Saturday, June 20, 2015

If I Fall, If Die by Michael Christie

In this high-octane novel, a boy learns to abolish his fears and live his life fully.


Will has lived an extremely sheltered life--he's lived indoors from age 7 to 11 because his mother is fearful. Her phobias were too numerous to count. She is afraid of, "lightning, fire, electricity, water, accidents, vehicles, animals, the Outside, people." 


After someone pipe bombs their house, Will surprises her one day by deciding to take a walk in the terrifying Outside. For the first time, he meets other kids and begins doing what he calls "destructivity" experiments.


As Will explores the outside world, he begins to discern the racial tensions in Thunder Bay--the disconnect between whites and Natives. Because of his isolation, Will can identify with the nearly silent, Jonah, and enter his world. 

Will finds himself becoming addicted to dangerous activities like skateboarding and investigating a native boy's disappearance. Fearful that she is losing control of her son, Diane tells Will he has a medical condition--an inexcusable lie.

While searching for clues about the disappearance, Will is starting to unravel the secret of his own family's tragic past. He questions the "wheezing man" aka Titus about Marcus. Oddly, Will finds Titus' fingerprints in his own house.

Michael Christie describes a woman's mental illness and her claustrophobic hold on her son perfectly. Will knows his mother's problems as the Black Lagoon:

"When the Black Lagoon came, when its bear trap was sprung upon her heart, her eyes went swimmy and blotted with white nose like channel zero on TV."

He also describes Titus' mental illness in a way that feels genuine. Titus' dialog, which is indecipherable at first, gradually begins to make sense in its own twisted way. 

Though readers know the relationship between the Cardiels and Titus fairly early, the novel's central mystery is still compelling. This novel is wonderful for adults and may possibly interest mature young adults.