown/Archetype on January 20th 2015
Pages: 336
Genres: Action & Adventure, Coming of Age, Fiction, Literary
Hardcover provided by Blogging for Books

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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.

Reading time 3 mins

This is such a difficult book to review. If I Fall, If I Die was poetic and complicated. Although I grew attached Will, his mother, and Jonah, I could not really claim attachment to the mission and to their adventures. Their lives are so strange and far from reality, I could only vaguely connect to their thoughts and fears.

Will is being raised by an agroaphobe, a person afraid of the outside. Will’s and his mother Diane has not been outside in years. They get everything delivered and Will handles the door. Will is basically home schooled until the day he ventures outside and meets a boys named Marcus. Despite his adventurous nature, Will is terrified to go back outside. Once he hears that Marcus goes missing he braves the outside world and goes to school. There he meets a boy named Jonah who accompanies him on his missions to try to find Marcus. As Will ventures further and further from home he finds a talent for skateboarding and that he might not want to be locked up inside again.

So right away this story is really different from everything else I have ever read. Even the home that Will lives in is really different with rooms named after foreign places: Paris, Toronto, Cairo, and New York. Will and his mother enjoy a very strange relationship, she is such a recluse it has inevitably rubbed off onto Will. Will ventures out into the world a very peculiar child. His language and understanding is limited and he is a bit of a freak.

The town they live in a surrounded by water, a harbor of some sort, run by a ruthless thug named Butler. As Will and Jonah draw closer and closer to figuring out what happened to Marcus they encounter a man named Titus. There is a whole section of this book devoted to Titus’ journey back to Thunder Bay, the place that Will calls home. I could have done without Titus’ part. He is just a crazy person and his thoughts and speech just created undue confusion.. I don’t understand how he fits into the story because his true identity is a bit of a mystery even at the end of the story. Titus and Butler have a bit of a history, although that too, is never clear.

This book was great at some points and then really confusing at other points. I am left with an overwhelming bafflement. I am not even sure I like this book. It did get me thinking about all sorts of stuff. Like, what would it be like for someone who has never been outside, and how easy it would be for someone who chose to never leave the house?

My Rating

About this author

MICHAEL CHRISTIE’s debut book of fiction, The Beggar’s Garden, was long listed for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, a finalist for the Writers’ Trust Prize for Fiction, and won the Vancouver Book Award. Prior to earning an MFA from the University of British Columbia, he was a sponsored skateboarder and traveled throughout the world skateboarding and writing for skateboard magazines. Born in Thunder Bay, he now lives on Galiano Island with his wife and two sons. If I Fall, If I Die is his first novel.
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